Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Castles In The Hills And Budget Tours......

Today with joined up with fellow expats from Panama Mary Lou and Bill for a trip to Museo El Castillo, Medellin's own fairy tale castle. First we walked from our hotel to theirs, about a mile jaunt. After meeting up we hopped into a taxi for a short $2 ride to the castle.  Along the way our driver Alfredo offered his services for tours at the low cost of just $15 per car load.  We took his card and thanked him, suggesting that we might call him sometime.

Castle In Medellin

The French inspired castle was built in the hills of Medellin in 1930 in the Gothic style. Originally built by Jose Tobon Uribe who owns a pharmacy chain in Colombia and later sold to Diego Echavarria Misas.  Diego was a prominent businessman who donated much of his money to the community. He married a German woman and they had one child a daughter who died at an early age of a rare disease.  Prior to the passing of the whole family the house was willed to the public an opened as a museum. The house and all of it's furnishings were kept just the way they left it.

Gardens Around The Castle

Our one hour tour of the castle was led by a Spanish speaking tour guide who lacked much enthusiasm about the property. However the house is a perfectly kept example of how the rich and famous once lived so long ago.  Unfortunately no photos were allowed to be taken inside the castle so there are none to share here.

Castle Porn....Taken Of Course By Clyde

After our visit to the castle since we had no other plans we decided to call our taxi driver and have him show us around.  Mary Lou and Bill had some other things on their agenda for the day so they took off and we stayed behind.  Since we have no cell phone service here in Colombia it was Clyde's idea to walk back to the entrance to the castle and ask for help.  He asked the guard at the gate to call our driver for us and within about five minutes Alfredo was at our service.

First he drove us along the Ruta de Madera or "route of wood."  In ancient times this was a dirt pathway where the indigenous people would bring their cut lumber down from the mountains in wagons. Nowadays the road is lined with lumber yards and many workshops where workers craft furniture and other articles out of wood.

Ruta De Madera

And More

Our next stop was the quaint, little pueblo of San Antonio de Pereira. The little town is known for it's "dulces" or sweets so Alfredo had to take us to some.  The shop was aptly called, "Postres y Dulces," which translates to Desserts and Sweets.  Once inside there was an array of baking pans wrapped with plastic wrap, almost reminiscent of a school bake sale. The shop was whimsically decorated with antiques and the tables and chairs were painted with bright colors.  Alfredo admitted that he loved food and looking at him, it showed.  The owner of this sweet shop knew him well probably as a patron who kept them in business.  The old man who owned the place called us over to show us a hand cranked record player made in Germany that he claimed was the first one ever made. He attempted to play us a record but ended up cranking it too long and breaking it, or so he thought? Very unlikely for us we actually didn't buy any sweets in the cutsy store, since we had just stopped for a drink and some cookies already.

Desserts And Antiques

Colorful Decor

Century Old Phonograph In Perfect Condition......Until Today

Antique Fire Extinguisher

Our next stop was the tiny town of El Retiro where we walked through the central plaza and visited a little church.  Alfredo waited for us outside and upon rejoining him he presented us with a gift. A brown bag filled with Colombian buñuelos, which are large balls of dough that are seen everywhere here.  Since we hadn't eaten any yet this was our turn to try some and I have to say, it will probably be our last.  While they might have been good with some gooey filling or coated with sugar and cinnamon on the outside, these were just plain old, heavy dough balls that I really didn't care for.

Church In El Retiro

Nearby we stopped at Tequendamita Falls which can be found along the road between El Retiro and La Ceja. The waterfall is set in a picturesque little park filled with orchids, plants, a duck pond, trails, restaurants and shops.

Tequendamita Falls

We drove through many towns, villages and pueblos including the town of Las Palmas.  Throughout our tour out guide told us about Los Indios, or the indigenous people of Antioquia, which is this part of Colombia.  Some of the tribes include Catias, Nutabes, Tahamies, and Quimbaya. 
City View

Tiny Towns Off The Beaten Path

Decorative Doors

Passing through the area of Llano Grande our guide told us that many gringo expats live there along with well to do Colombians. Complete with gated communities and planned developments Alfredo said it's affordable to foreign retirees yet also a place for locals from Medellin to spend weekends.

Along the way we spotted signs for "fresas" or strawberries that I was eager to try.  Alfredo pulled up alongside a roadside stand selling strawberries and we jumped out to buy some.  The young man filled a cup with whipped cream then spooned in cut up strawberries and topped them with even more whipped cream.  Wow.....when I saw the calories and volume of food in that cup both Clyde and I decided to share just one. Later we stopped back for Alfredo to get himself a FREE refill and so I could buy a bag of uncut berries to take back to the hotel for later.

Our fun, informative and economical tour lasted around four hours for the low price of just $15.  And it gave us four hours to speak nothing but Spanish.  Yes as always our Spanish teacher will we proud of our efforts.  We were dropped off at our hotel around 4pm where we chilled out for a while before heading out once again.

While driving around with Alfredo he mentioned some of the great shopping malls in Medellin so we went to check one out. About a 25 minute walk from our hotel we headed over to Cento Commercial Santa Fe, a large, modern mall.  With over 380 stores of all types and a massive food court the mall was built to cater to the rich folks that live in this part of the city called El Poblado.  The mall features a retractable roof that can be opened on nice days, which is most of the time.  Medellin is known as, "the city of eternal springtime," since the weather is just perfect year round. Christmas decorations are still up in the mall as is a large ice skating rink complete with little penguins to help the kids learn to skate.

It's Still Christmas In Medellin

Retractable Roof

How Cute Is This

Sheep With Style

Did I mention that the mall is five stories tall?

After walking the mall and stopping for some dinner in the food court we took a long walk around the neighborhood and eventually back to the hotel to relax for the evening.  Another exciting day of exploring castles, pueblos and lots more still in Colombia.....along the gringo trail.

Terry and Clyde are able to "Travel The World House Sitting"  and so can you!  We have created a website to help people who want to learn about house sitting.    Information for both the prospective house sitter and for someone who needs a house sitter.

the New Website                          -->  CLICK HERE

How to Get Your First House Sit -->  CLICK HERE

How to find a house sitter          ---->  CLICK HERE

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