Colombia: Don’t listen to what they say. Go see!

Let’s first  agree on one thing: we all have our own biases and prejudices. The only difference between one human to another is some acknowledge those biases and try to get past them while others take biases for facts.

The truth is, it’s hard to get rid of biases especially when travelling. You can’t simply leave them outside the airport door.

So like most humans, when travelling to Colombia I took with me a suitcase and a bag full of biases. Watching the last season of Narcos in the airport doesn’t particularly help.

Two Decades ago, Colombia badly suffered from all sorts of things but that was two decades ago. People  tend to remember the bad news, it doesn’t matter when the bad news happened, people seem to freeze in time, in those bad moments.

My parents, my friends, my boss, they all were not very enthusiastic about me travelling to Colombia because, you know, “It’s dangerous”. The Internet didn’t help either, the horror stories no matter how infrequent or minor they are, they showed up first.

It felt almost like Colombia is a battlefield between gangs and police, cocaine is floating in the air (you wish right 😉 ) and all taxi drivers are kidnappers.

I do my research before any trip to see what’s the best way to explore a city and what to see. It’s when I was doing this research that I started worrying. Hailing a taxi from the street as you’d do in most cities could end up badly in Colombia.

Even though this is not common , it’s common enough to have a name “The millionaire ride”.

That was about the only thing I needed to be extra careful about in Colombia other than the usual stuff I do in any country like being careful of my surroundings, not waving my fancy camera in the air, not looking lost or ending up in dodgy areas. To be clear, every city had dodgy areas.

Now, let me tell you what happened to me in Colombia. I HAD AN AMAZING TIME.

My trip to Colombia was one of my best trips ever, the people there were so friendly and helpful and the country was simply beautiful. I can’t highlight enough how much I loved my time there.

I’ve never been to South America before and Colombia is definitely a good introduction.

I guess the reason why I fell in Love with Colombia is because it has some of my favourite things :

Coffee

I’m not sure I ever mentioned that on the blog, but everywhere else on the interweb, I made sure everyone knows I’m a coffee snob. I love a good cup of coffee or two, maybe three…

Colombia is one of the biggest coffee producers in the world, I believe the third biggest . But just because they produce coffee, doesn’t mean they know how to roast it. Luckily for me, they do.

That’s why Colombia was heaven for me.

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Catación Pública coffee shop in Usaquén, Bogota  
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Catación Pública coffee shop in Usaquén, Bogota
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They have a lab in Catación Pública where they offer workshops

Visiting a coffee farm in Colombia is one of the experiences I will never forget in my life.

If you are visiting Colombia and would like to go on a coffee farm tour, pretty much all tour companies have one. I went with Toucan Cafe in Medellin and we visited Luna farm in Fredonia where the lovely family who owns the farm spoilt us to some yummy organic food and coffee and showed us the full process of making coffee from picking the cherries to roasting them.

It was such a fun day!

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Luna LLena is also home for some interesting animals and plants!
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The coffee life cycle
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The farm
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Me, working hard and picking coffee cherries.
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I planted my own coffee tree in Fredonia ^^
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Coffee cherries
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We hiked in the farm and saw some amazing waterfalls as well

Graffiti

They say South America is home for the best Graffiti in the world. They are probably right.

In Colombia, you don’t even have to look for it, it’s everywhere.

 

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Graffiti in Bogota
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Graffiti in Bogota
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Graffiti in Bogota

Another awesome experience I had when in Medellin is the Graffiti walking tour in Comuna 13.

Comuna 13 used to be the most notorious dangerous neighberhood in Colombia but now it’s seeing amazing transformations through art. Being able to stroll its streets, enjoying the art with my camera hanging in my neck without being worried about my safety was proof how far this area has come along.

 

Breathtaking nature

I truly feel blessed to be able to travel , to walk for miles and to hike. I do love my vitamin green and I got plenty of it in Colombia. Whether you are in the city or completely in the countryside, the scenery is simply breathtaking.

Bogota city center is dominated by the beautiful Monserrate mountain which adds to the charm of the city.

Medellin is in a valley surrounded by mountains, the drive from the airport to the city is an adventure in itself.

Antioquia , especially Guatape was a real treat for an outdoorsy person like myself.

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I spotted these cool creatures on the way from Medellin to Guatape
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Antioquia is of such beauty!
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Guatape Lake
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Guatape Lake as seen from the top of the Guatape Rock
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Bamboo
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Bananas

Colourful Guatape

I feel like I keep telling you facts about myself through out this post. Brace yourselves for the next fact.

I love bright colours. And when Colombia offered me a whole colourful little town, it had to go on the list of my favourite things about my trip to Colombia.

Ladies & Gents, without further due, I present you colourful Guatape.

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Colourful Guatape
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Colourful Guatape
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These colourful Tuk-Tuks are very popular in Guatape
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More Tuk-Tuks

Another amazing thing about Guatape and just before reaching the town is the Guatape Rock aka El Peñón de Guatapé aka  La Piedra or El Peñol.

The rock looks like something thrown from the space , standing tall in the middle of the countryside.

There are about 700 steps on the rock to climb. I’m really scared of heights but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to climb the rock so I did. I climbed 400 steps and it was one of the proudest moments of my life. Also the view is totally worth it.

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Friendly People

I felt so silly when I was finally in Colombia interacting with its people using either my almost non-existent Spanish or their non-existent English. After all the horror stories I read online, all I saw in Colombia was kindness. People were so friendly and willing to help in any way.

I even like the taxi driver who made fun of me and how I said “Englaterrrrra”.

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She was so pleased with herself winning the race
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This is a very normal way to commute for farmers

 

This is only a taster of what to expect in Colombia. I will definitely go back to explore the rest of the country, drink more coffee, eat more yummy food and dance more salsa. Of course I salsa-danced when in Colombia 😉

Yours Truly,

The traveller inside me

Adventure

Adventure is not always easy. Sometimes it’s not fun and it can be borderline dangerous. But it’s in those moments when you hit the summit, reach your destination or simply survive, that you realise that you can push your limits and challenge yourself.
It’s in those moments that you realise you are not the same person you were when you started out, because adventure is a great teacher.

Here are few things I learnt from my adventures:

  • Adventure doesn’t require a lot of money and it doesn’t require you to geographically go somewhere else. It still can be called adventure without involving volcanos. Exploring the places under your nose could be sometimes a very pleasant adventure.
  • Adventure needs a bit of planning: spontanious plans are cool but if you want to go on a hike, you may want to have your hiking shoes on not flipflops. Believe me, I hiked in Miami Keys (Key largo to be specific) in flipflops midday in a hot august day. Bad idea. Luckily the swim in the Atlantic afterwards washed out all the sweat and dirt.
Key Largo Hammocks State park
Key Largo Hammocks State park
  • More planning: If you want to hike a national park, you may want to have a map because the internet may let you down.
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It’s not like we couldn’t find our way but technically we were lost in Dartmoor and couldn’t find the proper path. Oh well…
  • Adventure is all about knowing your limits: I’m all for challenging oneself but there’s a fine line between being brave and being stupid. Knowing when to stop is sometimes the right thing to do. Don’t turn your adventure into drama.
Brecon beacon national park
It may not be clear in the photo but it was so windy and foggy that day that we couldn’t see the path and had to go back.

One last thing: Never stop wondering and exploring, there is a whole world for you to see and billions of adventures and experiences to live 😉

 

Yours Truly,

The traveller inside me

 

Me, My Eyes & Amsterdam

So.I.Visited.Amsterdam.

I finally managed to spend a lovely weekend in Amsterdam, a city I heard a lot about ( I am sure you did too 😉 ).

This post is the  result of a  series of unplanned events that lead to a lovely experience.

First, the friends I was meeting, had to go home on Saturday night which meant I was a solo traveller for the whole Sunday.

Second, even though the UK is part of Europe, it is quite different from the other countries and this includes phone chargers. I forgot to take my adapter with me, ended up with a dead phone but decided not to get a substitute and live the adventure phoneless.  Read More

A Few Thoughts On Living Abroad

living abroad

I was looking into my calendar to check my availability for a day out with a friend when I thought about writing this post.

It is the second time I write about living abroad.  You can check my first post Strangers In The City here.

I am a Tunisian expat living all by my own in the UK. Some people call me a brave girl.  After I went through the “new girl in town” phase and I established a life and a routine for myself, after I met friends, I decided to do it all again by moving to another city.  Read More

A Hogmanay In Edinburgh

With centuries of history on its shoulders , stunning scenery , striking architecture , fine food, and with an annual calendar of events, Edinburgh is definitely an interesting destination for travellers. Of course, no winter in Edinburgh is complete without Hogmanay.

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AS CHRISTMAS AND THE NEW YEAR ARE APPROACHING, THE LIGHTS ARE ON AND THE ICE RINKS ARE OPEN, I AM GETTING A BIT NOSTALGIC ABOUT ONE OF MY BEST DECEMBER TRIPS.

It was December 2012, when I bought a last minute train tickets from Chester, England to Edinburgh, Scotland, to spend the new year there and experience the Scottish heritage associated to this event that they named “Hogmanay”.

Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year but it refers to the whole celebration of the new year.

It is a three days celebrations full of passion and an amazing way to discover and experience the Scottish heritage. There is no better city to get a taste of Scotland than Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, is just my kind of city; a city full of history, each of its buildings is telling a story, every corner has witnessed a piece of its past.

It is important for anyone wandering the streets of Edinburgh to pay attention to the smallest detail.

I made it to Edinburgh a day before the official start of the Hogmanay so I can get a feel of the city and play the tourist.

I was not the only one, the city was busy and full of people from around the world.

These thousands of people gathered on the 30th of December in the city centre for the opening event: the Torchlight Procession, an evening of time travelling back to the Viking times.

Thousands of torch carriers joined the Up Hella Aa Vikings and the Massed Pipes And Drums to illuminate the city until we made it to Calton Hill where we made our goodbyes to 2012 and welcomed 2013 around a bonfire and fireworks.

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The second day of celebrations is the new year’s eve. For a city celebrating the new year for days, it is just normal to have more than one new year’s eve party.

Edinburgh became one big stage for three different parties: The Street Party, Concert In The Gardens and The Keilidh.

I would not obviously miss the opportunity to experience the very best in traditional Scottish music. I went to the Keilidh.

DESPITE OUR DIVERSITY AND THE FACT WE ARE ALL STRANGERS TO EACH OTHER, WE ALL SPOKE THE SAME LANGUAGE THAT NIGHT. IT IS THE CEILIDH DANCE.

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I did not know who my dance companions were. I did not try to know, neither did they. As if we all took a break from life and its formalities, we were just humans celebrating life and time.

Everyone was having a good time and embracing the Scottish culture to the bones but we were then interrupted by the midnight glorious fireworks coming from the Edinburgh Castle on top of a hill. SPECTACULAR.

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On the first of January, I had to go back to reality and my responsibilities. Therefore I missed the third day of celebrations unfortunately, The Loony Dock. To be honest, I am not sure I would take a new year’s plunge in the cold weather of Edinburgh.

That Hogmanay in Edinburgh was one of the best new year celebrations ever for me. It was authentic and unique.

I fall in love with Edinburgh straight way and I can not wait to go back again, not in December though.