Colombia in Four Songs By Angelica Robinson

at the beach tayrona

Colombia is like a finely crafted song. It has a lovely melody, a killer hook and a rhythm that compels you get up and dance. And so it was this spring that we first heard the song. It’s now running through our heads and we can’t get it off our minds.

Cartagena:

Será la magia que tienen tus ojos                 It will be the magic of your eyes
Esos truquitos para enamorar                        Those tricks to fall in love with
Tu me seduces a mi antojo                        You seduce me at my whim
Y de tu hechizo no puedo escapar.                And from your spell I cannot escape.
-Escápate Conmigo Wisin

by the poolOur tour of Colombia began in Cartagena. We stayed in the old city and were charmed by the beauty of the colonial architecture and the warmness of the people therein.  As Americans, of course our thoughts first drifted to American popular culture but were quickly dispelled once we discovered the charm and ambience all around us. We stayed at the Movich on Calle de Carlos Velez Danies. The rooftop pool overlooked the Plaza Santa Domingo and the view stretched out over the marina and we watched the sun set behind the city and heard it come to life. We decided to take a stroll that evening and dined al fresco at San Pedro, a restaurant in the Plaza San Pedro Claver. The weather was warm and beautiful and the food was delicious and we enjoyed people watching and sitting under the stars.

The next day we decided to walk around the town and find some fun souvenirs to take home with us. We were not disappointed. My husband gravitated towards the cigar store, so I went next door to purchase some chocolate. This chocolate is not only delicious, but it is made with panela, pure cane sugar which is lower on the glycemic index than in the U.S. version of sugar. Once I was finished with my shopping and as I waited outside the cigar store for him, I was approached by a pearl vendor.

He had so many sea pearls of various pastel colors and unusual shapes, I found some that suited me and some for friends back home. The choices were just lovely. After that, we found our way to the Velez leather goods store. Velez is my maiden name, so I found many beautiful treasures to share with my family back home. The leather quality and craftsmanship of Velez is very impressive, and the prices were quite reasonable. We spent and inordinate amount of time in this store, but when your name is on the product, you can’t help but get carried away.

parque medellin

The one thing they do have an abundance of in Cartagena, but I did not go home with, are emeralds.

There were many emerald shops around but after the Velez store, there wasn’t much shopping left in us. We went back to our hotel and went back to the rooftop pool. With such a view, we wanted to soak it all in, so we decided to have a bite on the rooftop also. It was a lovely day with a lovely ending of the sun setting behind the city once again.

The following day, we took a car ride to Santa Marta, but not before enjoying a limonada de coco con ron (rum). This beverage is a delightful and refreshing Colombian favorite. My husband enjoyed a Club Colombia beer and we sat on a balcony of a lovely restaurant overlooking the park. We watched locals dancing in the street as the fruit vendors in their colorful traditional dresses paraded back and forth with fresh fruits and coconut treats. Barely scratching the surface of this lovely town, we vowed to return as we packed up the car for our next stop in Colombia.

Santa Marta:

Súbeme la radio                                       Show me the radio
Tra-tráeme el alcohol                                Bring me the alcohol
Súbeme la radio que esta es mi canción      Show me the radio, that is my song
Siente el bajo que va subiendo                  Feel the bass that goes up
Tráeme el alcohol que quita el dolor           Bring me the alcohol that takes away my pain
Hoy vamos a juntar la luna y el sol             Today we are going to join the moon and the sun
– Súbeme La Radio
Enrique Iglesias

We arrived in Santa Marta ready to get out of the car and stretch our legs. It was a three-and-a-half-hour drive and we were hungry and thirsty. We were taken to the Irotama Beach Hotel, a tall and modern hotel on the beach front of Santa Marta. It was there we joined our friends Laura and Chris who had flown in from Medellin after her sister’s wedding. Also staying with us were Juanes, Laura’s childhood friend and Frances, another friend of Laura’s who is originally Peruvian but lives currently in Florida. Everyone in good spirits sat on the balcony of the hotel and we shared some Champagne (I brought from the states) and of course, Club Colombia beer.

If you are looking for a perfect beach spot, look no further than Santa Marta.

The Irotama has a lovely breakfast brunch and then after, you can enjoy the soft and sugary sand beach. We sat under the palapa tables and chaises with the sun tanning our skin perfectly. A few vendors came by with different wares to sell, and I finally settled on one of the brightly colorful Wayuu Mochilas that I had been admiring in Cartagena previously. These exquisitely woven brilliantly colored cross body bags are ubiquitous in Colombia and the best souvenir to take home, without question.

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Later, we decided to get ready and go out for the evening. We strolled the Calles near the Parque del Novios and settled on a pizza place that had a patio in the back. Afterwards, we found a rooftop nightclub and partied Colombian style, dancing to the loud bass of the Spanish language house music and enjoying the warm evening under the Santa Marta moon. The music and the atmosphere were perfectly seductive and we anticipated the next day, because it was booked for something special. Juanes planned a special day and chartered a boat for us to tour the coast of Santa Marta and the nearby beaches.

The next day we were joined by Laura’s other sister Daniela and her friend Camila and we cruised the coast of Santa Marta in a speed boat. The Caribbean Sea was perfectly turquoise and the sky was azure as we bounced along the waves past the seashore of Colombia, drinking another local favorite straight from the bottle, Aguardiente, also called Guaro by the locals. This very strong anise flavored “fire water” goes down surprisingly smooth, and to avoid brutal hangovers, we opted for the sugar free version. Truth be told, it lived up to that promise.

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We saw the shores of Tayrona where we would be visiting the next day, but from this vantage point the shores were like jungle clusters and the ocean was like a perfectly clear (yet very choppy) jewel. The ride was bumpy and splashy. We were completely drenched when we finally parked the boat at a little coastal stand for lunch. Once we arrived we sat with our toes in the sand and Club Colombias in hand as the local restaurant purveyor brought around the fresh catch of the day for us to select for lunch. The best part is, you don’t have to decide how you want your fish prepared. You just point to the one you want and it is deep fried just as it is. Plucked straight from the ocean, no batter with crispy skin and juicy inside. In my humble opinion, this is how all fish should be prepared forever and always. On the side comes plantain patties and arroz con coco.

If you were planning on staying low carb this trip, forget it.

These sides accompanied pretty much every dish we ate during our entire stay in the country, and they are both delicious and impossible to resist. After lounging and relaxing we bounced over the waves with the music pumping back to Santa Marta and the Irotama Beach hotel. For me, the sea was still swelling once we got back on land. If you are subject to motion sickness, make sure you load up on Dramamine. It may make you a bit tired, but that’s much better than the other option.

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A fun day on the ocean was followed up with a nice dinner out at Burukuka. This is a locals and tourist favorite with a killer view. Just make sure you go before sunset an on a day that isn’t windy. We missed out on both parts and although the food was good, the atmosphere could have been better if the elements had been favorable.

Parque National de Colombia Tayrona:

Lleva, llévame en tu bicicleta                                Take, take me on your bike
Oyeme Carlos llévame en tu bicicleta                     Listen to me, Carlos, take me on your bike.
Quiero que recorramos juntos esa zona                  I want us to travel together that area
Desde Santa Marta hasta La Arenosa                     From Santa Marta to La Arenosa
Lleva, llévame en tu bicicleta                                Take, take me on your bike
Pa’ que juguemos bola, tapa y en chancleta            Let’s play ball, cap and flip-flops
Que si a Pique algún día le muestras el Tayrona       That if to Pique one day you show the Tayrona
Después no querrá irse pa Barcelona                        Then you will not want to leave Barcelona
-Bicicleta
Shakira y Carlos Vives

We bid farewell to Daniela, Camiela, Frances and Santa Marta

And we took a car to Colombia’s National Park, Tayrona. This beautiful, untouched jungle-on-the-coast is an unbelievably natural in all of its pristine beauty, and the Colombian government aims to keep it that way. Receiving designation as a natural park in 1964, it keeps its purity with no development now or in the future. We stayed in one of the very few (and definitely the nicest) place to stay in the entire park, the Ecohabs of Tayrona. These peaked, palm roofed bungalows are rustic yet quite comfortable with an upper circular room, with an outdoor lounging area and bathroom below. Yes, if nature calls in the middle of the night, you have to take a short trek downstairs to visit the facilities. I did that evening and found a large ant colony enjoying a midnight snack of a beetle and I informed them that they were welcome to stay the night, but to please check out by dawn, and in fact they had.

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But before we made ourselves comfortable, we took a hike along the coast of Tayrona park to Arricifes and the Picinas nearby. You literally hike through the jungle and along the coast to find a secret and secluded beach where people are enjoying the unspoiled beach and ocean. It’s a magical place to see, discover and enjoy. Under the palm trees, Tayrona indigenous inhabitants sell fresh coconut water straight from the shell to thirsty hikers. Being from Colorado, we take our hiking seriously, but hiking in the humidity is so much different than the dry mountain air we are used to. Our hike was intended to be longer, but once we arrived at Arricifes, we decide to make ourselves comfortable.

After spending some time enjoying the secret beach, we moseyed up to the restaurant.

Where we again had the Colombian tried and true “point-to-the fish-and-we’ll-fry-it-up-for-you” lunch. To say we had found the true definition of Pura Vida would be a vast understatement. Just spending one afternoon in this perfect slice of heaven made me understand why there were so many hippie types camping in Tayrona Park. It is simply impossible to take in all of it’s amazing beauty in such a short time. You must immerse yourself in it for much longer, becoming one with the jungle to really understand it’s mystery.

santa elena beach

We hiked back to the Ecohabs…

Took a brief siesta and then had a moonlit dinner at the Ecohabs gourmet restaurant. The moon was full and bright and although tired, we were all in good spirits, turning in to rest for the next day’s adventure. We had a lizard living in the roof of our Ecohab, but that didn’t bother me a bit. Lizards eat bugs, after all and it is definitely more of his home than mine. We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean, the best way to fall asleep in the world.

Breakfast at the Ecohabs restaurant and then a morning at the picinita nearby was the plan before we had to catch a flight to Medellin in Santa Marta that afternoon. The ocean was lovely and cool and with a limonada de coco con ron, I soaked in the last few moments of the unspoiled beauty of Tayrona.

Medellin:

Pasito a pasito, suave suavecito                Step by step, soft softly
Nos vamos pegando, poquito a poquito      We’re going to get caught little by little
Que le enseñes a mi                                I want you to show me
Tus lugares favoritos                                 Your favorite places
-Despacito
Luis Fonsi

We cruised back to Santa Marta, collected our luggage quickly and sped to the airport to catch our flight to Medellin.

With such a whirlwind trip, my husband was exhausted, so we opted to stay in and have room service at the NH Royal Medellin. But driving from the airport to Medellin is a sight in itself. The surrounding area has beautiful farmlands and fincas dotting the landscape and then driving through a winding jungle reminiscent of Tayrona you enter the valley where Medellin is located, a large cosmopolitan city in the valley of the jungle lands. Its beauty is both breathtaking and awesome.

The next day was a rainy one and my husband was still not feeling a hundred percent, so I let him rest and took a walk over to the nearby mall. Since it was Semana Santa, some stores were open and some were closed, but I enjoyed walking around, looking at the shops and enjoying the mall culture pastime of my teen years. It’s been a long time since I hung out in a mall, but this practice is alive and well in Medellin, and although this wasn’t the sightseeing I had in mind for my Medellin visit, it was still charming in its simplicity and an interesting slice of life of the Medellin Paisa.

I purchased a new suitcase to hold all of my souvenirs and a cute jumper at the Velez store. What can I say? I am hooked. The rain kept us in for the night again and so we vowed once more to return to Medellin and see Guatape, Entre Flores and take a ride on the Metro Cable.

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And so we ended our amazing whirlwind trip to Colombia. We came, we saw, but conquering is not our style and if Colombia were kind enough to let us visit us again, we would be honored to come back and discover even more of its beautiful visions and surroundings. I highly recommend visiting this incredible natural beauty where so much culture and wonder is there for you to enjoy and explore. Colombia is truly music to our ears. Come and take a listen yourself.

Article written By Angelica Robinson

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