In Giradota It’s Lechona on Sundays

We took a trip Sunday down to Girardota and Barbosa to see what these towns have to offer. The towns themselves are not particularly interesting visually. Both have central plazas and reasonably nice churches but they have little of the charm of more traditional locations like San Pedro de Milagros, el Retiro and Helicona. Given we were using public transport we did not have time to explore their surroundings. They are known however for outdoor recreational facilities with pools, lounges, food and drink

We did make one very nice discovery in Girardota. On Sunday’s, lechona (suckling pig stuffed with rice) abounds and both restaurants and street vendors sell this delicious dish. We found it offered at both $COP 7,000 and 8,000. This comes out to about $US 4.00 and 4.50 for a generous plateful + salad, potatoes and a small arepa.

We also chatted with a man in Girardota who told us that in the San Andres neighborhood (vereda) there is a group that performs local traditional dances on demand and serves meals for tourists. We will be visiting there to see what this is all about and will report back.

If you decide to drop in for a Sunday treat you can buy an integrated ticket that includes both your Metro fare to the Niquia Station and a ticket for a connecting bus down to Girardota. These are available at the Metro ticket booth where you enter the system. The bus ride is about 15 or 20 minutes so it is close enough for a comfortable day trip.

If you go, please let us know what you think!

A visit to San Pedro de Milagros

Yesterday we took a day trip to San Pedro de Milagros, a small town on the altiplano north of the Medellin area.  San Pedro is embedded in a large agricultural area primarily dedicated to dairy production. The countryside is GREEN, colored by extensive pastures of kikuyu grass. Scattered among the pastures are homes of various descriptions but mostly built using traditional rammed earth walls and tile roofs.  There is a nice video showing many aspects of the area at the towns website.  It is in Spanish but provides a nice visual, if a bit frantic tour illustrating many of the things I cover below. On the San Pedro website, scroll down a bit to find it.

The importance of the dairy industry is emphasized by the large, modern milk processing plant on the east side of town. A multitude of dairy cows graze in well managed pastures. The near by Via Lacteca (Milky Way) theme park also provides a clue.

The town itself is small and retains a lot of typical architecture. It is friendly and relaxed with an energetic feel which complements its relatively slow pace. As it is a regional economic center there are a lot of people who come in from the surrounding area to do business and buy supplies. Some of them maintain very typical dress with ruanas and traditional hats. The majority dress in “city” cloths, especially the young folks. The contrast is interesting and speaks to the rapid changes that the Colombian countryside is experiencing.

The traditional stands next to the modern. Walking along the streets you will find very narrow sidewalks, people on horseback, and beautiful old homes with hanging baskets of geraniums and other well tended flowers. Next door you may find an Internet salon and shops sell the the latest electronic gadgets.

The basilica is beautiful and well worth a visit. The massive wooden doors are weathered and carved. The ceiling is decorated with many good paintings along both sides of the sanctuary and stained glass windows glow in the long walls. There is fairly good reproduction of Michaelangelo’s Pietà near the alter.

The short walk up to the Calvario provides the best view of the area. It is located on the east side of town several blocks up from the plaza. The entry passes through a garden with Dahlias, Agapanthus, and other flowering shrubs and perennials.

While walking around we came across a beautiful old home which piqued our interest. Looking in through an open window we saw that it is a classic traditional town house. Being Antioquians, my wife and friends had no compunctions about knocking on the door and asking if we could have look inside. The lady of the house was pleased to show us around. We had a very pleasant chat and learned a lot about the town.

We also came across a school talent show in progress and stopped in to enjoy it. Although we were obviously tourists the people made us feel very welcome. The performances were charming and taught me something about life in a small Colombian town. The number we walked in on featured young ladies performing a choreography based on Middle Eastern dance with costumes of harem pants and midriff tops. This is a Catholic School. The drapery behind the stage says “Educate your children in love, respect and tolerance.” I would say they are practicing what they preach. I guess I had stereotyped these towns and did not expect to find such an open attitude. Based on the friendly, helpful manner of just about everyone we met I would say that people take these values seriously.

There are lots of restaurants in San Pedro. We found some of the best pan de queso (cheese bread) we have ever eaten at a small shop on the walk from the terminal to the plaza. It is located about 2/3 of the way along this short walk. These goodies are displayed in the door way and I would not pass them up. There also is a Bancolombia ATM on the east side of the plaza in case you need to grab some cash.

Getting there is easy. One can take the Metro to the Caribe station and walk across the pedestrian bridge to the North Bus Terminal. Go down to the bottom floor and look for the company that has routes to San Pedro, Entrerrios and Santa Rosa de Osos. The ticket is 5000 pesos or about US$2.75 (at an exchange rate of 1800 pesos per dollar). You also can go to the Niquia station and pick up the green Metro bus to San Felix. An integrated ticket is available for this carrier that includes both Metro and bus fare. Check at the Metro station where you enter the system. This costs just 2800 pesos. San Pedro is a few kilometers down the road from where you get off the bus at el Tambo.. You can take another bus from there or grab a taxi for around 6000 pesos. If there are several people in your group this is quite inexpensive.

The weather in San Pedro is cool so take a sweater or jacket and an umbrella.

When the heat and bustle of Medellin gets on your nerves, take a day and make the trip up to San Pedro. I think you you will find a cool relaxing destination with friendly people waiting to greet you. You also will see a bit of the real Colombia you may not have known.

Sasha Cagen on Experiences in Colombia

This story closely parallels many of my experiences in Colombia.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sasha-cagen/the-kindness-of-south-ame_b_683496.html