Mercado Verde Sunday 01 April

Just a quick reminder that the monthly farmers market is happening Sunday at the botanical garden. Well worth a visit if you have not taken part yet. Take some cash as you will find some very interesting food items as well as other good stuff.


Earth Hour in Medellin 31 March 2012

The Botanic Garden is getting behind the World Wildlife Fund and the international celebration of  Earth Hour or Hora del Planeta (in Spanish). There will be a bike ride leaving from Carlos E. Restrepo at 6:30 p.m. with arrival at the Parque de los Deseos at 8:00 p.m. That signal the start of a free concert by Medellin’s Philharmonic Orchestra.The parque is located adjacent to the Jardin Botanico and just to the south.

Other Colombian cities celebrating Earth Hour include Bogotá, Cali, Pasto, Yumbo and Mocoa.  Please tun off you lights between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. to remind people we need to be reducing our contributions to adverse climate change. Please think carefully about what your personal responsibility is in protect our future.

Cedula Hang Up, Meet the Contraseña!

If you are living here on a visa or will be soon you should be aware that the function of processing some paperwork has shifted from the old DAS organization to the Interior Ministry. The change is causing some delays. The issuance of your cedula or national ID card is one of these. I applied for mine the day I received my new visa in November and did not get my ID until this week. The specified waiting period is six weeks 🙂 What I received is a temporary ID, referred to as the Contraseña.  The cedula will be issued in June or July.

I will admit of having been worried and a bit frustrated. I can however understand that when a function passes from one bureaucracy to another processes can get bogged down. If you have waited, this is most likely why you are experiencing a delay.

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!

VIII International Classical Music Season Starts

Medellin’s Teatro Metropolitano is starting its 8th international classical music season today with Stravinsky and Revueltas. The music to be performed is as follows:

Lament For Twelve Double Basses
E. Tabakov

The Night of the Mayas
S. Revueltas

The Rite of Spring
I. Stravinsky
When: 6:00 pm.
Prices: $COP40.000, $COP30.000, $COP20.000 ($US 22.70, $US17.00, $US11.35) Such a deal!
Where to Purchase Tickets: Theater Ticket Box.
Presented by: Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín
Information: 232 28 58 ó 262 55 00

On 13 March there is a performance by the Boston Brass.

This is just the beginning. Take a look at this link for additional performances between now and the end of April. These include RÉQUIEM DE GABRIEL FAURÉ and REQUIEM DE G. VERDI.

Camarón y Pez: Good seafood at the Mayorista

If you are visiting the Mayorista wholesale market or just looking for a good lunch near the Ayura Metro Station try Camarón y Pez.  This small but very good restaurant that can be found at Local 12A in Block 18 inside the market complex. We had their seafood bowl Saturday afternoon and it was rich and creamy. The shrimp, squid and fish were all very fresh and tasty. It is served with coconut rice and patacones (fried green platano slices) both of which were also very good. At $COP 19,000 for a full bowl and 14, 000 for the half bowl ($US 10.70 and 7.90 respectively.) I would not call it inexpensive but the quality makes it worthwhile.

They also serve other seafood dishes including, but not limited to a ceviche bar, filets of robalo, tuna medallions, sea food pasta (Wednesdays)  and paella (Fridays).  The prices range from $COP 5000 ($US 2.80) for a bowl of fish consoume to the $19,000 peso seafood bowl mentioned above.

Getting there is easy by Metro. Just get off at the Ayura Station and walk west about a block and a half to the entrance to the Mayorista wholesale market. If you have not been to the the Mayorisa, it is a bustling, modern wholesale marketplace with an excellent selection of goods at some of the best prices in Medellin. I plan to write an article about this lively place within the next few weeks.

Heath Care in Medellin: Our Experiance

When one first lives in a new culture, fears arise about things we take for granted back home. Medical care is one of the big ones. This seems to be particularly true of people from the States where we have grown up with the idea that the US is the best at everything. I have found that this is dead wrong when it comes to medical care.

 Nubia and I have been using Colombian medical services and insurance since we came down 4 years ago. I have had a hernia operation, some dermatological work and dental services She has been going through treatment for a cancer over the last 9 months. This is the basis of my experience.

 The most salient characteristic of the Colombian medical system is the high quality of care. This is seen in the medical technology and arts, as well as the positive and thoughtful attitude of the care givers. I am not an expert on medical practice so I won’t go deeply into comparisons of treatment standards between nations. Suffice it to say that the care we have received has been first rate in our experience. It has more than met our objectives.

 The friendly, caring attitude we have encountered in the doctors and nurses and even in many of the administrative folks is a strong contrast to what we generally experienced in the States. In the US there were a few bright spots but most of the service we received was cold and impersonal. I will start of by identifying the institutions we have been served by here in Medellin.

 Our insurance company is SURA. This is perhaps the weakest link in terms of attitude. After all it is a big insurance company. That said, they have provided excellent coverage and have been very good about approving uncovered medications and procedures. Their staff has been reasonably efficient and definitely effective. We end up waiting in long lines but that is the nature of the beast. Our coverage costs us about $US 72.00 a month at todays exchange rate. Our typical co-pay is $US 1.20. At those rates I will wait a while!

 Our primary (gatekeeper) clinic is El Instituto del Torax in the downtown area. It is located within a 20 minute walk or 5 minute cab ride of our home so it is very convenient. You may have to wait for services on a walk-in basis but rarely for long. I think the longest I have waited was 45 minutes. With an appointment service is rapid.

 You are assigned a primary family doctor during you first visit. If you don’t like the particular doc or decide that another of their people would be better, you are free to change. The Torax doctors we have worked with have all been competent and friendly. They take the time to get to know you and are not in a rush to push you out the door. You leave feeling you have been helped by a person, not a robot. As my wife’s condition is of significant concern, she has been working with one of the Torax surgeons. Normally they don’t serve as primary care doctors but he agreed to take on that additional role for her to assure she was getting the care he wants her to have. Above and beyond the call of duty! Not only that he is a very nice and attentive person.

 My wife’s oncology team is located at the SOMA clinic, also downtown. They are led by Doctor Mauricio Lema and have the reputation of being among the best, if not the Number One team in Medellin. They were assigned through the efforts of Torax and SURA. We are very pleased.

 Dr. Lema’s team of doctors and assistants have gone out of their way to assure that Nubia get the most up to date and best possible attention. Once again they do it with the spirit of loving patient care we have come to expect. They are great!

 The rest of the SOMA staff also is effective and shows the same kind of caring attitude. We cannot visit that very large clinic (it is the size of a large hospital) without being greeted by people who have previously helped. They go beyond the superficial friendliness I am accustomed to in the States. They often remember your name, why you have been there and sincerely inquire about how you are doing. This is from all levels of staff. Quite remarkable from my point of view.

 Being cared about promotes the healing process. Having that care delivered by friendly people who see you as a person, not a paycheck is way beyond my previous experience. It gives us confidence and makes us feel like we will indeed be better soon. Any fears I once had about medical care here in Medellin have long since disappeared. If you are coming to visit or to stay, please feel safe and comfortable if you need to visit a doctor.

El Astor: Sweets in the City

If you have not been to el Astor,  you have missed some of the best candies and confections in Medellin. A tradition for tasty snacks and sweets since 1930, its popularity has never waned. It has formed cherished memories for my wife since the 1950’s and for me since I first visited Colombia in the 1980’s.

The original tea salon was opened by the Swiss couple, Enrique Baer and Anny Gipppert.  Yup, Swiss as in quality and Swiss Chocolate! The plot begins to unfold. While not real big on sweets I do enjoy an occasional chocolate and these are about the only ones I eat. Take a look at their selection here. The Aguardiente Mice (Ratoncitos de Aguardiente) are really good. Yes, I said mice, cute chocolate mice. Aguardiente is the licorice flavored Colombian National beverage. The combination sounded odd to me at first but their candy makers have created a delicious product.

Another fun chocolate treat are the Cucarrónes. These are large Swiss chocolate beetles. Just the thing for kids or anyone who likes a little fun with their candy. The Sacher lips would make a great Valentines gift or perhaps not to subtle hint any time of the year. There are more romantically inclined candies to chose from, kisses (Besitos de Negro.) These are a white cream filling covered with chocolate and I will vouch for their lingering sensation of excitement.

When I was kid I was fascinated by marzipan (mazapan in Spanish). I never got to try them but now thanks to el Astor I can have all I want. The ones I have seen there are the traditional fruits in bright colors. If only these had shown up in my Easter baskets.

So far I have been yacking about the standard line of candies made with sugar. If you want to, or need to avoid sugar, el Astor has a line of dietetic candies just for you. These include milk chocolate bars with peanuts, sugarless cookies, chocolate truffles and more.

El Astor also offer breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, and dishes perfect for a light meal. Nubia always stops for a glass of tangerine juice. It is fresh squeezed and worth a trip in and of its self.

My favorite location is the original shop on Junin. There are however other seven other locations including Medellin’s two airports, el Poblado, Laureles, the los Molinos Shopping Center, Puerta del Norte and San Lucas. That pretty well covers the city as you can see on their map (this may be a little slow to load).

One last thing, the service is very good. According to Nubia many of the waitress have been employed their since they were young women and I think this speaks to the quality of the people as well as the products.

El Palazzetto D’ Italia Real Italian Food Downtown

I want to share another of our long time favorite restaurants in the downtown area, El Palazzetto D’ Italia. They serve a broad range of delicious Italian dishes with a genuine old country flavor. The second story location raises you above the hustle and bustle of the busy downtown streets and the carefully designed space is tasteful, warm, and welcoming. I always feel relaxed and at home when we dine there. In addition to the regular dinner service their Tea Room (Salon de Te) is open from 3 PM to 7 PM.

Rather than spend a lot of words on the details of their menu and pricing I refer you to their online menu. The last time we were  there I had the fettuccine with pesto. Nubia enjoyed the Cottoleta Parmigiana. Both were very well prepared and the servings were generous to say the least. I normally eat a lot but my fettuccine plate was the junior size and I was quite satisfied.  Nubia’s cottoleta was HUGE!  It came with the salad bar which had a very good selection of items. Nubia chose potato salad, hard-boiled eggs, red bell peppers and pickles. With juice and a glass of the house wine we got out of there for $COP 49,700. At today’s exchange rate (1909 COPs per dollar) that come out to about $US26.00. That is a great price for the atmosphere, good service and tasty meal

El Palazzetto D’ Italia is located at  Calle 54# 43 – 102. (Caracas). The restaurant is on the second floor and the entrance to the stairs is just a few steps to the east of el Palo. There are parking lots near by if you drive and several bus routes pass along el Palo. They may be reached by phone at 239 65 72  and via their excellent website.

Be sure to check out their recipe of the month. It is details like this that speak to the quality of the establishment!

I love this place!

Clarification of Immigration Services

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores will assume responsibility for visas, cedulas de extranjeria and other paper work directly affecting non-Colombians.During the transition you can process you documents at he DAS offices in Medellin  at calle 19A # 30 A – 40 Barrio Belén la Nubia.

This is what the ministry’s web site says:

2. Durante este proceso de transición, el DAS  en supresión, en coordinación con Migración Colombia, prestará con normalidad los servicios de extranjería (expedición de documentos: cédulas de extranjería, prórrogas, certificados judiciales, salvoconductos, certificaciones y registro de visas) en los mismos horarios y lugares donde se venían adelantando estos trámites por parte del DAS.


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