January 24, 2022
We wanted to spend our last day in Medellín exploring some of the famous local museums. Unfortunately, it was a Monday and it turns out nearly all of the museums were closed. We opted instead to walk through a different section of the El Poblado district where we’d find more leafy streets, upscale apartment buildings, giant shopping malls and … a Gothic-style castle.
Our hotel was located between two of the largest shopping malls in Medellín. We’d already been in one when we found dinner at a restaurant there several days ago, but we decided to wander through the other today. We’re not big fans of shopping malls but, like the fun of checking out the unusual food offerings at a foreign grocery store, exploring a foreign country’s version of a mall can be interesting.
Centro Commercial Santafé, aka Santafé Mall is Medellín’s largest mall. This massive, multilevel mall has four floors, a retractable glass top and a large open central area. We wandered around the mall for a little while but soon found that even though most of the stores were not ones we’d find at home (along with a sprinkling of U.S. and European stores), in the end it was just another mall. Not wanting to spend any more time than necessary at a mall, we left a few minutes later.
Our map revealed that our next destination, Museo El Castillo y Jardines, was about a mile and a half away. The museum is a French Gothic-style castle known for its art and gardens and panoramic views of the city. The unexpected presence of a 17th century-style castle, inspired by castles of the Loire Valley in France, in the heart of Medellín was definitely intriguing, so off we went.
It turned out that it was a steep uphill mile and a half, we had to cross a few busy roads and bypass some road construction, and our GPS was a bit confused by twists and turns in the roads but eventually we arrived at the long driveway leading to the castle.
The entry fee at the castle included a tour but because it was only in rapid-fire Colombian Spanish, we chose to just explore the grounds.
Afterwards, we checked out the one room inside the castle that we could visit without joining the Spanish tour. We entered a dark space with cutouts in the walls that housed some of the most intricate and beautiful small dioramas we’d ever seen with nativity and other village scenes from the biblical era (click on them to see the amazing detail).
Eventually, we left the museum and walked back to our hotel. We relaxed by our hotel’s pool for a while until we were interrupted by light rain.
Later, we set off for a special dinner out for our final night in Medellín. We chose Alambique, a restaurant Susan had read about that was located in the hip downtown El Polado neighborhood. We walked the mile or so to the restaurant’s address but it was nowhere to be found. There was no sign or even an address number where Alambique should have been.
Instead, where there should have been a restaurant all we saw was a battered blue door covered in graffiti in a nondescript industrial-looking building. We tentatively opened the door and peeked in.
Once inside, we found ourselves in an empty but colorful corridor lit up by bare lightbulbs. Uncertain of our fate, we walked down the corridor and found ourselves in a garden-like space with a heavy metal staircase that had riser panels in the colors of the Colombian flag (red, blue, and yellow). We gingerly climbed the stairs.
Suddenly, we heard uplifting Spanish music and the space was transformed. The second level of the building consisted of a jungle-like area with neon lights and a gravel and concrete floor that led toward what appeared to be a discotheque. We kept climbing.
At the third level, we finally arrived at an intimate and interesting small restaurant with high walls full of books, bottles, trinkets and green plants. Wood slab tables filled the small space and a small bar overlooked the street scene below. We felt like we’d found a hidden speakeasy.
We ordered cocktails—Popol Vuh, a mezcal drink with tamarindo for me, and a gin drink with fresh cucumber for Susan. My drink was very good but Susan’s was even better. An incredibly tasty appetizer of small round pieces of bread with seafood and a delectable sauce followed. Susan’s dinner was enslada campesina—a delicious salad with chicken, fried coconut, greens and cheese. Mine was aguacates perfectos, which was two avocados stuffed with savory meat and a wonderful sauce.
Too full for dessert, we waddled home from our perfect final meal in one of our favorite cities in the world. On the way, we passed by a street vendor making grilled meats on an open fire. Susan suggested I should try some “street meat” before we left South America and suddenly my travel name became Street Meat. Long-time readers may remember Susan’s travel name as A-Half-Cookie-Too-Much.
Back at the hotel, Street Meat and A-Half-Cookie-Too-Much packed up for the next day’s long drive to the small town of Salento in the Colombian coffee region located in the Andes Mountains south of Medellín.A-
You are so brave and cool!