Sun, 5/4/2014 at 10:32 AM Colombia: First Night

The chaos that was waiting outside was to be expected. I don't know that I have yet been in an airport that has the traffic around the arrivals area really figured out. Something about too many cars and too many pedestrians. My friend's aunt had nicely brought her to the airport to meet me and drove us back into the city.

Medellin is a large city, population somewhere north of 2.3 million people, not including the surrounding areas. It is nestled in a valley formed by the surrounding mountains, so for the sake of the pilots the international airport is situated about 40 minutes from downtown Medellin. There is another airport within the city limits, but it serves mostly smaller planes. The drive to the city in the dark seemed like an endless series of climbs and drops, twisting roads and crazy drivers, which is probably because that's what it was. There seem to be only a few places where vehicles can't pass and most motorists treat that as more of a suggestion than a rule. Add to that the difficulty for some vehicles like older cars or the scooters that I would soon learn are everywhere to make the steeper inclines or declines and you basically have non-stop passing going on. 

We had some difficulty finding my hotel. My friend's aunt wasn't really that familiar with the section of the city where it was and the local idea of city planning is to find a nice section of land to build and build there. If there happens to be a road there already? Oh well! Roads twist and turn, meet at strange angles and for someone used to the grid of Manhattan, just don't make sense. However, the people were very willing to give directions when asked and eventually we found the Hotel Pablado Botique Express.

El Plablado is a comuna (or district) of Medellin and seems fairly safe for the uninitiated. At least that was the thought when I was told it would be a good place to look for a room. Actually it was suggested that I look for a hostel, and being a non-spanish speaking visitor, that might have been a good idea. However, I found a nice looking hotel for $50 a night with an included breakfast so I was sold. My friend handled most of the check-in discussion, though handing over the reservation confirmation and proof of identification is pretty universal. I was taken to my room and after a quick look around and gathering of a few things we headed back out to see what we could find. Like I said, it's a fairly safe area, with lots of foot traffic, small (and a few larger) hotels, and lots of bars and shops. My friend suggested that we walk around and if I see a place I like we should check it out. Of course, she didn't realize was that my ability to process everything I was seeing was lagging about 20-30 minutes behind actually seeing it. In the end our decision was made for us when one of the bars, looking to make their place seem more crowded, offered to buy us each a drink. It gave me a bit of a chance to catch up on what I was seeing, and to remind myself how horrible I am at taking shots. A Mexican themed bar in Colombia wasn't really where we were looking to hang out for the night so after one shot more shot for the road we set out again. 

I don't know if we were intentionally heading back towards the hotel, but we kind of stumbled across a little cafe with a small group playing some live coffee shop jazz. It seemed like a good place to sit and enjoy ourselves so we ordered a drink and a snack and hung around. I'm not regularly that big of a jazz fan, but it can be enjoyable in person and the group did a great job. Spending some time there, relaxing, talking and listening to the music was a wonderful way to end the night so she escorted me back to my hotel where we called her a taxi and after seeing her off I turned in for the night and soon passed out.

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