Today, I tried to take the 4 hour Turibus tour from the Parque’ Poblado, and, to my surprise, not only did the tour go as planned, there was actually a guide who spoke very good English!
The tour leaves twice a day at 9 and 1 and is conducted in a converted cable car that is quite comfortable and garishly distinct, with its Colombian flag color combination of red, yellow, and blue. While you’re waiting for the bus, take a picture of the Church of San Jose’ del Poblado (circa 1616), which was established at the time of the first settlement of the Aburra Valley.
Our guide Pablo is a nice young man who opens up by asking where everyone is from as we travel through the San Diego business district. Almost all are Floridians and Californians with a smattering of South Americans, so most of the tour is in my native tongue. We first stop at Plaza Botero, where we can see an outdoor sculpture museum of this country’s most famous artist.
I’m no art critic, and I’d never seen anything like these locally famous sculptures before, but I have to say I immensely enjoyed our all too brief stop here. The large, whimsically bulbous figures command the entire plaza, and are not so abstract that children as well as adults cannot enjoy them. Looking at the voluminous (the guide’s description) figures of dogs and cats, men and women, in various stages of (un) dress, I can’t help but think Botero had a sly sense of humor. This is a great place to snap some pictures with the Museum of Antioquia and the Palace of Culture as backdrops.
As you roll through town, Pablo keeps up a constant banter with his audience and, as usual, there’s just too much information to readily absorb. Who knew that the largest cathedral in the world made entirely from brick (7 million of them!) is here, the eclectic/Romanesque Metropolitan Cathedral, or that Hewlett Packard has established a handsome new regional headquarters in the city?
Other tour highlights include Plaza Bolivar, La Alpujarra Administrative Center, Park of Wishes, Estadio Atanasio Girardot (Soccer Stadium) and the Park of Lights. Take off your shoes at Parque de los Pies Descalzos (barefoot park) and cool your feet in one of the clean public fountains, or have the guards stage a mock arrest at Cerro Nutibarra for a fun picture. You get on and off the bus several times for up to a half hour, so you really don’t have time to get bored.
This is a good introduction to the city and gives you an idea of where the various attractions are and what you might want to explore later in more detail. It’s actually very difficult to find English language tourism companies here, so take advantage of this one., even though their website is Spanish only: http://www.turibuscolombia.com/ Best $10 you’ll spend here!
As an aside, it rained again off and on all day. If you come during the rainy season of September-December or March-May, bring an umbrella. This isn’t the torrential downpours of Floridian fame, but you’ll get wet if you go outside. Trust me.
And I’m once again struck by the hospitality and genuine warmth shown to Americans by all South Americans I’ve met. Here’s a picture of some Ecuadoreans who befriended me and insisted that they drive me through pouring rain during Friday night rush hour all the way back to my hotel. Gracias!
So that’s it for today. Buenos!