5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Medellin Colombia this Christmas

Long gone are the Pablo Escobar days on the lush mountainous capital of the Antioquia province of Colombia. Extreme poverty has decreased by 66%; while homicide rates have dropped 95% since then. Medellin has become not only one of the safest cities in South America, but also one of the most prosperous. There are more special reasons why you should visit Medellin this Christmas though.

visit Medellín this Christmas

Medellín’s famous Alumbrado

Over 31 million LED lights, 950 km of LED light hose, 42,000 festive figures, more than 500 different activities and 80 events scheduled. I could say those are the top 5 reasons why you should fly down to Colombia this December…

Yet, those only fall into one category!

See why Medellin’s world-renowned Christmas Alumbrado, traditional gastronomy, temperate weather, and one of the longest holiday seasons in the hemisphere make it the perfect winter destination.

Alumbrado, visit Medellin Colombia

Floating Alumbrado displays by the river

1. One of the most impressive Christmas light shows in the world


Selected as one of the top 10 places to see holiday lights in the world by National Geographic, Antioquia’s impressive 2550-meter-long “Alumbrado Navideño” is the number one reason why you should visit Medellin this Christmas.

The impressive outdoor show will stretch along 14 different municipalities, with Medellin’s central hub in Carabobo Norte shining the brightest. Expect over 31 million colorful, eco-friendly LED lights (which reduce energy consumption by 40%), scores of local food vendors, lively crowds and music.

While the official lighting of the Alumbrado will be held on Wednesday, November 30th at 6:30 pm (free admission), the lights won’t be lit daily until the official event dates – December 3, 2016 to January 9, 2017 between 6 PM and midnight.

traditional Colombian food for Christmas

Crispy chicharron: one of the most traditional Colombian dishes during Christmas

2. Traditional food is an attraction in itself in Medellin

A destination is more authentically experienced by eating its food–another reason why foreigners should visit Medellin during Christmas. Delicacies such as sabajón (aguardiente eggnog), chicharron (crispy pork rinds), buñuelos (deep-fried cassava or tapioca dumplings stuffed with fresh, salty cheese), and natilla (Colombian-style pudding) are among the traditional Christmas foods you must try.

You will likely find many of these traditional dishes, drinks, and desserts being sold by the food vendors sprinkled throughout the Christmas Alumbrados.

Christmas in Medellín

Medellin’s long Christmas season will blow your mind

3. Christmas lasts an entire month, not just a few days

This is not only a Medellin tradition, but a Latin American one: Christmas lasts the entire month of December, usually extending for another week in January! So that is approximately five weeks of traditional food, bright lights, and lively spirits to enjoy.

Medellin weather in Christmas

Weather in Medellin is always pleasant

4. The weather is perfect

Despite its close proximity to the equator, Medellin’s high elevation (4905 feet above sea level) equals mild, temperate weather year-round. No wonder this mountainous capital is also known as the City of the Eternal Spring!

Temperatures typically hover between 60 and 85°F, meaning a subtropical weather that allows you to take full advantage of its more than 100 parks and public spaces.

Medellin parks

one of many Medellin’s many parks

5. Free entrance to museums and parks


Speaking of public spaces: parks and museums offer free admission to children under 12 during Christmas.

Christmas in Medellin is all about the preservation of traditions and family unity–woven together by an outstanding light show, delicious cuisine, inviting weather, and a long holiday season.

Why would you not want to visit Medellin this Christmas?!

This was a sponsored post. Photos provided by Medellin.Travel and Medellin Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Anticuchos de corazón recipe (beef heart skewers) and their history

As I promised on my quirky travel food post, today’s Hostel Cooking series will feature a simple anticuchos de corazón recipe. For my beloved gringos out there: Peruvian beef heart skewers! 😉 Additionally, I will tell you a little bit about their history. Hope you enjoy both the recipe and brief history lesson!

anticuchos de corazón recipe, beef heart skewers

Anticuchos de corazón at a street stall in Perú (Codilicious, Flickr)

Anticuchos de corazón history

As in all Spanish colonies, 16th-century Perú was full of conquistadors, living in haciendas and making a living out of the hard labor of their African slaves. Occasionally, the Spaniards slaughtered cows to eat. When they did so, they always discarded the innards (offal), giving them to their slaves. As they didn’t have much to eat, the Africans had to come up with a way to season the organs in order to make them edible.

Spanish imports such as garlic, cumin, vinegar, and salt were taken by those slaves with access to a kitchen, while the New-World hot pepper ají was borrowed from the Andean natives. With these ingredients, an explosive sauce was created, used to marinate the offal — and make them delicious.

And the skewers? Since the slaves didn’t have stoves, they had to cook everything over fire. How would they cook the small pieces of innards? Ah, by keeping them together with a sugarcane stick! Anticuchos de corazón were born.

Please note, anticuchos were in existence before Columbus discovered America! Different spices and meat (i.e. llama) were used. Offal skewers, however, were an African slave creation.

So yes, they are technically African, not Peruvian, anticuchos…

What does the word anticucho actually mean? It’s debatable. Local historians say the word comes from the Quechua antikuchu, meaning Andes – ají (anti – kuchu), the latter being a local hot pepper. Conversely, some linguists disagree, stating that it comes from the Quechua word antic-uchu, the name of a local ancient hot soup, instead. Could go either way, right?

Now, without further ado, let’s get cookin’! 😀 Once again, compliments of our excellent chef Joshua Snore. Follow him on Instagram!

Hostel Cooking: Beef offal recipe

Anticuchos de corazón with potatoes


Step 1
1.5 lb trimmed heart meat cut into ½ inch pieces
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro
12-10 inch bamboo skewers
Step 2
3 lbs chopped potatoes
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cooking the anticuchos
Step 3
1. Combine first set of ingredients in a large pan, toss well, cover, and marinate in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
2. Soak bamboo skewers in bowl of water for 30 minutes before cooking.
3. Preheat Grill to high heat.
4. Remove beef from bowl, saving marinade on side of dish. Thread beef chunks onto wooden bamboo skewers.
5. Place anticuchos on pre-heated grill for approximately 6 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 6 minutes to. While cooking each side, continuously season anticuchos with the marinade. Beware of flame-ups.
6. Remove and Plate.
Cooking the potatoes
Step 4
1. Rinse potatoes, removing excess dirt.
2. Chop potatoes into evenly-sized chunks.
3. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F.
4. Place potatoes on a pan and season them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and parsley.
5. Bake potatoes for 10 minutes or until tender.
6. Remove from oven, make sure to eat while still hot.

heart skewers, anticuchos de corazón with potatoes

Voilà! Can you tell they are beef innards? I can’t! Anticuchos de corazón recipe

Would you try this anticuchos de corazón recipe?

What other strange food have you tried?

Simple Venezuelan food recipes: Arepas and cachapas (videos)

Craving some Latin food? You are in for a treat! This week’s Cultural Tidbits Monday will showcase some simple Venezuelan food recipes. Learn how to cook arepas and cachapas!

Arepas and cachapas: What are they?

Arepas are like thicker tortillas, made with flour and/or ground corn dough. Sometimes even coconut is added to the mix! While they are one of the most popular Venezuelan dishes, arepas are also part of Dominican cuisine and Puerto Rican fast food.

simple Venezuelan food recipes, arepas

Venezuelan arepas stuffed with sausage chimichurri (bottom) and glorified tostones (“canoes” with cheese on top) at Caracas Arepa Bar in NYC

Another Venezuelan specialty is the cachapas. Also popular in neighboring Colombia, these are basically South American pancake tacos. That’s right: a thicker batter, but made of fresh corn dough, with the slight sweetness of a plain American pancake.

Once ready, you may stuff it with all types of meats and cheeses: Pulled pork, chicken, beef, and even shrimp! The most traditional cachapa, however, is plain cheese: made with delicious queso de mano. Meaning “handmade cheese,” it resembles mozarella in texture, although it has a milder flavor to it.

cachapa, simple Venezuelan food recipes

A Venezuelan cachapa with pulled pork, sliced tomato, avocado, side of aioli (entitee, Flickr)

Simple Venezuelan food recipes: VIDEOS and other resources

Want to see how easy it is to bake arepas? All you need:

2 cups of Harina P.A.N. flour
2 cups of water
A pinch of salt

Once baked, you pan-fry them until golden. That’s it! For the full recipe, click here. Once they are done, however, you have just created the canvas — it is time to paint on it!

Mmmm. And that’s not all: You’ll learn how to cook cachapas today as well! Go get:

Freshest corn you can find
1/2 cup of flour
1 teaspon of salt
5 tablespoons of sugar (you want tthat sweet afterbite)
1 egg
A bit of heavy cream (for density)

Enjoy! Let me know how your arepas and cachapas mixtas come out 😉

Have you ever tried any of these simple Venezuelan food recipes?

Arepas El Cacao review: Venezuelan food in Kissimmee (photos)

Today’s Venezuelan food joint Arepas El Cacao review is brought to you by Mr. B, with short commentary by yours truly. Tomorrow, for Traveling Through Food Monday, I’ll be talking more about the origin of arepas and cachapas. Additionally, I’ll give you some delicious recipes to try at home. This post though…it is just the humorous account of a gringo’s first encounter with Venezuelan food. Enjoy!

Arepas El Cacao, Co
3283 S John Young Pkwy
Kissimmee, FL 34746

Arepas El Cacao review: Venezuelan food in Kissimmee

Venezuelan food is a lot like the country: Full of amazing resources, but serious violence once you are deep inside. We walked toward Arepas El Cacao, a place with a giant cherry on the top of the building (these guys know what they are doing). There were only two side windows, both plastered with massive menus that covered them in their entirety. We stood confused at where the entrance was when, magically, a window opened and a boy of the ripe age of 9 was ready to take our order.

Maria led the way, as I assumed the language of origin of the people inside was Spanish. But even this edge did not help with the completion of our order. We were allowed to stuff 5 things into the cachapas (actually, the arepas Mr. B) or whatever and we decided on some meats. Additionally though, I decided to add some handmade cheese (queso de mano) because it confused me (I thought cheese came from cows?).

Arepas El Cacao review menu

Arepas El Cacao menu is plastered all over the windows – and prices upon request only

Yet, before we could make our fifth choice, the 9-year-old was off — back into the abyss of blackness that was the kitchen. We asked if they accepted cards, since they didn’t have a sign to say otherwise. And…surprise! Only cash accepted. Luckily, Maria and I dug out the amount of money needed, we were handed over our ¾ finished order, and we were on our way.

When we finally sat down and started eating, we had some major realizations: 1) We got ripped off. HARD ($14 for an arepa and a cachapa? Umm, no bueno) and 2) One looked like a pancake wrapping around italian cheese, while the other looked like a hard tac biscuit with some meat from the Walmart tubs in it.

Arepas El Cacao review, cachapa mixta

Cachapa mixta: The only good thing we tried from the Arepas El Cacao menu

When I started to eat the flapjack (umm, the cachapa, Mr B), it was a pleasant surprise. You can taste corn, meat, cheese, and with the weird mayo-ketchup mix it was top notch. The hard tac (aka the arepa) on the other hand was a tad harder to chew. It seemed to be crunchy in all the wrong ways. Meaning, it was a tad stale. However, the cheese that came from the 9-year-old-boy’s hands was great.

Arepas El Cacao review, arepa photo

Arepa stuffed with handmade cheese, chicken, and pulled pork

Overall, we are glad we gave Arepas El Cacao a try. I mean, I see it every time I drive down to see my woman, so it was nice to finally cross it off the list. Unfortunately, I have put it on the Never Go Again list as well. I felt bull coming out of my a** about 30 minutes after I ate there…no bueno!

TLTR: Flapjacks (cachapas mixtas) are nice, hard tacs (arepas) are not, and a couple Venezuelans ripped us off.

Arepas El Cacao review: The Latina pitches in

While Mr. B was pretty spot-on with his Arepas El Cacao review, I must admit that I would probably hit this joint again. If just to have another cachapa mixta. It was good. But…but…at $7 a pop, it is not a Venezuelan fast food place in Kissimmee you want to visit often. Specially when you are trying to pay off $40,000 worth of student loans in less than 2 years, as your annual salary is about that more or less…

All this said, though, I found out that there are two Arepas El Cacao joints: The one we visited in Kissimmee and a food truck in International Drive. I read many rave reviews about the latter, by the way. Maybe we should hit that one up next time we visit the theme parks in Orlando. Seems like their arepas are much better!

Kissimmee Arepas El Cacao review

Say no to an arepa (top); say yes to a cachapa mixta (bottom) at Arepas El Cacao. Ironic, si…

Got a different Arepas El Cacao review? Have you tried cachapas?

Spanish Portuguese song: Juanes “Hoy Me Voy” (Cultural Tidbits video)

Heya peeps! I apologize for the lack of posts. Once again, my carpal tunnel/RSI got bad…so bad I had to miss work Friday 🙁 It’s a tough road when you are so used to working long hours…then just have to halt. Anyway, I’m trying not to lose hope and make the best out of the situation. And as I listened to my favorite Spanish Portuguese song…

Spanish Portuguese song, Juanes "Hoy Me Voy"

Favorite Spanish Portuguese song: Juanes feat. Paula Fernandes “Hoy Me Voy” single

…it occurred to me that I could write a nice, brief post about it. So, Cultural Tidbits Monday this week will be a real tibit: I’ll introduce you to a Spanish Portuguese song.

“Hoy Me Voy” is a beautiful duet of popular Colombian musician Juanes and Brazilian sensation Paula Fernandes. It is about love, heartbreak, and the mixed feelings about not being able to leave a loved one…even though one knows, deep within, that it is time to go. It is a song I would have sung to my first love…if I would have had the courage to leave him first. It is deep, and you feel the meaning even without understanding the lyrics (which I’m attaching below anyway, ust so you brush up on your Spanish & Portuguese). Enjoy *hands you a box of Kleenex*

Lembrarás, lembrarás quando se for o sol
Que eu te amei, mas deixo sua vida agora
Te dirán, te dirán las flores del jardín
Cuanto te amé y cuanto soñé tu luz
Devolva-me esse coração que você não soube amar
E o que eu te dava, amor
Sem pensar
Devuélvelo, devuélvelo no es tuyo no
Ya se acabó el tiempo en que tú brillabas
Devolva-me esse coração que você não soube amar
E o que eu te dava se acabou

Hoy me voy pero no, no se va la herida grande que me queda
Por amarte, por mi culpa, por los besos que en el mar te di
Coração que sangrou e coragem me faltou para deixar-te
Tive medo, fui covarde, é por isso que de ti me despeço
Hoy me voy
Hoy me voy

Devolva-me esse coração que você não soube amar
E o que eu te dava se acabou

Hoy me voy pero no, no se va la herida grande que me queda
Por amarte, por mi culpa, por los besos que en el mar te di
Coração que sangrou e coragem me faltou para deixar-te
Tive medo, fui covarde, é por isso que de ti me despeço

Hoy me voy pero no, no se va la herida grande que me queda
Por amarte, sinto culpa, pelos beijos que no mar te dei
Corazón me sobró y coraje me faltó para dejarte
Tive medo, fui covarde, é por isso que de ti me despeço
Hoy me voy
Hoy me voy
Hoy me voy

E, por isso, me despeço
Hoy me voy
Hoy me voy

Let’s build a playlist! What’s your favorite Spanish Portuguese song?

My travel bucket list: The R-rated version

Whether you call it a bucket list, or travel bucket list, or things to do before I die; or if you simply call them dreams or goals: Everybody has one of those “lists,” either written on paper, on a computer, in their mind, or in their heart. My bucket list has always involved traveling, and so I have called it the travel bucket list, and this shall be part 3! (click for part 1 and part 2). It contains my written dreams and goals yet to accomplish. Yet, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to cross some “items” out! And so here, for the first time ever, I make it openly public!

For Travel bucket list Wednesday this week, I have decided to give the usual list a little twist: And turn it R-rated. So anyone under 18, please stop reading. Mmkay?

Today you will learn a lot about me…intimately. I won’t get into details, but I am a quite sensual being (being a Latina just makes matters worse by default, naturally). And so ladies and gentlemen, I present you with my R-rated travel bucket list, aka all the crazy places I want to make love abroad (or anything somewhat sexual) whilst traveling. In no particular order (warning: Most are likely illegal, lol):

* On top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

Great Pyramid travel bucket list

by Alex lbh (Creative Commons)

Ahhh, I’m still disappointed in myself for not making this one a reality when I lived in Egypt. I had a possible candidate, but he chickened out last minute, scared sh**less that he was going to be thrown into Egyptian prison for the rest of his life. I guess he forgot about the ancient art of…bribing. Hey, don’t get me wrong–I’m not talking ill of Egyptians. But hey, everyone knows bribes happen everywhere, and if to cross this one off that’s what it takes, I won’t lie, I might take the plunge or so to speak. This item, by the way, joined my R-rated travel bucket list when one of my good friends in Egypt completed the feat. Indeed, after a diplomatic party at the foot of the pyramids, in full dress (and her diplomat partner in full tux and all), a la James Bond style, they stumbled all over the place, distracting the guards and tricking them into thinking they were just drunk. Then, they waited for the party to be over and the complex to be closed. And so, in the pitch dark, they climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza and, you know it, once at the top they made sweet love to each other. They took several pictures of before and after- including some of the gorgeous Egyptian sunrise from the top of the only Ancient Wonder of the World standing. I have never envied someone so much in my entire life. But some day, oh some day, it will be ME! =D

* With a diplomat…better yet, inside the actual Embassy (anywhere)!

Embassy travel bucket list

by Foma, Wiki Commons

Another one of my half-crossed-off items. Indeed, I had the privilege to join the high ranks of government (or so to speak haha!) with a handsome New Zealand diplomat toward the end of my year living and studying in Egypt (what a closure!). Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to do it inside the Embassy…but, it remains on my list. Who knows: I think I want to be greedy next time and want to have the Ambassador instead =D (I told you I was trouble! lol)

* Inside a fairy chimney in Cappadocia, Turkey

Capadoccia travel bucket list

by Cybedu, Wiki Commons

This one should not be hard to cross off at all. The most charming hotels in the region of Cappadocia are carved into the rock, nestled inside those fairy chimneys from above, so this shall be a quite easy feat and (thankfully) all legal and “sane” =) Now thinking about it, this will be part of that 40-day Turkish delight itinerary I’ve previously mentioned on my travel bucket list…! Yay for making the epic Turkey trip even more epic!

* During a hot air balloon ride

hot air balloon travel bucket list

Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor.com

Speaking of Cappadocia…hot air balloon rides are quite popular there. Which got me thinking…and now I want to do it inside a hot air balloon, too. Now that is a thrill ride right there!

* On an helicopter while flying over the Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon travel bucket list

Grand Canyon from helicopter - Brian Snelson, Creative Commons

I just made up this travel bucket list item (I’m not kidding either). I guess I’m just so, ahh, inspired this morning (lol!). I don’t know how feasible this would be, considering how small helicopters probably are, but I guess if I pay enough and bring a blanket this shouldn’t be too hard. And with the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon just below us…talk about after glow!

* While camping (not so legally) inside the Great Wall of China

Great Wall travel bucket list

Camping inside the Great Wall - Jodi Ettenberg, LegalNomads.com

Thanks, Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads) for this travel bucket list idea! OK, she most likely did not do it while there, but she did camp inside the Great Wall of China and I remember dreaming of doing this ever since I read it on her blog a couple of years back. And so I thought, dang, how awesome it would be to romantically make love while watching the sunrise at the Great Wall of China!? Oh yeah, I’m taking the word epic to a whole new level (I realize I viciously overuse this word, but I don’t care! =D)

* Samba dance in full attire (aka half naked) on the biggest parade of Carnaval in Brazil

travel bucket list Brazil carnaval

Brazilian samba dancer, Flickr Commons

Ok, I realize this might not be so R-rated, but to some folks, it can be. And with the Latina power I hold within (hey, my hips don’t lie), this would probably be one of the funnest (and sensual) times I could ever have. Something about wearing that barely-there outfit after days of tanning my olive skin under the hot Brazilian sun sounds sexy as heck. And I’m sure I’ll probably cross any other item off this R-rated travel bucket list with (any?) guy that sees me cross of this one. LOL!!!! *wink*

* At the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

travel bucket list Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in Iceland - Sindre Jacobsen, Flikr Commons

A ton of you probably hate me right now and think I’m gross. But hey, it was more of a tease, lasting about 5 minutes due to a strong guilt trip and consideration from us (the other party shall remain unnamed lol). So no, the “deed” wasn’t finished (not even close!), but I guess we were just in it for those few minutes for the thrill and the bragging rights. I know, I’m bad

And that shall be it for my travel bucket list, the R-rated version! It is now an official series: Every Wednesday post will be about my never-ending, ever-long travel bucket list. Until next time!

What’s on your R-rated travel bucket list (bahaha)? What have you crossed off already?