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Visiting the Columbia of Gabriel García Márquez

Nestled in the heart of South America is an enchanted land, where reality intertwines with the magical. Colombia, often associated with the literary genius of Gabriel García Márquez, or the escapades of drug lord, Pablo Escobar, assaulted me with vibrant cities, wonderful food, lush jungles, and a rich cultural heritage.

My Colombian adventure began in the enchanting coastal city of Cartagena. Stepping into the Old Town was like stepping into a movie (Romancing the Stone?) or a novel. Cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings covered with bougainvillea, and horse-drawn carriages added to the city's colonial charm. I explored the historic Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, where history rode on the wind, and took leisurely strolls along the city walls, offering panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea.

Medellín, once infamous for its crime and drug cartels, has undergone a remarkable transformation. The city now stands as a symbol of resilience, innovation, music, art and pride. A cable car ride to the hillsides introduced me to the city's impressive network of escalators, shops, and public spaces, making it accessible to all. A tour in Comuna 13 showcased the power of art in healing a community scarred by violence. It was amazing to see and be a part of.

Bogotá, Colombia's capital, welcomed me with its vibrant art scene and rich history. A visit to the Botero Museum, with its plump sculptures, added a contrast to the graffiti tour, and the hundreds of drumming marchers parading at night, and the enthusiasm of the raucous crowd at a soccer match between Bogota and Medellin overwhelmed my senses and displayed the individual pride of its citizens. The city's bustling La Candelaria district offered a colorful array of street art, quaint cafés, and local markets, and my one of my best meals in all of Columbia, Ajiaco santafereño stew, where it is typically made with chicken, three varieties of potatoes, corn, cream, and the herb Galinsoga parviflora. Served with rice and a huge slice of ripe avocado, I savored every drop and nearly licked the bowl.

The final leg of my journey took me to the Amazon Rainforest, the lungs of the Earth. A short flight to Leticia, a small town nestled in the heart of the jungle, then a ninety-minute boat ride to a lodge alone in the forest marked the beginning of the adventure. There was no a/c, and little to no Wi-Fi, but the fresh food was amazing, and the squirrel monkeys that came for their afternoon snack of sliced bananas very cute. I ventured deep into the rainforest with local guides, learning about the medicine plants, flora and fauna (read: bugs that can hurt you,) and things called "walking trees" that magically spread their roots in wide arches around their base-tree.

But the BEST part of the trip were the people of Columbia, including my gracious and tireless hosts, Carlos and Liliana, the person who returned my husband's lost knapsack with his wallet intact, but also the endless people I met in houses, hotels, shops and buses along the way. A truly magical experience that will forever linger in my heart. Come to Columbia, you won't regret it!

My book, Redeemed, A Memoir of a Stolen Childhood will be published June 25, 2024.

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