Adventures in Colombia! Cartagena y Cali Part II
Part II: Santiago de Cali, Colombia
Colombia’s 2nd Largest City
Welcome to Part II of my Colombian adventures! This time I decided to visit Santiago de Cali, or simply Cali for short for the second leg of my birthday trip. I chose Cali for a few reasons; one, I like to explore the road less traveled and Cali is often overlooked, and two, because it is known to be the Salsa capital of the world so that was enough for me to add it in. I also knew Cali would provide me with a more authentic feel of Colombia without making me feel like a tourist. This is the first international place I’ve been to where no one tried to sell me anything. No one was selling shirts, hats, or anything; all the vendors were gone and I could now explore as a local. Plus, I would get to Salsa dance right on into my birthday! Yeaaaaah!!
If you ever go to Cali, I would suggest to stay in the northwestern part of the city, specifically San Antonio. It is filled with a lot of history, restaurants, and is safe to walk around and explore. I say this because Cali has had a poor reputation in the past. I want to express that it is safe to visit, but it is important to be alert as you would here in America or anywhere else. Cali may not be as popular as Medellin or other Colombian cities, but it is a hidden gem in a lot of ways.
CALI CITY TOUR
So our 1st stop was to do a Cali City Tour! I always try to get a tour of the land and learn more of its history right away. We explored all the highlights such as Cristo Rey, Ermite Church, Teja Cats Park and more! Our first site was to Cristo Rey, which stands 26meters high..it is located in Cerro de los Cristales, which is known as the Hill of the Crystals for all the surrounding quartz that is nearby. The statue was inaugurated in 1953 with an image of Christ in celebration of the fifty years following the end of the War of a Thousand Days. As you go up the hill you can see the work of artist Carlos Andrés Gómez, which is known as the biblical scenes of Golgotha. Once at the top of Cristo Rey you will see some of the best views of the city.
Next stop was to the monument of Sebastian de Belalcazar, who founded the city in 1536, making Cali one of the oldest cities in Central Colombia. In it, he has his right hand pointing to the west, that is, towards the Pacific and with his left hand holding his Tizona sword. The whole monument is inside a small square housed on a hill with more excellent views of the city.
Another favorite stop was at the Teja Cats Park. Here you will find a large walking trail with many cat statues throughout. Each one is representative of varying personalities of the artist ex girlfriends so all in the name of love and art. Definitely a must see in Cali. There is also a park with dog statues as well so Cali loves both cats and dogs for my dog lovers out there.
Other sites included the poplular Boulevard Del Rio, Iglesia Ermita, and Plazoleta Jairo Varela. The Boulevard is a centralized walkway of the area and includes the Iglesia Ermita nearby. This is the infamous Cali church that looks like a castle. It is beautiful inside and one of the finest examples of architecture within Cali. The Plazoleta Jairo Varela is where you will find the huge trumpet monument in the heart of Cali. If you get under the trumpet you can even here music playing from them! While exploring we also had a chocaldo which is a refreshing desert typical in Cali. I took a photo of it below, and this is by far the best desert I have ever had in my life. I could easily fly back to Colombia just for this alone. YES!
PERSONAL SPA DAY
This says it all! Usually when I am not by a beach, I will opt for a hot stone massage and facial instead. I wouldn’t say Cali is known for their spas, but we stayed in a luxury hotel while there and it had everything! I forgot to mention we were greeted upon walk-in with a fruity alcoholic drink, (that’s always a good sign) and I will go as far to say it was the best place to stay in Cali. With that said, the spa there did not disappoint! They used the finest products and gifted us with a nice meal after our service. I don’t think I can tell you how good everything was; but the treatment was truly five star. They took excellent care in their service and had me feeling nice and glowing for the remainder of my trip!
OK, ya’ll know I’m shy right? No, really I am… Seriously, this was a ways out of my comfort zone, but you can’t travel all the way to Colombia and not Salsa! This is the capital of Salsa afterall, in fact the International Salsa Festival was coming up the following week. They take their Salsa very seriously, so I focused on the moves, watched their steps, thankfully they spoke excellent English and I was moving and grooving in no time! Que all the latin music, some of it was very fast, and they were dipping and spinning me, and I was able to keep up (enough). Meanwhile, my hubby is having his session and I take a look and he is a natural! Afterwards, they had my husband and I dance together to show off all that we had learned. If we had the shiny sparkling Salsa outfits we could of been on Dancing with the Stars! OK, maybe not, but we had fun, didn’t step on each other’s feet, and the instructors looked pleased! All in all, not bad for our first lesson.
We had so much fun in Cali. The people were very warm and friendly. It is not as commercialized as some of the other cities, but for me that is part of its charm. There is a music throughout the city, a harmonious sound that vibrates around all of Cali. This is represented through the people and by the trumpet monument to Grupo Niche, Cali's famous salsa band. You can even go under the trumpet to hear Niche's most famous songs. Music and Salsa is a huge part of the lifestyle and culture there; you will see and hear it everywhere. Something else you will see a lot of is food! The food there will create a lot of happy memories for you- the empanadas, the chocoldos (my fav!), and of course the rice and seasonings are all sure to please. One of my favorite restaurants there is called Zumaia, the ambiance, decor, food, and yes even the drinks will give you a good vibe of Cali. Overall Cali would be a great addition to any trip, set aside an extra day or two and add it in. We created amazing memories in Cali and it enhanced my birthday trip beyond all expectation!
PERSONAL HIGHLIGHT FROM MY TRIP TO CALI:
One of my greatest memories from this trip is the surprise birthday dinner my husband arranged for me with the hotel. They had balloons, confetti, and a full staff all at my service to make my birthday great! The desert was up there with the chocaldo! The hotel even gave me a birthday card! I am forever grateful for all the adventures and love-- definitely a birthday trip I will never forget.
MY CALI IN PHOTOS: