Carrera 67 No. 48D – 63; telephone: (4) 260 28 05
Recommended by a favorite travel gossip in Cartagena, Elke of El Gato Negro, we had booked a room at The Palm Tree, a hostel known to cater to backpackers from around the world. Of course, the cab driver had wanted to take us to his favorite hotel, the one that undoubtedly tipped him, but we were firm and even had the address in writing in case our Spanish was misunderstood.
Arriving early in the morning due to our all-night bus trip from Cartagena, the staff had our room ready and offered us coffee and our daily allotment of eggs so we could cook our own breakfast. Other guests offered us butter, milk, and fruit. Within fifteen minutes, we knew we had chosen a good place to stay. And, later, throughout our travels in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, we encountered some of the same travelers we met there!
Although we were eager to start exploring Medellin, we opted for a couple hours of sleep, knowing that our navigation skills worked best when we were rested. Although the all-night bus trip from Cartagena to Medellin has been comfortable, we seemed to awaken for every single speed bump and security stop.
Our room was nice, clean, and yet a bit crowded because it could sleep four even though we had reserved a private room. Even so, there was plenty of room to unpack what we would need. Everything was clean and tidy. And, in the guest areas, there were plenty of hammocks and superb hot showers, always appreciated. Plus, the staff are very helpful and take time to make sure all is well with one’s stay.
Two things travelers really enjoy about the Palm Tree are the common rooms and the laundry. People congregated in the big room with the television (sometimes on, sometimes off, with 100 stations available) and in the garden / patio area. Both places encouraged guests to chat and, for us, provided plenty of talk about favorite places within Medellin and in the surrounding area. Every traveler seemed to have enjoyed a different facet of the city, choices that were not found in the travel books we had with us. And everyone was grateful for the laundry service, either paid or do-it-yourself. With a hostel this popular, there was always a lot of laundry drying! And I think I forgot to mention the internet access!
We always enjoy the “gossiping” and the Palm Tree was a place where we gathered quite a bit of travel information. Some of the people we met had been traveling for many months while others had done excellent research and also had ideas to offer. The way the hostel is arranged, with fair-sized rooms for gathering and plenty of sofas, conversations were always underway. While many centered around Colombia and South America, some guests had traveled to many, many countries and enjoyed sharing their adventures. And, of course, some guests did not congregate at all and there was space for that, too.
On Tuesday, a sign announced that there would be a barbecue on Friday with food provided by the Hostel; guests could contribute dishes and drinks, if they wanted. This turned out to be a lot of fun; the local sausages were delicious, perfectly cooked, and the other dishes made for a feast of local cuisine. With plenty of beer, wine and conversation, we shared travel stories with people from Germany, Hungary, China, England, the Netherlands, and more, as well as with a few Medellin residents who had been invited. Camaraderie and good wishes filled the rooms, ensuring all had a good time.
The Palm Tree is only three blocks from a Suramericana Metro Station and a block from the supermarket, Éxito, making it an easy place to stay–far from the noise of downtown and close to a big market as well as local restaurants. We always felt safe, even walking there from the Metro late at night. And, next to Éxito, the espresso stand was a favorite of ours.
Mornings, even before we were quite ready to get up, we heard, “Piña, piña, piña” as the pineapple vendor came by with his cart. This was our signal to jump up and get the day’s pineapple so we could make fresh fruit juice in the blender. It has been said before, but once again: pineapples taste better in Colombia than they do in the USA. They are not as sweet, naturally ripe, and lack the “metallic” flavor we taste when we return to California, a taste that may identify the gas used to ripen them in the store room. Plus, they smell fresher.
More on the juices we made, in Spanish called “jugo”. Neither of us likes to drink packaged pineapple juice in the US or Europe. Made the way the Colombians, the fresh juice is not so concentrated. Elke showed us how to fill the blender about a third full of fresh water (safe to drink in Colombia) and add about half a pineapple, cubed. Blended until it iss a thick, smooth mix. That way, the pulp is eaten as well as the juice, making it very easy to digest and meeting the “whole-foods” standard for best health. Add to your breakfast a couple of scrambled eggs (raw eggs provided by the hostel), a piece of toast and coffee, and there was a tasty and healthy way to start the day.
In some seasons, the Palm Tree gets really crowded. We strongly recommend making a reservation online and pre-paying to ensure a room. It is no fun to show up late in the evening and find out the place is full and you forgot to confirm so…no room. Our favorite online reservation sites: www.hosteltrail.com/ and http://www.hostalenmedellin.com/.