The Only Gringa/o in a Boston Bar

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By Jody Hanson

Tired of going to a bar full of backpackers, expats and other travelers? Escape from El Poblado (which is infested with foreigners) and head for Boston – Boston, Medellin, that is, not Massachusetts. This barrio (neighborhood) is near the center of the city and has a number of watering holes where the locals hang out and there isn’t a foreigner in sight.

Further, everyone speaks Spanish so be prepared to hablar español (speak Spanish) or use international drinking sign language, which also works well. Being the only gringa/o (English speaker) is a great way to meet the paises – as the people who live in Medellin call themselves – and to mix and mingle with “real” Colombians.

The four welcoming establishments profiled are within easy walking distance of each other.

Café Ambrosia
Avenida La Playa #39-28
Open from 10:00 to about 23:00

 Outfitted with traditional paises furniture – read small, plain wooden tables and chairs – Café Ambrosia has an artsy and cultured feel about it. Yoly – the owner, waitress, cook and cleaner – hosts poetry evenings and book launches from time to time, so check to see what is on offer.

As well as the usual beer, wine and aquierdiente (hooch that is the national drink of Colombia), wine is available, as are some spirits. If you are a coffee or juice lover, those are also fresh and tempting options.

The Corner Bar
Carrera 40 and Avenida La Playa
Hours vary according to customer interest

Saunter across the park in front of Teatro Pablo Tobon Uribe and veer slightly to your right. But be careful crossing the street. Bus drivers figure they are Formula 1 drivers and that pedestrians are fair targets. These wannabe Lewis Hamiltons careen at top speed from the two lanes exiting the roundabout.

Wrapped around the corner of Carrera 40 and Aveneda La Playa – and, hence, the nickname –is Gerardo’s bar which doesn’t have a sign. It is part of the El Dorado complex that runs from Gana to the north to the room where the street cleaners store their equipment to the west.

If business is slow Gerardo closes shop and goes home, so best to get there before 21:00. The best seats are the rickety bar stools on the street. The newer ones are burgundy while the older are brown.

But check first to make sure it will hold your weight without collapsing, particularly if you are slightly inebriated.

Medellin at Night

Bachue Bar and Grill
Carrera 40 50B- 42
About 16:00 or whenever until people go home

Head across the street to Sylvia’s. Even though she sold the bar and hamburger business to her niece, Monique, about six months ago, regulars still go to Sylvia’s. For 36 years, Sylvia – the matriarch of the barrio – kept an eye on the comings-and-goings from her perch on this busy corner. You can take the woman out of the apron, but you can’t keep Sylvia away from the grill as she helps out when Monique needs it. There is a good chance you will get to meet the woman who has become a bit of a Boston legend.

Great for outdoor seating and people watching. Locals are friendly so don’t be surprised if someone strikes up a conversation. And if you return for a second visit, kisses.

Carreas 39 #49-21
10:00 until whenever

Recently opened – it used to be a motorbike repair shop – and just off the pedestrian-free street where the tranvia runs, is a tucked away hole-in-the-wall that is worth visiting.

A perk about drinking at Zacarias is that Alex – who doesn’t speak English – gives free Spanish lessons.
Go, pull up a taburete de bar (bar stool), and learn to pronounce must-know words like cerveza (beer), ron (rum) and aguardiente.

So once in Medellin, plan your escape to avoid the tourist hordes. Being the only gringa/o in a Boston bar is far more interesting than listening to some English speaker snivel about his/her latest bus trip/lost bag/life defining moment.

Jody Hanson is an insufferable travel junkie who has visit 107 countries – 67 on her own – lived in nine and holds passports in three. She has visited all the countries in North, Central and South America except for Venezuela, Guyana, Surname and French Guinea. She wrote this article on behalf of Tucan Travel who offer all types of adventure excursions all over Latin America.

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