Merengons are like love

By Colin McFadden
This post is part of a series called Colombia 2017
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You only find them when you’re not looking.  But if you’ve got a smartphone, you can eventually track them down.

Our last day in Colombia started in Medellín with packing and tidying our Airbnb.  We then wandered down to Hija Mia for, ostensibly, a quick cup of coffee on our way to the Castle Museum.  We fell into a conversation with a Canadian living in Medellín doing (variously) real estate photography and social media consulting in Medellín, along with websites for addiction centers in the United States among other things.  It was fun to just chat on a gorgeous Saturday morning, and so we adjusted our plans.

Around ten, we wandered down to the train station to see if there were any special Saturday street foods for sale (there were not) and then decided to grab a proper breakfast.  However, on the path to breakfast, we came upon a market in the plaza.  One of the vendors was selling raw, low grade emeralds and Kat struck up a conversation.  The woman was an artist who made her own jewelry. She was excited to have Kat pick through her raw stones which ostensibly came from a mine with which she was personally connected.  Plans thusly went astray again.  By the time our transaction wrapped up, we needed to get back to the apartment to hand over the keys, so we grabbed a quick arepa con chocolo and hustled up the hill.

After dropping our bags with the front desk security, we grabbed an Uber to the Castle Museum. Our Uber driver was a Medellín native who’d recently returned from a few years working in New Zealand.  He returned in part because he missed the city, and in part because he wanted to participate in the rising interest in tourism to Medellín.  And, like just about everyone we met in Medellín, implored us to tell our friends about how safe and beautiful the city is now.

The Castle Museum is essentially a fancy, castle-ish house that was built between 1930 and 1941.  The home is surrounded by gardens in which you can rent picnic spots specially embellished with flowers and decor. Picnic baskets are also available to those who rent the space. The designer of the property only lived in the house for a few months, before it was sold to an important family in Medellín.  We took a tour, which, even allowing for the fact that it was in Spanish, was very dry.  Such-and-such painting was painted by so-and-so and hung up in 19-whatever.  But the house is gorgeous – impressive without being impersonal.  It’s the kind of castle you could see yourself living in.  We don’t have great photos though, because the guide was very, very clear about not allowing photos.  Kat got barked at in the front hall for not understanding the no-photo instructions in Spanish. Regardless, it’s a beautiful space. The large tower housed the library with a spiral staircase up onto a rooftop terrace – very Beauty-and-the-Beast-esque.

Finally, it was time to head to the airport for our flight to Bogotá. There was a slight kerfuffle at airport security – the screeners felt like the large block of salt that Kat bought at the Salt Cathedral might be used as a weapon.  Despite having flown to Medellín with it, they weren’t going to let us leave with it in a carry-on.  Fortunately, all of the security folks found the whole thing pretty hilarious (one of them tasted the salt to confirm that it was, indeed, salt) and were good natured about sending us back to check it.  The woman at the check in desk was equally amused (though she still wanted the $20 checked luggage fee).

We made it to Bogotá after the very brief flight, and walked to our airport-adjacent hotel.  The one food that we hadn’t had yet, and which we’d identified as “right up our alley,” was the Merengon.  It’s a sort of a mashup of a meringue with cream and fresh fruit (like a pavlova).   We’d seen them numerous times, but always from the windows of cars of busses when we couldn’t stop.  Every time we’d gone explicitly looking for them, we struck out.  This was our last chance.

Some internet research narrowed a list of fancy restaurants that served them as desserts (street food stalls don’t tend to have TripAdvisor listings).  We picked one and got in a car.  Arriving at the destination, it looked perfect.  Right up until they told us they weren’t actually serving any dinner that night.  Hrm.  Perhaps we were destined to be Merengon-less forever.

Fortunately, we found a plan-B option just a few blocks away, Local By Rausch, an upscale place in an upscale area.  We had some delicious dishes, and finally got our merengon.  It was … fine.  We’re willing to bet the ones from the roadside stalls are more up our alley.  Which is just one more reason to go back.

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