A Taste of Captivating Colombia.

Join my Journey this spring to Colombia. Mention Latin America and Colombia, and your first descriptions might be dazzling mountain peaks, coffee farms, salsa music, a cathedral made of salt, sunshine and most likely, a history of crime. Colombia has all of these. Its people are stylish and sophisticated, few countries have managed the turnaround rebranding achieved by Colombia achieved in the last 15 years. Headlines noting unstable politics and city crime are now in the past. Improved trade and a growing tourism market have transformed the image. Travel now before it becomes a tourist mecca. Like South America in miniature, Colombia is a lively pastiche of Andean cities, Amazon basin, stately haciendas, marvelous artists, and charming colonial towns.

I arrive Bogota and will head directly to the Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina. The Four Seasons Hotel Casa Medina entwines its 1940s colonial history with a splash of contemporary Colombia. A leafy suburban mansion set in the heart of the capital is an ideal retreat for those escaping the hustle and bustle of the city – settle down beside cozy fireplaces. Casa Medina is situated in the heart of Zona G, also known as the ‘gourmet zone’ of Bogotá. Within a one-mile radius there are more than a dozen restaurants and bars of a medium- to high-quality, situated in a safe area which is easy to explore on foot. Small details across the hotel pay homage to its founding architect, Santiago Medina, with stained-glass windows depicting a picture of birds and flowers – Medina’s passions. There are fireplaces in 16 of the 62 rooms, I’ve requested a cozy suite with fireplace.

Catching up from the trek from California, the first few days are filled with city touring and museum visits, including the historic La Candelaria where the two most noteworthy museums are the Gold & Botero Museums. Always schedule a Siesta in your planning!

After a few days of sightseeing and divine dining, head to the Coffee region to Hacienda Bambusa. Driving down the winding lane that leads to this hotel, you may feel like you’re approaching a working farm. What you actually come across is a carefully preserved, two-level hacienda that was the home of the Montoya family. Well-maintained gardens that are often busy with hummingbirds and farmland grazed by herds of white Cebu Brahman cattle encircle this intimate property.

Built around a tiny interior courtyard with a small fountain, the seven rooms face onto a balustraded gallery. They all have some outdoor space, and there are plenty of quiet corners in the gardens and by the swimming pool,

Many options include a classic day visiting the town of Salento as well as walk/hike, at whatever difficulty is comfortable in Corcora Valley.

Visit reborn city of Medellin. Venture out from Colombia’s second city to find a world in perpetual bloom. From its art and culinary scenes to the breathtaking Andes Mountains I can’t wait to experience the magic of Medellin.

The City of Eternal Spring – Known for its combination of warm days and cool nights, Medellin’s temperate climate in the Andes Mountains makes it an ideal destination year-round. From exploring this exciting city to adventuring out into the verdant countryside, soak in the incredible views. In Medellin, enchantment can be found around every corner, at every bend in the trail.

The Art of Medellin. In Medellin, guests are welcomed with open arms by paisas, as the locals are called. Wander to El Poblado to shop in the clothing boutiques filled with unique pieces made by Colombian designers. The grid of streets are overgrown in palms and gardens, cafes and chic shops. Don’t miss Makeno, a light flooded concept store that has approximately 100 Colombian fashion and accessory designers. A magical place where you can purchase high quality products with great design content. Visitors can check out Comuna 13 and its dynamic street art with a local artist, followed by contemporary fine art at the Medellin Museum of Modern Art. Medellin is the birthplace of Fernando Botero, his sculptures dot downtown and one can view the large collection of sketches and personal items he donated to the Antioquia Museum.

Siesta in Luxury – Of course, my team partners with the best five-star property in the city. Indulge in the luxury that Medellin offers while still experiencing the authenticity of the city and its people. I will be staying at El Cielo Hotel – of course, I have already reserved a table at the eponymous restaurant by superstar chef Juan Manuel Barrientos.

Perhaps more than anywhere else in Colombia today, Medellin is an example of just how far the country has come in the last 20 years –it has been recognized as one of the most innovative cities in the world. It is precisely this incredible transformation that makes Medellin a must for any visitor to Colombia looking to really appreciate and learn about the progress. Both the Festival of Flowers and the Christmas-time Festival of Lights are unique times to visit Medellin, with its beautifully mild climate, average 72 F, there really is not a bad time to visit what’s known as the “City of Eternal Spring.”

My team can curate an eight-day Journey which includes day trips to the small village of Santa Elena or up to 15 days.

Check out of Medellin for a drive out to Cannua Eco-Lodge. En route to Cannua, you’ll stop at the small town of Carmen de Viboral. Known for its local traditions of pottery making and ceramic art, Carmen de Viboral is a beautiful town whose buildings, monuments, and even their streetlights are adorned with unique ceramic pieces. Each wall of the town could have a mural, a ceramic design or even on its facade in an attempt to beautify the town while also paying respect to its generational tradition of ceramic artwork. 

Continue onto the small town of Marinilla to check in to the lodge Cannua. Cannua is an eco-lodge that opened its doors in late 2019 after many years of planning, studying the local environment, and employing the local community in its construction. With an emphasis on permaculture, Cannua was built within the nature, not on top of it.

Cannua Lodge

Optional tours that can be added onto your stay at Cannua: Rum, chocolate, and/or coffee tastings. Bird watching with an expert guide. Cheese-making with local farmers and livestock. Fuller day tours and hikes to Guatape, Carmen de Viboral, and other towns are available for those spending more time at Cannua.

Then, check out and transfer to Medellin airport for your flight onward to Cartagena.  Check in Casa San Agustin interesting places nearby the Hotel: Santo Toribio Church, Gold Museum, Inquisition Palace, Cathedral and old churches of Spanish Colonial era.

Arrive in time for a sunset cocktail at Café del Mar or one of the city’s rooftop bars is a great way to kick off your stay. The colorful streets are made for exploration on foot, so after breakfast you’ll meet your guide for a walking tour of the walled city center.

During your walk, we can arrange for an architect to join you and accompany you through the narrow and colorful alleys, to explain all the special characteristics of the monuments, churches, convents, and private houses that reflect all the influences – Moorish, colonial, military, Arabic, Spanish and North American – that have made Cartagena what it is today.

Before dinner, one of our favorite local bartenders will invite you to a tasting of several top-quality Caribbean rums. Rum is by far the most consumed alcohol in Latin America, and during the tasting you’ll also learn about the history of the spirit as well as the different styles and their origins. This is the perfect way to start a great evening in Cartagena!

Enjoy a day at leisure to explore Cartagena on your own. Or we can arrange additional exploration such as one of the favorite options: Explore the city’s art scene with a bilingual expert, focusing either on contemporary art museums and galleries. For shopaholics, a fashion specialist will get you special access to the top designers’ shops in Cartagena, featuring both Colombian and international designers.

Eat your way through Cartagena with tasting menus of typical dishes at four different restaurants. Or hit the traditional Bazurto market and then get to work in a Caribbean cooking class.

Explore Cartagena with an expert on the life of Gabriel García Marquez. Head out of the city to learn about the unique paso horses and go for a ride along the beach. The author of “Love in the Time of Cholera” and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” died in Mexico City, however in Colombia when he died, a marathon public reading of Garcia Marquez’s No One Writes to the Colonel took place at 1,400 public libraries. The Culture Ministry distributed 12,000 copies of the book for the occasion.

Gabriel García Marquez

Private Boat Island Hopping optional. Or, you may want to spend the entire day enjoying the Caribbean to its fullest.

The Rosario Islands are a coral reef comprising 27 islands, located about one hour by boat from Cartagena. Its natural landscapes, crystal clear water and coral reefs, home to diverse flora and fauna, are of course the main attraction.

Rosario Islands

Sail on a private motorboat or yacht, enjoy a joy ride and watch the Caribbean’s water as it changes color right in front of your eyes. You will stop at spots to snorkel and swim, as well as for lunch at one of our favorite rustic beach hotels. On board, your guide will have a choice of drinks and snacks for you as well! 

Until Next Time- check out and head home!

Saffron Secrets. Saffron is an Aphrodisiac, who knew?!

Upcoming Moroccan Camel Caravan on my horizon, adding to my Moroccan Story. I’m always looking for interesting activities for myself and our clients. I’m addicted to Moroccan spice souks; actually, any spice vendor is a travel temptation. My recent brief Mediterranean @SeaDream yacht adventure provided a visit to tiny Lipari Island, wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, from the Marina Corte along the via Garibaldi, walk up the hill of colorfully decorated homes. Loop back around by way of via del Corso Emmanue. I discovered a little vegetable shop – and voila, dried spices, stuffed bags of fragrant oregano! A generous handful will improve a homemade spaghetti sauce or enhance an oregano flecked pasta.

Saffron is one of Morocco’s leading exports. The Arabs brought Saffron to the kingdom of Morocco around the 10th century. My first visit to an organic saffron farm is on my schedule. The small farm grows ISO certified Class 1 Saffron, known as red gold, due to the high value.

Saffron is valued for its varied uses – from being a gourmet ingredient to being an aphrodisiac, who knew? Being the most expensive spice in the world, hopefully a small dose will stimulate amour!

Although it’s grown in only a few regions throughout the country, it’s sold in the spice markets. Taliouine, a little mountain village in the south of Morocco, and the Ourika Valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains near Marrakech are two well-known regions where saffron crocuses grow. Taliouine itself is small – just under 6,000 people – but produces more saffron than any other place in Africa. Every November, a festival is held at harvest time and people from around the world come to watch and celebrate. Count me in!

In Morocco the saffron is harvested between October through December whenever the six-petalled flowers appear. During this time, the local Berber women start picking the flowers at dawn. Picking the flowers in early morning ensures that the unique compounds within the filaments are preserved. The bees love the pollen in the saffron flowers and jostle with the pickers for access to the flowers. Which is why after the stigmas have been removed, the local farm will leave the flowers outside for the bees to collect the remaining pollen.

As soon as a picker’s basket is full of flowers, they are taken to the processing room where the three precious red filaments – or stigmas – are carefully detached from the stem. The red filaments are dried in a dehydrator and subsequently lose 80% of their weight, so for every 100 grams of saffron filaments harvested, only 20 grams of dry saffron will remain.

Saffron can only be harvested and processed by hand as its petals must be peeled away gently to collect the delicate saffron threads. Consequently, an ounce of saffron is valued at more than an ounce of gold.

In ancient Persia saffron threads were woven into textiles, ritually offered to divinities, and used in dyes, perfumes, medicines, and body baths. Saffron threads were scattered across beds on the wedding night of newlywed couples, who were also offered saffron powder in hot milk as an aphrodisiac.

How to tell real from fake saffron? In my experience, many spice vendors aggressively peddle saffron, a complete switch off for me. In Istanbul, again at a spice market, the shop owner tried to entice me with their premium saffron. His hard sell of all products was offensive and in his thick accent, I was pretty certain he was calling me BABY, after every offering. Benjamin had given me his spice list; I held to the list and declined the saffron. When we walked out of the shop, my friend said Gwen – I think he was calling you BABY with each offering! It became our nickname for each other for the remainder of the trip! Hey Baby, are you ready for cocktails?

The Test: drop a few threads in water, real saffron slowly turns water yellow. The color change may take up to an hour. The saffron threads themselves retain their red color. If the water changes color immediately or turns red or does not change color, or if the threads lose their color, the substance is not saffron. Another test of real Saffron is the Float Test that real saffron threads do not drown when put in water.

There is even a museum dedicated to saffron, and the Moroccan Saffron Farm makes Saffron Bitters – who knew?




4 organic egg yolks
60 grams caster sugar
300 ml whole organic milk

60ml runny honey
300 ml crème fraiche
1/2 tsp saffron threads
150 grams of pistachio nuts
Soak 1/2 tsp. saffron threads in 1 tbsp of the 300ml milk

In a bowl beat the egg yolks, sugar and honey until thick and pale.

Slowly bring the milk to the boil in a saucepan and then pour over the egg yolk mixture.

Return to the saucepan and stir the mixture constantly over the heat until it forms a film on the back of a wooden spoon (Do not let it boil or it will separate)

Remove the pan from the heat, leave it to cool and then stir in the cream saffron and pistachio.

Place in an ice-cream maker to freeze.

Serve with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios.