A Tour of Downtown Cali – Days 81

Mon 23rd Apr

With not much time on my hands here, the first thing I do is book myself onto this afternoons walking tour. I already know they start at 4pm and having got in early, I can make it.

I quickly get changed – it’s much warmer here than Salento and set off to find La Ermita – the starting point for the tour.

Paul is our guide and we are a small group. Myself, an Israeli and 3 from France.

We start at La Ermita.

A beautiful picture perfect German gothic style church and probably the most famous Cali landmark (either this or the cat). This was built in 1942 to replace a 17th century chapel that was destroyed by an earthquake.

Cali famous for its sugar cane, it is said that the old chapel housed a picture of Jesus surrounded by sugarcane. This was the only thing that is said to have survived the eartgquske and this now lives in La Ermita and is said to protect this sugarcane region.

Around the back of the park lies Poet’s Park with some statues of famous poets/novelists including Jorge Isaac’s who is famed for writing Maria.

He and his featured heroine appeared on the 50,000 peso note and they even named one if the cities 2 theatres after him.

Just up from this park is a square full of men sat at tables with typewriters.

Such a weird object to see in this day and age. I don’t think I’ve seen one of these since I had the Petite 990 for Christmas back in the 80s! Anyway, these guys provide a service by filling in forms for people. It could be anything from the mundane to the more complicated. People who don’t know how to do them, or need help to ensure it’s done correctly come here for help.

We then head to the palm tree lined Caycedo Square/Park.

This is known as the main square – even thou Cali too has a Bolivar Square and houses the Palace of Justice. The importance of here is that Caycedo was once mayor of Cali and wanted and in 1810 instigated the campaign for independence. The Spanish didn’t like this so they killed him. He then became a martyr to the cause and Cali was in fact the first city to reclaim its independence – 3rd July 1810.

Next stop is St. Peter’s Catedral. This too was destroyed in the earthquake of 1925. It was originally built in Baroque style but was rebuilt in a more Republican style.

The old cathedral had a bell tower

which wasn’t replaced on the new but the 3 bells from it are housed inside the cathedral

From here we try some Cali street food. First off is Chontoduro.

This is a fruit boiled in salty water then peeled and eaten with salt and honey. It looks like a sweet potato and in full honesty – tastes vile! Not for me this one! Luckily local cookies follow which gladly gets rid of the taste of the former!

San Francisco Square & Churh is our next stop.

This is also home to the government building. Although Caycedo Square is known as the main square, for anything important like concerts, protests etc, this is where it all happens.

We wander through the cultural part of town. This is home to the Municipal Theatre and an array of showcrooms and exhibitions, and another Gold Museum (which I think is free).

La Merced Church is colonial style and the oldest church in the city.

It is where the city of Cali was first founded in 1536 by Belalcazar on July 25. This is the day of Santiago and why Cali’s full and proper name is Santiago de Cali.

Our next stop is to the other of Cali’s most famous landmarks – the cat statue in the park – Parque el Gato de Tejada.

This is now 22 years old but after 10 years, the city decided El Gato was lonely so they invited local artists to design some girlfriends for him.

22 of these were added and 15 lie in this park. It’s now sometimes known as Parque le Gato y las Novias!

Our last stop is through the arty trendy bohemian area of San Antonio. If your not staying in Granada, you’ll probably be staying here. We head up the hill to San Antonio church and some great views over the city.

I thank and tip my guide and grab an uber back. It’s been raining non stop for most of the tour and it’s now dark cold and wet. I have been told by many to head to salsa club La Topa tonight but exhausted after travelling and the tour, I decide not to bother. I may regret this, Cali being the salsa capitol of Colombia but being dressed in wet gym wear and flip flops I think I made the right choice.

Hot shower, take away and bed is the order of the night for me!

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