As a 15+ year resident of the Medellín area and I guess still a gringo no matter how hard I try to shake it, I’ve noted the urban decay on La Diez (calle 10) and Parque Lleras in El Poblado, which used to be among the city’s favorite gringo haunts. Fortunately, there’s Provenza!
Fast forward to now, post pandemic: it’s ugly graffities everywhere even on shop windows, beggars by the bucket, prostitutes, drugs and a soaring crime rate. I don’t blame anybody for avoiding the area altogether, and I admit I do, despite my fav Mondongo’s being on La Diez.
The city is renovating the Parque, and anything helps, but much, much, more needs to be done to bring back the glory days. It’s truly a shame as this is not exemplary of our beloved city, and I feel bad for the merchants, many of whom are gringos, who invested so much money and sweat in that area. Whatever the causes of this state of affairs (some of you even blame the gringos), it doesn’t have to be this way.
Provenza used to be this leafy neighborhood just up the hill from Lleras and usually most people wouldn’t wander that far. Honestly I had no idea what was going on there in recent times, so yesterday I made it a point of going to see for myself and I now understand the excitement.
Provenza is several blocks of restaurants, nightclubs and cafes, and it is totally different from La Diez and Lleras. No graffities, no beggars, no sense of impending doom! It’s hip and tourists, locals and expats all love it! One street is pedestrian only. Yes, prices tend to be higher but you have to expect that in a hot area, and I’m sure the rents are sky high!
There’s a wide variety of foods available in Provenza including a Turkish restaurant, and funky, fun places like El Puto Taco, which wasn’t yet serving when I visited, but I’m told is really good! For my early lunch (noon is early in Colombia!) I went to a popular lil’ place called Los Chamos Venezuelan Arepas. One of the benefits of the tragic mass exodus of Venezuelans into Colombia is that we get authentic Venezuelan food! The arepas are soft and thick with your choice of fillings. I know many of you hate the Colombian arepas, saying they’re like drywall (there’s many types of arepas here, so not a fair assessment, BTW!) so try these!
For coffee and dessert I headed to a small connector street to Vibe Donuts and Coffee which has no shortage of customers. Fresh filtered coffee and big homemade donuts!
I’ll be returning to Provenza to try many more places, and you should head up there as well if you haven’t. If you travel by taxi or bus, get off on La Diez at the Medellin Beer Factory, cross the street into the peatonal and foggetaboutit!