The music was loud, the street was filled with people and the smell of fried festival food followed your every move.
I went to Medellin for the city’s flower festival and, although this was probably an unofficial street party, everyone seemed in the mood to celebrate.
The crowd was too thick for six people to walk in a group so we were forced to push through in single file, edging towards a makeshift stage.
Most of the people were local and, as usual, the women grinned at me and the men kept up their volley of “Hey… beauty/doll/Queen/precious/princess…”
When we finally scraped through to a clearing I turned and was surprised to find Johanna, a Texan girl staying in my hostel, killing herself with laughter.
“Oh my Gawd,” she gasped.
“I thought I had it bad with my green eyes.”
“You thought you had what bad?” I asked politely.
“The guys here, what they say to you,” she collapsed again.
“It must be the combination of being blonde and having blue eyes and being tall.
“I don’t know how you put up with it.”
Now, I’ve met enough blonde girls in my wanderings to know I’m not alone.
(I remember Marina, a girl I met in Galapagos, saying she’d been asked for so many sexual favours in Chile she’d almost reached the point of declaring: “Alright then, right here, right now, in the street… go on, drop your pants…let’s see it.”)
I thought I should probably be truthful.
“I actually don’t mind it,” I confessed.
“What?” Johanna spluttered.
“You are kidding me? Why not?”
Now, I could give her the most likely reason; that when I was a working journalist I was called a “w****” and a “f****** c***” more times than I can count.
So if someone wants to smile and shout “hey sexy” at me in the street, I couldn’t give a damn – in fact, if they catch me at the right moment, I might even return the smile.
But I thought that was a little unpalatable for a warm Colombian evening so I muttered something un-feminist about turning old and grey one day.
We spent an hour or so at the street party – where I failed to avoid being drenched in foam – before decamping to a nearby bar.
It was a strange place and we partied with a bizarre mix of people including travellers, trendy locals, businessmen and, quite possibly, gangsters.
‘Bizarre mix’ is a good way to describe life in Medellin.
But I liked the city, with its modern metro system and smart office buildings blending easily with its palm trees, plazas and pretty churches.
I was sad I couldn’t stay long enough for the flower festival finale – I wanted to see the parade – but I’m glad I saw something of the place.
Medellin is still emerging from that notorious spell in the 1980s when it was thrust to the centre of Colombia’s cocaine trade (thanks to Pablo Escobar’s cartel).
The city’s former mayor, Sergio Fajardo Valderrama, was said to have made a great effort and invested a lot of cash to boost Medellin’s infrastructure and the skills of its inhabitants.
I had intended to tour the famous sites associated with Escobar and his mafia but I needed to head north again and I ran out of time.
Although I would have enjoyed it (who isn’t secretly intrigued by organised crime – Pablo even launched a couple of newspapers!) I’m also quietly pleased.
Medellin reminded me too much of the way people tar Liverpool based on the troubles of a few – especially when a taxi driver told me: “Yes, we have a high murder rate… but it’s concentrated in certain parts of the city.”
Well, I felt safe where I was in Medellin.
It seems unfair to scar this smart, modern, exciting city with the shadows of its past – particularly considering it is now 17 years since Escobar was shot dead.
Maybe it’s time to let the place move on and show the world what is has become.
Maybe, in that vein, Liverpool needs a new twin?