Visiting Colombia, particularly Cartagena, was a seed planted in my head when I was just a kid in the 80s and saw Romancing The Stone for the first time. (Fun Fact: Colombia was too dangerous at the time, so the flick was actually filmed in Mexico) … and after a rather dreary month in Bogota in which we saw the Sun all but a handful of times, we were really looking forward to our three-day weekend.
Even though it was maybe 8:30pm when we arrived, we embraced the warmth (and the Paraguay-like humidity) walking down the tarmac. Dropped off out our hotel, the Allure Bon-Bon, we were surprised to learn the hotel was under renovation and we were being bumped up (and a half a km down the street) to the more upscale Allure Chocolat, at no add’l cost to us. Hooray!
We were staying in Gethsemenie, the “up and coming” barrio immediately adjacent to the walled Old City, which means slightly cheaper prices and lots of cool restaurants and bars while being just a couple minute walk from the picturesque old city.
Day one saw us wander around and get lost in the Old City. For whatever reason, as with Salento, grid layouts get a tad confusing when everything is a Calle or Carrera with a number between 1 and 10. But, like Venice, it’s kinda cool to just wander around. As you can see from the pics, every calle or Carrera is visually stunning. It was also interesting to walk along the protective walls of the city.
Compared to Bogota, Cartagena is both hot and humid. Mid-80s coupled with high humidity means bring a lot of agua and stay hydrated, as you will be sweating buckets. Conveniently our upgraded hotel had a pool with a bar, meaning explore in the morning, grab a bit to eat, enjoy a gelato (Bogota is a little chilly for ice cream) shower and off to the pool for some sun, cooling off in the water and drinking a mojito or a new fave, the lulada.
Near our place was Cartagena Craft Beer, so after pool time we set out to try some of the local craft. Service was great, Colombian craft is still kind of a small community as our host and bartender had Tomahawk (Bogota) on tap and knew the brewers I had met at Saint Pats two months earlier. After a couple pints was off to enjoy a nice dinner at one of the barrio’s cool establishments.
The following morning we were looking at taking a boat to a private beach off the main city, but the weather looked of impending doom so we called an audible, visited the Castillo (castle, though in reality a fortress). Was formidable and impressive. Our guide took us around, showed us fortress, some of the battlements, defenses, internal passages (while scurrying ahead, hiding in the pitch dark hallways to pop out of some near invisible murderhole to startle us) and told us of the history. This was right up my alley and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
Afterwards it was just a short walk to Zapatos Viejos statue, so I settled in to have my pic taken in an old, massive, bronze boot.
Following “the schedule” of lunch, shower, pool we headed back to the old city hoping to catch sunset from the wall. The bar we wanted was, as one would expect, staggeringly crowded, so we watched some of the Sun dip and decided to mosey on. Good choice. We wanted to do the horse-drawn carriage ride through the old city and were able to enjoy it, seeing some still in the waning light, with most of the 45 minute ride after dark. Along the way we were told some of the history, important houses/locations were pointed out as well as a few quality restaurants. One which we’d visit shortly after the ride.
So yeah, dinner. Splurged a bit at Bohemia. The prawns, at something like $20US were a bit of a disappointment, but between her salad with 20 year old pecorino cheese and my curry duck were both marvelous.
Enjoyed a late night mojito, packed up and we returned home. We will be back!