Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cartagena, July

My friend/colleague Kate Belford and I had an absolutely enchanting long weekend (puente) in Cartagena, a charming coastal colonial town in the state of Bolivar, north of Bogotá. Highlights of our time included the stunning architecture, fattening food, and a relaxing day trip to the nearby island of Barú. We strongly recommend the town as a vacation spot! And I hope you enjoy reading about our trip.

Día 303

I awoke up at 5 today and was soon joined by an excited Kate for our drive to the Punte Aereo. There, we checked in and met up with Rosalia and Samuel for breakfast before our flight to Cartagena!

The flight was startlingly short, and we could feel the change in temperature, humidity, and altitude the instant we landed. Kate and I immediately ran into the ladies' room to change into more sun-conducive attire before we all scooted into a taxi and sped to our hotel!

We are staying at a 19th century colonial villa turned hotel -- with a sea of plants making up our lobby and two well-placed fans providing us ventilation.

After dropping off our things, we wandered around the old town searching for lunch and taking pictures of the stunning colors at every corner.

We slipped back into the hotel just as it started to pour, and Kate and I hit the sack -- hard. Something about waking up before dark and being accosted by humidity really takes the energy out of you!

We dragged ourselves out the (tiny) door in search of ice cream and a day tour to Barú, a nearby island with beautiful beaches.

We then joined our friends at El Cafe del Mar, a gorgeous cafe perched on the wall encircling the city, overlooking the ocean on one side and the old clock tower on the other.

We are now sitting in the park outside Pizza en el Parque, waiting in the oppressive heat for our medium margarita before we head back to 4-76 for bed, ready to rest before a long tomorrow!

Can't wait for Cartagena día dos!

Día 304

Cartagena has me feeling so content.

Kate and I went to sleep last night with grand dreams of running in the morning, but woke instead to a three-course breakfast.

Curso uno:

Curso dos:

Curso tres:

Soon after desayuno, we packed our things and headed across the street to our new hotel, one with air conditioning, wireless internet, and a very descriptive façade.

Our bags deposited, we cooled off at Juan Valdez and went in search of an ATM. This quest soon turned into one for Mila, a favorite bakery of Diana, our very our Cartagena trip advisor!

We enjoyed a few hours of beef, bliss, and chocolate before having to tear ourselves away. We walked along the wall encircling the city and bought some camera batteries for Kate before embarking on my favorite adventure of the day.

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas is an enormous fortress amid skyscrapers in Cartagena, outside of the historical district. Kate and I were like kids in a playroom as we climbed all over the castle and enjoyed the overwhelmingly pleasant breeze.

It was reluctantly that we said goodbye to our playroom and headed to the dock (el muelle) to purchase tickets for tomorrow's island adventure. (I also stopped to purchase some fresh and sanitary sliced mango!!)

From the dock, we darted judiciously across the highway to the closest thing to a beach in downtown Cartagena, drinking in our surroundings for a while . . .

. . . before sneaking back to the clock tower to get some sweets for our friends back in Bogotá. (We also bought a sample platter for ourselves, which Kate and I are scarfing down as we speak.)

We're back in our room now, updating our respective blogs before we get dolled up for dinner and dancing -- salsa, here we come!

Día 305

The short version is this: Kate Belford and I spent today at the beach.

But the real version is that it's been quite a day. We returned to our hotel room about an hour ago and I proclaimed, "success." Kate responded, "happiness."

We awoke half an hour behind schedule this morning to a spectacular breakfast, and hurriedly shuffled to the dock in our flip-flops. We found a stampede of people and sweat as we waited in line not quite sure which boat was ours or how our company would find us.

But anything is possible in Colombia and sure enough, we were on the romantically named "Por Ella" within minutes, welcoming the sea's breeze. This ride was one of those "nothing here is missing" experiences, one of those "I'm glad I took a gap year" rides, one of those "I'm excited about everything I'm doing now and in the near future" times.

We arrived at Isla Barú to a slew of families playing in the water and vendors pestering us in the sand. We were talked into renting a tent, allured into purchasing sarongs, seduced into getting massages, and sorely swindled into supporting corporate control of drinking water. (Luckily, none of these scams cost more than $5.)

After a vegetarian lunch, we moved to a quieter part of the beach and made some friends, who served as support for Kate's observation that children tend to flock to me. They enjoyed fortifying their sand castle, but when it filled with water and melted away, they found a new game. Why can't we be more like that?

I denied every jewelry artist who came my way all day (there were many) but gave business to many fruit peddlers. It's all about the mango.

Bronzed, covered in sand, and waiting for the boat to take us back, we made more friends -- Sophia and Cecilia, who wanted to know how to say their names in English.

The ride back to Cartagena was the highlight of my day. Now rising against the wind, we were battered with an insane gushing of air, water, and sound all the way back. The exhilaration of it all distracted Kate and me from the fact that our boat leaping out of the water multiple times was actually rather terrifying. What a ride.

At the end of this adventure, our driver announced, "you may be surprised you're still alive, but at least you weren't bored!" Yes, holding on for one's life and getting a facial massage from the jets of air hitting your cheeks certainly isn't boring.

Kate and I staggered onto the dock giddy, enthused, and really, really tired. We made only one stop on our way home -- to pick up some cocadas, my new definition of heaven. Coconut chunks smooshed with pure sugar? Joy.

De-sanded, showered, and moisturized, we are grabbing a few minutes of rest before dinner at El Baluarte, a restaurant and bar situated atop the wall that girds the city. Another Diana Morales recommendation -- we can't go wrong!

Día 306

Kate went for a run this morning as I finished the penultimate chapter in The Power of Now. We washed and packed up before heading into old town Cartagena and stumbling upon the gorgeous and open Plaza de la Aduana, which we had somehow missed while walking all around these past three days!

After admiring the modern bronze sculptures in the square, we embarked on a mission of paramount importance -- accessory shopping.

I emerged from our gallivant in Azulu with a pair of azul sunglasses for the little sister.

Breathing in the beautiful sights again, we made our way to Colombia's TNC headquarters -- which is located in an old discotheque in downtown Cartagena!

We snooped around and caught it all on film before Julio, the "big boss," took us around the office and introduced us to everyone who was in today.

By this time, it was getting pretty close to our 3:30 flight, but we decided to take a chance and have one more Cartagena adventure before departing.

We had promised Papa that we'd have lunch in Hotel de Santa Clara before leaving, and we weren't about to let him down! Kate and I enjoyed fancy food and fresh juice with entertainment provided by Mateo the fussy toucan, before making a run for it

We now sit outside our gate at the airport updating our respective blogs. It seems like the flights here run on Colombian standard time too, because we were some of the first people to arrive for ours! Munching on Alfajores and enjoying the laid-back life, we bid Cartagena goodbye. What an awesome long weekend.

1 comment:

  1. Muchas Gracias, Chicas, for accepting my request to have a meal / coffee at Santa Teresa and Santa Clara! I have wonderful memories of my stays at these gorgeous hotels in Cartagena (in June 2001 and May 2009), and didn't want you to come away without experiencing their charm. Much appreciated!