Saturday, March 14, 2015


I have one job, and one job only. Marc makes all the plans, organizes everything, prepares packets with all the information we need, identifies restaurants, all that stuff. All I have to do is show up with the camera. I showed up, but forgot the camera. AAARGH Lori. So all our photos are iPhone photos.

After such a brutally cold and bitter winter, we were happy to be flying off to such a hot, sunny place. Of course the weather in New York turned mild just before we left, so the contrast wasn't as great as it might have been, but it is still hard to remember that it's winter back home in this hot, sunny place.

such an easy little flight; only 5 hours, blue skies, and puffy white clouds
In Cartagena we're staying in two different hotels. Our first hotel is in the old city, inside the walls. It's fine, the people are very warm and friendly at the desk, and the location is good. Our experience of Cartagenos so far is that they are friendly and engaging, they don't speak English, and if they're trying to sell you something on the street they're not very pushy. One or two 'no gracias'es and off they go with a smile.

it's a teeny little airport, with friendly immigration people
the lobby of our hotel -- the prettiest part of it
we're on this street -- old colonial charm, for sure
Our first day was a mixed bag. We needed to exchange dollars for Colombian pesos, found the bank, stood in line, and needed our passport, a copy wouldn't do. Before heading back to the hotel, I wanted a limonada and we just couldn't find anything to drink, and the wind started whipping around, blowing my dress up in my face, my hair all over the place, and adding to my already uncomfortable feeling. We finally sat at a little table and got a small cup o' ceviche -- very good, actually -- and some kind of drink that tasted exactly like Tang but had some pulp. Limonada it wasn't. Back to the hotel, trouble with the safe, Marc returned to the bank, we headed out for a walk, it was still windy, I felt despair. (OK, a nickel version of despair.) I was thinking I didn't like Cartagena very much, it felt like a copy of Oaxaca and not distinct as its own place, and after we walked up and down a couple of streets it just all looked the same.

Back to the hotel. Nap. Felt a bit better. But here -- you can see what I mean about it all looking the same, even if "all the same" is really lovely and colorful and charming:

I have dozens of street pictures like this.

Yeah. Beautiful, charming, each one more colorful and flower-ful than the last. I think it sometimes takes me the first day to figure out how to see and be in a new place. And maybe a nap. The strange thing is that Colombia is in the same time zone as Texas, so it's not like there is any jet lag to deal with; maybe I just need to take in a bit, take a nap and let it integrate into me, and then I'm good to go.

We had a 7pm reservation last night at a small restaurant, and finding it was hard. We'd read that on TripAdvisor, but they weren't joking. It doesn't help that neither of us speaks Spanish; we kept stopping and asking for help and everyone was very generous in their assistance but we had no idea what they were saying. So we wandered and wandered and wandered, up this dark alley (in a part of town called Getsemani, where tourists are advised to be a bit watchful), over a block, turn right at the white building, go there, it's over there, down there. We finally found it and I was so frazzled I completely forgot  to take pictures of anything -- but the food was fantastic. Marc got a gorgeous tomato soup with shrimp in it, and you could taste the fresh roasted tomato and onion and garlic, and the shrimp were perfectly cooked. I got grilled fish, and the coconut rice and salad that came with our meals was so great. Oh my, that rice, I'll want it again and again.

Marc said we weren't ever lost, the restaurant was lost. We went directly there, just in a roundabout way. That cracks me up every time I think about it.

Getsemani graffiti

The next day just looked better, out of my eyes anyway; I think Marc enjoyed himself the first day more than I did, but even he felt better today. After a nondescript breakfast at our hotel (seriously, you have to go far out of your way to get bad fruit here....), we set out walking.

This is an arepa -- a well-known snack. It's a crisp-fried corn cake with cheese and butter layered
inside. See the grease on the paper? We both think one arepa was enough for us.
the Cartagena coast, at least near the old part of the city. Not a good swimming beach.
giant cathedrals. Giant.
oh -- this is from our first night. The clock tower in the old wall.
When I think of Cartagena, I'll think of fabric stores. Seriously, at least on our street, every third store
is a fabric store, or a store that sells ribbons, lace, buttons, etc. It's all very bright and colorful and patterney.
Pedro de Heredia -- conquistador and founder
of Cartagena
dos frutas. THAT is how watermelon should be, I'm telling you.
Instead of Starbucks, Juan Valdez Cafes are found all over the place. Inside it's just like Starbucks.
not only is that a lizard door knocker, there's a small door
in the huge door. 
standing on the old wall. Day 2, I'm in a better humor.
There are little squares, plazas, parks sprinkled throughout the old city. We liked this one --
I tried but couldn't get a picture of the square but liked this shot of Marco.
monochrome -- Marco and a catedral
here's a bit of the old wall. Kind of rampart-ey if you ask me.
most of the door knockers were lizards. Then I spotted an owl.
A pair of Pegasi. In front of the Civic Center.
Religious graffiti
Ah! Here's the statue in the middle of the park we like -- benches circle around the plaza.
I love that old architecture -- Teatro Colon next to Teatro Cartagena
Cartagena is a big destination for tourists, and has some very expensive hotels and restaurants. We can't quite figure out why. The beaches aren't good for swimming, you've seen the old city, and we think we've exhausted the possibilities here. It's charming, it is, and a nice place to walk around. But hmmmm.

Anyway -- dinner tonight at a local-type place, then tomorrow we leave this hotel and go to one that's still in Cartagena, but in the direction of Venezuela (east? north? I don't know.). It's on the beach, but we'll see what the beach is like before we call it a beach hotel. It has a pool, and it's not in the midst of a neighborhood of any kind, so if all else fails we'll lounge in the sun by the pool. HOW BAD CAN THAT BE.

1 comment:

  1. For 70 bucks you can take a Segway tour of Cartagena, that might amp up the excitement a bit ;)