Cartagena, Colombia – March 2009

San Diego Barrio, Cartagena

San Diego Barrio, Cartagena

!Hola!

Photo’s are here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/oqplgnmzity688h/q80XSX1u5D

Have just got back from a week in Cartagena, Columbia……despite the murmurings from various quarters about our insanity (kidnapping/muggings and other miscellaneous vacation ruining unpleasantnesses etc 😉 ) we survived to tell the tale of a far lovelier place than the CNN/BBC News would have one believe 😉

Obviously we’re SLIGHTLY biased cos we love South America anyway……and we’re never gonna starve/get toooo lost cos of my awful but useful knowledge of espanol …..downside…..I can construct a reasonable sentence but it’s still like being stampeded by a horse whenever anyone speaks back to me 😉

We stayed in the old walled city in a beautiful boutique hotel (for which it is famous….not necessarily ours but all the othermyriad to choose from!….. and for once we never left the city..no hire cars…..no manic South American drivers to contend with etc etc …….we must have walked every street of the old city, it’smiles of walls and it’s various barrios about 10 times over but it never gets boring when there’s always something weird and wonderful to observe……often this world-going-by type of observation took place in the stressful environment of whatever bar/cafe we happened to stumble by at the time…..and several afternoons (when it got too hot to move) were wiled away at the rooftop pool overlooking the sea of red tiled roofs/cathedral spires etc etc…..have I set the scene yet??;-)

So…..for once…..we mainly chilled (which, although contrary to my nature, was, I THINK, the idea after all the excitement of NZ etc)……we ate and drank our way round cafes/restaurants/street bars…some distinctly better than others……but never dull…in fact after only 2 nights we had our own dedicated waitress/our own table in the plaza bar and our drinks waiting on the table before we sat down etc etc ;-)…G was impressed…not that it takes much…. really only a double gin and tonic delivered by a(ny) miscellaneous Columbian beauty is all that is required these days 😉

BTW – if you don’t LOVE fish this city is not for youuuuuuu……and also don’t go for the beaches/sea…it might be geographically located on the Caribbean…but I’d think less Turks and Caicos and more brown/grey Atlantic on a bad day in Blackpool (northern UK for anyone not familiar….sorry couldn’t think of any coast sufficiently grim to compare it with in the US …I don’t think there is one 😉 !!)….

Basically it’s slightly more exotic than Spain or Italy…due to the fact it’s South America and not Europe I guess! …..ancient 14/15th century buildings, gruesome history of wars/destruction/Spanish Inquisition etc etc…flattened a few times …including by Sir Francis Drake who I don’t think we Brits wereraised to consider as a pirate in the school books but the Columbians saw him from a rather different angle ;-), cathedrals, street cafes, street after street of Spanish colonial houses with balconies overflowing with flowers…..plazas and street sellers…..guys on every street corner cooking food (mainly yukk but it was interesting to see) and fruit sellers pushing hand carts around and making fresh juice etc etc…….horses and carriages trotting about all day and night…..street dancers and live music……guitar players….no doggie doooooo to step round unlike most European cities 😉

So..in a nutshell…not the Columbia of the news channels…no doubt that exists but not in Cartagena…..this place is more the squeaky clean version (and I do mean the streets are clean…..London, Paris and NY should be ashamed) ..it’s where the wealthy Columbians go for romantic vacations and weddings etc….. (notgoing to dwell upon the source of their extreme wealth… am rather hoping it’s more emeralds than the OTHER famous export…..eekkk…) …

G decided he wanted to visit a local market outside of the walled city……I preferred the flower filled poolside and my rooftop view……mainly cos I speak espanol and could detect from the anxiety in the voices of the girls in reception at the hotel that they thought we’d be nuts to go there….anyway G was undeterred (what’snew?)…………..I rather wanted to  see FL and my furry children again so I chose the pool option and G had to be escorted by one of the receptionist’s boyfriend and 3 armed police just to visit a fruit and veg stall ;-)…..ummm…..still the “protection” only cost him 3 Fantas and a beer so well worth the investment!  G maintains it wasn’t as terrifying as the locals were making out and he actually enjoyed seeing the other side of Colombia for a (short) time…

In the city there was not a moment of threat/ nor anti-social interest in the usual collection of cameras I sling round my neck/no one trying to relieve us of our watches/credit cards etc etc/there were tourist police everywhere who actually GUIDED you to places you asked for rather than point vaguely and gabble incomprehensibly……in fact I can’t remember the last time we were less stressed in a city……frankly I think speaking a bit of the lingo helps….they don’t get too many English speaking visitors (there are the usual 2 hour horrors visiting from the cruise ships with the name of their guide on a sticky label stuck to their sticky t-shirts but luckily they’re kept confined to one plaza and a few museums;-) no offence to anyone who LOVES cruises 😉 )..aside from them, not many visitors are from the English speaking world (which for us was a VERY good thing….barely a sign that North America exists…which is as it should be when one goes abroad……….OK…except for a small inappropriately located Puma store which we studiously ignored ;-)…anway….Cartagena is the perfect place to chill out and watch another more relaxed world go by…… J

Hope all is well…

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