Pssssttttt….. Cartagena. Check it out.
It’s frustrating, Americans’ xenophobia. Seems like everyone’s so quick to dismiss anyplace with a whiff of the exotic yet a vacation in Cancun at an all-inclusive resort is still met with cheers of approval.
Take Cartagena, for example. I’ve been reading articles about the international jet set flocking to it for years, but it seems like the other 99% of the U.S. population — the group I hang-out with — think “Colombia” is synonymous with “Pablo Escobar.” They are horrified that I went to Cartagena and look at me with suspicion when I mention that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site (“a what?”), home to five-star hotels, fusion restaurants and baroque mansions.
I don’t have the words to adequately describe Cartagena (but fortunately Gabriel Garcia Marquez does: Cartagena was likely the setting for his famous novel Love in the Time of Cholera). However, I took some decent Cartagena photos that hopefully will change the minds of those still dubious of the city’s charms.
It’s difficult to miss the imposing Castillo San Felipe de Barajas from atop the Old City’s walls. I left the confines of the walls only once, and that was to walk (20 minutes) to the fortress.
I did have a bit of a “walk toward the light” moment exploring it.
Below, a view of the outside of the castle.
Afternoon heat and humidity aside, Cartagena is best discovered and appreciated wandering aimlessly by foot. I was rewarded with colorful surprises at every turn.
And my favorite of my Cartagena photos… The El Che Tienda y Refresqueria definitely seemed like more bar than store. Located kitty-corner from my hotel, I passed it frequently, and at no time of day — mornings included — was it ever quiet. Music, shouting, and laughter poured from its doorway. I caught this character by pure luck and didn’t notice until after I was home and glancing through my Cartagena photos that my El Che guy is a ringer for and aged Che Guevara (“el Che”).
Walking the ramparts is a must when visiting Cartagena, although I recommend doing so in the morning or at dusk, as the mid-day humidity and glaring sun can be unbearable. Dusk is preferable, as you can cap off your stroll with a cocktail at Cafe del Mar, which draws a sophisticated crowd of locals and tourists.
This shot is of the tony Charleston Santa Teresa Hotel in the heart of Centro. However, if price were no issue I would have stayed at the Sofitel’s Santa Clara, which I made my midday refuge, curling up beneath the palm trees in the open courtyard with the resident toucan and Gabriel Garcia Marquez on my iPad.