Colombian Escape, Operation: Cartagena de Indias

It's time to dust off this South American Journal of mine and fill in some pages. And what better destination to mumble about if not one of the most beautiful parts of the Caribbean Coast of Colombia?

Cartagena de Indias - history, shopping and no air. Really, no air. 

The Old Town is definitely a must see, all those tiny little streets filled with colored colonial houses will make you feel like you're in an old movie. Except that it's real and you're actually living the fairy tale right there, walking on those streets.

Having experienced various pirate attacks, Cartagena's Old Town now hosts forts and old buildings, but nevertheless plenty of new shopping boutiques. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cartagena's Old Town shows you the original Cartagena village as it used to be - colored balconies on cobbled streets, massive churches shadowing surrounding plazas, street vendors with fruits, jewelry, fresh drinks.

On the streets of Cartagena
Photo credit: Alexandru Negrea

Walking among the indigenous people (who still live there, selling handmade jewelry and other treasures) and the old houses there made me feel like I was visiting Panama's Old Town again, except I was listening to a different (hi)story.

Stopped by for some fruits...and a photo with these lovely indigenous ladies
Photo credit: Alexandru Negrea

But enough with the romantic fairy tales, getting in the outer town, you'll stumble into construction sites, high luxury resorts being built almost everywhere you turn your head, chaotic nature, heat, working class, traffic and did I mention the unbearable heat?

Cartagena seen from the Hamilton by Hilton Hotel 

I stayed at a hotel in the peninsula of Bocagrande, but no, I did not sip my fancy named coffee in the trendy cafes in the area, nor did I emptied my wallet dining in glossy restaurants. I did have plenty of recommendations from friends (which I do appreciate folks!) but once I got there I inevitably dropped all sightseeing routines. I just soaked in the sensual (and way too hot) atmosphere but when I couldn't do it anymore, I admit I sat my fancy ass on a Hard Rock Cafe's couch and had the Best.Lunch.Ever.

Their air conditioning made it hard for us to leave but we had some shopping to do. When it comes to shopping, my advice to you would be to never pay the price they ask for. The prices are pretty low (I got a hammock for like 60,000 COP/~20USD) but negotiating is fun and makes you some friends!

Also, always ask the taxi driver how much he charges you before you get in. There's no taximeters in the cars whatsoever, so always negotiate. From the airport to Bocagrande we payed like 18,000 COP (6USD, we got an official one, with receipt and all) but you can get it at 12,000-13,000 COP if you're in the mood for bargaining.

All in all, despite its unbearable heat and heavy humidity, I'd definitely go back. I got so absorbed with sightseeing that I chose to keep those beautiful paintings in my mind, but oh, if one could take screen shots with their eyes! Thank God it's easy to go back (remember every department of Colombia has at least 1 airport and low coast airlines can get you there in a glimpse without emptying your wallet).

!Hasta la proxima¡

Cartagena, Old Town
Photo credit: Alexandru Negrea