Cartagena first came into my life in 1984, when Romancing the Stone came out. I remembered (a very young) Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner running around a fort surrounded by blue Caribbean waters in the movie, it seemed so exotic. Being twelve years old, I never dreamed I would visit Colombia one day, I had never even been on a plane. Decades later I was reintroduced to Cartagena again, in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book Love in the Time of Cholera (now there is a movie of the book starring Javier Bardem), one of my all time favorite books. His Cartagena was hot, sultry, colorful, thick with the scent of flowers and tropical music. After I read his book I knew I would visit one day, the city had implanted its way into my subconscious.
Arriving in Cartagena the mid day heat was overwhelming. It was too hot to be outside. We drove in our cab from the airport along the Caribbean and when I saw the start of the walled city my heart soared. It was just like I had imagined it. Actually, it was better than I had imagined. This city was my favorite of the trip so far. We spent almost two weeks here. We just could not bring ourselves to leave. Our days in Cartagena were spent waking up fairly early before the sun was up too high and getting breakfast (huge fruit salads, coffee, and cold fresh exotic fruit juice) and just strolling around the city. We would then spend the hottest parts of the day watching the World Cup in bars, relaxing in our air conditioned hotel catching up on our blog and reading.
As the sun set, that was when the magic started in this city. The temperatures cooled, the streets began filling up with people, live Cuban music poured out of street side bars. We ate delicious Caribbean food, went to fancy restaurants that felt like we had time traveled back to Havana in the 1950s, ate wood fired pizzas in tree filled squares, drank many cold Club Colombia beers while listening the the rhythm of cuban beats, watched the sun set every night over the Caribbean from the wall and walked miles and miles around the city. While we were staying in Cartagena, my best friend Nicole visited for five days and we had a blast. It was fitting she visited us here at the start of our South American leg of this trip, because my last trip with her was in Argentina, seven years ago, my only other time on this continent. I can’t think of a city where we could have had more fun together, and it was so great to catch up and see her again. I miss my family and friends so much on this trip, when they visit it makes everything seem that much sweeter.
While we were in Cartagena we stayed at three different hotels, in three very different parts of the city, so I am going to group the pictures by neighborhood and since we have so many photos I love, it will have to be in two blog posts. So here is the crown jewel of Cartagena, the historic district:
El Centro and San Diego
Oh, and while we were here, we watched Romancing the Stone again. Let me just say that it was much better when I was twelve……..