It’s really hot here. I would take it over a foot of snow any day, but I’m just saying.. our clothes got drenched with sweat within the first 15 minutes of getting here. So, if you’re headed this way, get used to the fact that you’re going to sweat, a lot.
With that being said…
If we knew getting to Colombia from New York was as easy as it was, we would have done this long ago! We left from Boston and had a layover in JFK but from there is was smooth sailing. JetBlue Airlines provided a comfortable plane with an astounding amount of legroom! That, combined with the free TV made the 6ish hour flight that much easier. Once we got through customs and got our bag (which all took a total of about 15 minutes) we were off! We heard that the taxi drivers here tend to rip you off, so when we realized they have Uber, we opted to get to the hotel that way. It took about 15 minutes and cost 1500 pesos, so about $5.
Where to stay? When we were trying to figure out which hotel to stay at, we first had to figure out which part of the city suited what we were looking for. We wanted to be in a place that provided a lot of restaurants, (duh!) bars (double duh!) and things to do, but didn’t want to be in too touristy of an area. A little touristy is fine as it provides more activities, but we really wanted to get a good taste of the culture too. We settled on “old city” which is a walled city within Cartagena. Old City feels almost like going back in time to the end of the 16th century. The architecture and cobblestone streets fill the area within the walls and you are completely transformed. The buildings exude personality, from the way they are built to the fun colors they are painted.
We used Ebates.com to book through Hotels.com and got 3% cash back! (use our links so we get credit!!) Since we have an account on both sites, we not only earned cash back but also a night towards a night free on hotels.com. Stay 10 and get 1 free! We stayed at Hotel Delirio. Here’s the good: Cute hotel, clean room. great location. We found that we are in the middle of all the fun plaza’s and restaurants. Breakfast was included and was delicious, they even had made-to-order omelettes! There was also free WiFi, although we try to make sure of that no matter where we stay. The bad: the A/C made a really weird, LOUD sound, we stayed on the 4th floor and above us was the patio so at night when people went up to hang out, all we could hear were chairs moving around above us and the bed was…beyond rock hard. Our bodies ached more from laying on what felt like concrete more than the massive amounts of walking we did!
What did we do? We got in around 3pm on the first day so we just walked around Old City and took in the culture. We got an arepa on the street, man was that good! That was only 2,000 pesos which is less than $1! An Arepa is a patty made of maize dough that is cooked on a griddle. Once it’s browned on each side, it’s split down the middle and there are a variety of things that can be placed inside. Most of the vendors we saw put butter (weird but really good!) and cheese. Then they have a bunch of different sauces you can put on top. After wandering around, getting a few beers and taking everything in we decided to get some dinner. We thought deciding on dinner back home was hard! The town has a bunch of different plaza’s, which are like squares, filled with different restaurants and people selling all kinds of things. After much deliberation we decided on dinner right in the middle of the Santo Fomingo plaza where we could have great people watching. We spent a total of 100,000 pesos which is about $33 for 4 beers, an appetizer and two main courses. Not bad! Since we had been up since 2am that day we decided to head back and call it a night.
Our second day in Caragena was our first and only full day. After enjoying breakfast and walking around the city and along the sea wall, we went to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas which is an old castle about 20 minutes away. We took an Uber which was only 5300 pesos, so a little less than $2. Well worth it considering it is SO hot here. Walking around the castle brought us to a time where defending your land was the top priority. Canons lined the walls and secret hiding places seemed to be around every corner. To be in a place from the 1500’s that was of such high importance and was built so beautifully was breathtaking. (Literally though because there were steep hills everywhere!) Walking around the castle worked up quite the appetite (surprise, surprise!) so it was back to the old city for lunch. We found a place right near the hotel that had a typical Colombian lunch. Chicken for me with herbs and creole style pork for dean with a BBQ sauce on top. Each were served with a soup, salad and the best rice we’ve ever had. Coconuts are king here so they cooked the rice in coconut milk and mixed it with poppy seeds and fried pieces of coconut. I’m still dreaming about that rice. The coconut flavor combined with the crunchiness of the fried coconut was heavenly. Best dish of the stay by far. After lunch, siesta! (When in
Rome South America, right?)
We got to visit the Chocolate museum and Gold museum while we were here as well. Both free. The chocolate museum goes through the process of bean to product and they gave out samples. We got to try a cocoa bean! Without knowing, as it looks exactly like a almond.. but much more bitter! The gold museum not only focused on the gold from the local area but also on the indegineous people and the forming of their civilization. There were many artifacts and gold pieces. The free a/c didn’t hurt either!
The night ended with first a beer and a sunset at a bar in top of the wall that lines the city called Cafe Del Mar. Aside from all the other tourists there to take pictures of the sunset too, it was a gorgeous night with breathtaking scenery. From there we enjoyed fun cocktails at Via Apia, a bar in Old City. Via Apia, in deans words, was a “Nuevo Colombian hipster bar”. A great place to hang out, listen to good music and drink cheap, fun cocktails.
Cartagena was a great city to kick off the South American part of our travel. The people were friendly and seemed to put up with the very small amount of spanish we speak. Definitely a place that deserves more time. There are many more places we didn’t even get to touch.
Next stop, Bogota, Colombia! Looks like it’ll be significantly colder there, and possibly rainy so we may be missing the heat of Cartagena more than we thought!
We’ll see you there!