ay Six 7/5 Wednesday
Today was all about shopping and buying gifts. I felt like we couldn’t get into each store quick enough, because it was hot. Today might have been the hottest day that we felt yet. It was about 95 degrees and 90% humidity. We had an amazing lunch at “La Mulata”. This place is super affordable and the food is delicious. As usual, they greeted you at the table with some Sancocho and your drink of choice. I ordered fish in a coconut sauce. The fish was so flaky and flavorful, and it had an amazing avocado salsa and rice on the side. After more walking and buying souvenirs, we went back to the hotel and jump in the pool to cool off. That night we went out to a bit more relaxed placed called “Juan Del Mar”. This restaurant is located across from Plaza de San Diego. If you sit outside by the sidewalk, you can watch all the street performers. The only downside is that they only serve pizza, otherwise they offer a full menu inside. After dinner, we went to an outdoor bar called “Donde Fidel” and listened to live music as we watch people passing by. It was super chilled and finally there was some cool breezy that felt wonderful.
*Tip of the day. Enjoy the first part of the day to explode and then take some shelter during the peak of the afternoon. The temperatures can get pretty steamy. This way you will have enough energy to enjoy the cooler nights, which are full of life, music and adventure.
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Day Five 7/4 Tuesday
We took a walking tour of the city. Meli was our tour guide, she took us to all the squares, convents, forts, theaters and every iconic spot while giving us the complete history of each spot. The tour took about two hours, and after we were all done we went for lunch to a different area of Cartagena called”Getsemani”. There we grabbed lunch at “La Casa de Socorro”. Cute place with great food, I had fish cooked in a tomato broth accompanied by patacones and rice. After lunch we walked around Getsemani in search for a famous park (which we never found). Either way, as we were walking around we saw this dinosaur looking birds and to our surprise they were Andean Condors. The wing span is about 10 feet, it was fantastic.
As we made our way back to the hotel, we stoped at one of the corner street vendors to get some sweets and replenish our energy to be ready for the night. After a well deserved nap, we went for dinner to “1621”, probably the fanciest place we went to. This restaurant is located inside one of the old convents (Convento de Santa Clara). They have a beautiful garden where you can enjoy a magical dinner with your loved one. Although it was a bit pricy and the ambiance was amazing, the food wasn’t as good as El Santisimo. They combine Colombian and French techniques, using all fresh local fruits and seafood. We tried the smoked octopus and oxtail. Both very tender and savory. Definitely worth the try, at least for the beautiful candlelight garden.
*Tip of the day. Be sure to call ahead to any restaurant and make reservations, most places require a reservation. If you don’t think you can get through a whole phone conversation in Spanish, ask your hotel concierge for help.
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Day Four 7/3 Monday
For today we booked a day tour to “Islas Rosario” through our hotel concierge. We had looked into booking it on TripAdvisor but I’m glad we didn’t. The price online for any tour to the islands was double of what we paid. A van picked us up at the hotel and brought us to the port where all the boats to the islands leave from, from there it was about a one hour boat ride. The island we went to is called “Isla del Sol”, it is one of 23 islands off the coast of Cartagena. This small island has a small boutique hotel, the rooms are just bungalows that sit along the beach. Once we arrived to the island and got all set up, we jumped in the ocean since it looked so calm and refreshing. The snorkeling was amazing, I saw a couple schools of fish, coral and lots of wild life in the water. After we relaxed for a while (had some drinks, patacon and arepas) we asked one of the locals if we could be granted permission to visit the town, to what he responded very happy that it was his pleasure to show us around. This island has a population of 200 people give or take, 90% of those people never leave the island. It was definitely a great experience to see how they live, and how they are basically self sustainable. There are no motorized vehicles, and the only means of electricity are solar panels. As we walked through the town we saw the little town center, and the small town church. At the end of the trail a canoe was awaiting to take us through the mangroves. This was pretty cool and a bit creepy. Very quite and calm, the only thing we saw were these little crabs, birds and the biggest termite mounds I have ever seen. So after about 2 hours of venturing around we made it back to the beach for lunch, beer and a long nap. And just like that before we know it, it was time to go back to the mainland.
As usual, we went out for dinner but since we were tired from the long day all we decide to try Colombian hot dogs. They put small skinny French fries, cheese and bacon, a little different but good. Tonight was an early night since we were beat from the sun and the long day.
*Tip of the day. Ask your hotel for options and ideas for tours. They usually know someone in town that does tours and can get you a better price than booking it online or buying it from a random person on the street offering tours.
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Day three 7/2 Sunday.
We ended up, getting up early to take a taxi to what I would call a locals only beach (Bocagrande), in a section of Cartenga called the new city or Miami. This was an experience on its own. While walking to the beach from the taxi, we got approached by a man stating that he run the beach. His name was Cuco, his services included setting up an umbrella with chairs, a table and table service for whatever we needed. So that just what we did. The price wasn’t to bad, approximately $20 USD for the entire day. He even offered to scare away any vendors that harassed us. First things first, we ordered a cooler of beer, you get a cooler full of beer and only pay for the beers you drink. Over all it was about $5 USD for a twelve pack. Colombia has a delicious refreshing beer called “Club Colombia” be sure to try it. After a few beers we decided to cool off and jumped in the ocean. After a little swim, hunger kicked in so we order food from Cuco. He recommended getting grilled fish. This was absolutely one of the best fish I’ve ever had, it came with yuca fries and Sancocho (fish soup), although it was a little too hot for soup it is a Colombian tradition. It was a hole fish grilled, salted, so simple yet so delicious. It was the perfect lunch on the beach. As the sun started to go down, we decided to head back to the hotel to get ready for another night our in town.
We decided to go back to Mistura that night and enjoy a couple tapas while listening to the live salsa band. That night we took it slow since we had a long day planed ahead for the following day.
*Tip of the day. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals where to hang out. Every place we went, we felt safe and people were friendly all around. Even if you don’t speak Spanish. Trying to speak a few words, people definitely appreciate the effort.
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Day One 6/30 Friday
As we were flying into Cartagena, you could see the colorful streets all around. When we got off the plane, the hot summer Colombian weather greeted us with big open arms, it did not make me miss the New Jersey weather at all. At the airport we asked what was the best way to get to “The Old City”, one of the airport security guys recommended taking a taxi. He also recommended negotiating the price before getting in the cab. The cab ride was only a 10 minute ride from the airport to the hotel, which was located in what its called “The Walled City”, and it costs about $13,000 Colombian pesos ($5 US dollars +/-). At the hotel we were greeted by the staff who was so welcoming and helpful. After we settled in, we decided to go find something to munch on and explore the city. We walked down the beautiful colorful streets and ended up at “Mistura”, this place is located right across the street from Parque Fernandez Madrid, they had an amazing tender sirloin steak and fresh grilled octopus. We immediately made friend with the bartender who so kindly gave us a taste and a lesson on Colombian rum and moonshine. After a delicious taste of Colombian moonshine we met with our friends who landed in Cartagena a little latter. We were quick to make plans for that night to take a “Chiva” (local, doorless, super loud bus) for a night tour bus of the city. The Chiva is definitely something that even though is a cheese way to lure in tourists, its so much fun and you get a tour around the city, drinks, entertainment, a guide and a couple of arepas while on board. During this tour, one of the stops was at the wall the surrounds the city. While we were at the top of the wall, other Chivas stopped there too and it became a big party. A Ballenato (type of Colombian music) band played lived music while everyone danced around and drank. Local street food vendors were selling arepas, empanadas and other street food. After dancing on the wall, we kept touring around the city for a final stop at a club. We continued the dancing and the drinking until we had no more energy left. Definitely a good start of this 7 day trip.
*Tip of the day. If you didn’t exchange money before traveling to Colombia. Only exchange a little bit at the airport, enough to pay for the cab and exchange the rest of the money at a hotel or one of the many exchange places in the downtown area. You will definitely get a better exchange rate.
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