For our visit to this hot little spot in the Caribbean, Cartagena de Indias turned up the heat and humidity. Sporting sweaty faces and damp T-shirts, we devoted 5 sticky days to exploring Cartagena’s brightly coloured buildings and charismatic old town which provides a visual feast of Bahama-like tropics and Spanish Colonial.
To touch on its history, in the last 300 years, Cartagena has survived six pirate attacks. One event saw 2200 Spanish troops defend a fleet of 33,000 soldiers on over 150 ships. The ingenious design of their fort systems ensured their ultimate success. In fact, Castillo San Felipe which was built in 1536, is known as the strongest fortress ever built by Spaniards.
Cartagena was also famously the muse and home of Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And we quickly saw why. Indeed if the cobbled streets could speak, you get the feeling that many stories of epic love and tragedy would be told. During our stay, we both made it a point to read Marquez’s classic 100 Years of Solitude (a brilliant read and time-transporting experience). The imagery, the emotions, food and characters Marquez describes seemed to echo off the pages and into our real life observations. Under the tropical sun we fell in love with Cartagena’s fortified city, it’s romantic alleyways and vibrant people.
Burger night. In addition to the usual suspects (hamburger pattie, mystery meat salami, lettuce and pickles) they add crispy fried onion chips and a sweet clear yellow jelly sauce. Overall the combo was quite tasty.
Best popsicle stand, possibly in the world. We went to La Paletteria most days to try out the different flavours starring many local exotic fruits.
On another visit to the old walled city we visited the Spanish Palace of Inquisition complete with all variety of torture tools imported by the Spaniards. This one, as our guide demonstrated is a crusher to target thieves with sticky fingers.
Living in this monastery is this statue of this Virgin of Candelaria who is believed by locals to have saved them from centuries of disease and pirates. Her name is Carmen. She is also famous for miracles such as helping people to walk, see and hear again.
Pictured here is the impressive wardrobe of this Virgin of Candelaria. Honouring a delightul tradition, every year a local family is in charge of sewing and providing the Virgin Carmen with a new elaborate dress. Trendy lady!