Cartagena De Indias (Distrito Turístico Y Cultural), Colombia
Cartagena in Columbia
Tuesday 22nd May 2012
Flight from Panama City to Cartagena took just over 1 hour, it left and arrived on time, through customs in no time at all.
Arrived at Hotel San Roque at 13:30. checked into our room which is not numbered but named - Spiritu Santo (Holy Spirit). It's up in the attic, just off a spiral staircase (no getting drunk here and staggering home) with an en suite bathroom and a new a/c unit. The hotel looks nothing from the outside but opens up round a courtyard where breakfast is served every morning. There is lots of dark wood and traditional ornaments and some local modern art that all give it character. The staff are very friendly and helpful, but speak very little English.
After leaving our bags we take a wander round the neighbourhood which appears to be very old and traditional which is not far from San Felipe Fort and parts of the old city walls. We walked to the The Clock Tower entrance of the old town which is probably only 10 minutes away. Tasted some local seafood cocktail and home made limonade.
Cartagena de Indias (Cartagena of the Indies), is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia and capital of Bolívar Department. The city had a population of 892,545 as of the 2005 census, making it the fifth-largest city in Colombia .
Cartagena was founded on June 1, 1533 by Spanish commander Pedro de Heredia, in the former location of the indigenous Caribbean Calamarí village. The town was named after Cartagena, Spain, where most of Heredia's sailors had resided. For more than 275 years, Cartagena was under Spanish rule. On November 11, 1811, Cartagena declared its independence
We watched the sunset over the sea whilst sitting on the City walls, a popular thing to do looking at the loved up couples .
At night time the bars open and the street comes alive with music and locals. It's sometimes difficult to tell what is a cafe and what is someone's home as there are few of the indicators that we would use at home - no street dining etc. The temperatures are pretty much the same day and night, which is hot and sticky.
Wednesday 23rd May
Breakfast consists of cereals with yoghurt, bread, butter and jam, and a choice of tea or coffee is served between 7am and 10am.
As Castillo (castle) San Felipe is very close to us we decide that today we will it explore it. We choose to take an English audio tour so we can hear more of the history - this was a good plan as it gave so much information about the castle, without it we may even have missed out several bits of the castle.
The castle is striking for its grand entrance and its complex maze of tunnels. It's the most formidable defensive complex of Spanish military architecture.The fortress was begun in 1536. It was significantly expanded in 1657. It was built in a triangular shape on top of the hill. Sir Frances Drake once captured the Castle but was paid in gold to leave. It has over it's time been captured by the French and English but remains intact with canons on the battlements and paths leading to undergraound passageways. In 1984, UNESCO listed the castle, with the historic centre of the city of Cartagena, as a World Heritage Site. Since 1990.We throuroughly enjoyed our visit here which took about 2-3 hours. There are some good views of the City from here too.
In the afternoon we walked round the Old Town following the City Tour on the map provided by Tourist Information. There are some very beautiful, colourful Colonial buildings that are steeped in history and tradition. See the photos as I can't do them justice here.
After lots of walking we ate at a local restuarant, two courses (Soup & main course) and a drink for around £2.50. It was good hearty home cooked food and exceptional value.
Thursday 24th May
We booked a boat trip today to Isla Rosario and Playa Blanca, we left the port at 8.30am. These are some 27 islands off the coast of Cartagena. The boat sailing past the modern skyscraper buildings and then past the the outer limits of the old city defences. It took about an hour and half to get to the Isla Rosario, which was very disappointing becasue basically it was an Aquarium and cafe. We stayed here for an hour. Next stop was Playa Blanca (White Beach) which was another hour away. There was entertainment on the boat in the form of the crew singing and dancing to Salsa music and offered ice creams and drinks. Playa Blanca was beautiful with a white sandy beach, blue sea and went are far as the eyes would see. We had lunch, which consisted of fresh fried fish, rice, plantain and salad. We had two hours to wander before having to be back on the boat. We swam in the warm sea and we walked along the beach. You can stay overnight here in hammocks, tents and basic cabanas on the beach, but it is very hot with lots of sand flies.
Back on the boat for the return journey which took about an hour and half. Eventually arriving back at 5pm. We both agreed had we known what the trip entailed we perhpas would not have taken it, but on the plus side I got to swim in the carribean again.
Andy's meal on the third night was 'Cuban Meat' which included Beef Jerky, Plantain, Lentils and salad. Although the combination sounds strange (and looked strange) it was a very nice dinner, says Andy.
Friday 25th May
We used the time this morning to chill and plan for the next few weeks.
This afternoon we walked round the length of the City Walls, which gave a different perspective to the Old town and Castillo San Felipe. The weather seemed cooler today as it was cloudy so a nice relief.
Tonight we ventured into the Old town, we watched some traditional dancers perform. Some of the larger restaurants/bars put tables and chairs out to create a feel good atmosphere and it gets very busy.
Saturday 26th May
Flight from Cartagena to Bogata.