Slept past hotel breakfast, so went to a bistro the front desk girl recommended. Then just wandering. Cartagena reminds me of New Orleans. Colorful, quaint, hot & humid, lots of flowers (& tourists).
After walking for a bit, I wound up literally on top of Las Bovedas – this former dungeon is now a tourist trap (full of souvenir shops). Since the doors were open, I got out of there as quickly as possible. Figuring out how to get outside the city wall took me a bit longer.
But, eventually (and after asking directions in my broken Spanish) I figured out how to get over/under/through the wall, and over to the Casa Rafael Nunez. The 2nd floor was nice – cool (breezy) & quiet. I chatted briefly with the 2 other people there (from Boston). And although I didn’t have time to go there on this trip, they recommended the bird sanctuary, so maybe another time.
Then, I walked back into center of town, and found the place LP mentioned with good coconut lemonade (yum, indeed). The couple next to me (from Texas) said to skip the City Tour. I hadn’t planned on taking it, anyway!
Wandered some more, and eventually wound up at a place serving ceviche in a garden courtyard that looked cute and quiet (set back off the street a bit). It filled up with more tourists after I got there. It was just okay.
Dinner at a place near the hotel that had some pretty good seafood. I had asked what was popular and the waiter pointed out a half dozen different things, but I wound up going with a seafood stew of some kind. The coconut rice that came with it was quite sweet (and tasty!)
Breakfast at hotel, where I chatted briefly with some girls from SF (Alecia & Jess), and then with a couple originally from Wisconsin (Rich & Lisa?) who now live on their sailboat. They were planning on going through the Panama Canal in a few weeks.
After breakfast, I walked to Bocagrande. It was hot, so I made a few stops (the mall, which had a great beach view from the food court, and then looking in a few shops). I had lunch at a place on a little side street that caught my eye because of the sign for a set lunch, combined with seeing a big group wearing matching business colors who had the waiter take a photo of them (perhaps celebrating something?) It turned out to be a Arabic restaurant that also served typical Colombian food, and it was pretty good. While I was eating, several other people came in, and I overheard a blonde guy (speaking Spanish) talking about Colorado. We were all finished at the same time, so as we were waiting to pay, I asked him about that — turns out he lives in Longmont and was down for work for a couple of weeks (he was having lunch with some web developers he works with in Cartagena).
After lunch, more walking. I went as far as I could go on Castillogrande (a pretty uninteresting area with lots of tall apartment buildings, but no cafes or restaurants). The very tip is not open to the public, and appeared to be some kind of navy facility. (Bad joke redacted)
I walked much of the way back to Cartagena, but wasn’t up for walking the last stretch, which I knew was unshaded, so I stopped in a grocery store to cool off and hailed an Uber. 30 minutes later, it finally showed up (I could’ve walked in that time!)
Back near the hotel, I splurged on a fancy coffee drink (vanilla ice cream + espresso), & chatted with a girl from Seattle who works for Amazon / Good Reads. Afterwards, I wandered around the corner to a pizza joint with sidewalk seating facing a cute little triangular “square.” I chatted a little with a girl from Nashville (now doing peace corps work teaching English in a small town in Colombia). Her mother had come back with her for a post-Christmas visit. Then, it was back to the hotel for happy hour on the roof (where I met the SF girls from breakfast, as well as a couple from D.C.). Our bartender was really nice and patient with our Spanish. Also a really big fan of Levi’s jeans.
Then it was time for me to head to the airport for my flight to Medellin.
Overall impressions of Cartagena: Charming, yes, and a lot of nice public spaces and art, but absolutely teeming with tourists. If I go back again, I’ll make time to do a beach/snorkeling day, but I’m not going to make a special trip to Cartagena just to do that.