Our two-month trip to South America has begun! We’ve been in Cartagena, Colombia now for about 3 days and are having a great time. Our first views of the city were at night, with the high rise apartment buildings, lights on the cathedrals and old walls of the city, and the reflection from the lights in the water. A beautiful sight!
It’s pretty in the daytime as well, although we are not staying in the old town, but in Boca Grande, which is the modern part of the city with the high-rise apartments and busy streets. The apartment we chose (Los Delfines) is okay, but we’ve found it to be very overpriced compared to other hotels we’ve seen here, and there’s a lot of noise at night from the roads, even though we’re 16 stories up. We’ll be moving to another place Monday, which we’ve already booked. If we were to do this again, we’d probably stay right in Old town – a much better atmosphere. There are some great hotels here that don’t really advertise on-line, but that you just have to come and see.
The main thing we haven’t liked about Cartagena is being constantly bombarded with people trying to sell us things as we walk along the street. “Hey Amigo!”, they say, as they hold out their rack of sunglasses, wooden pots, paintings, cigarettes, hats, or boat tour fliers. We find ourselves repeating “No, gracias!” about every 5 steps or so, and it gets really annoying, especially if they’re persistent, which is most of the time, so I often have to repeat myself or ignore them.
I’ve considered donning a sign that reads something like, “I don’t need any more stuff. My luggage consists of only one small backpack, and it’s already full. Please leave me alone.” But I think it would just be ignored anyway. I think when you have white skin, you just can’t help but look like a souvenir-hungry tourist in South America. Oh well.
As for the backpack, yes, we decided to pack very light for this trip. We each have one small backpack, and that’s it. No suitcases this time. We’ve really enjoyed traveling light so far. It sure makes airport checks and stairs very easy.
Here are some of the highlights of Cartagena so far.
- Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas.
This is more of a fort than a castle, built to keep out invaders such as pirates in the 1600’s. Complete with look-out towers and canons, they also have a maze of tunnels underneath, which you can explore to see the different traps they had to prevent intruders from overtaking it. I highly recommend hiring a tour guide, since there isn’t really anything to read or explain how things worked. Our guide was also great at keeping the kids interested through what otherwise might be boring for them. I think we paid about $15 for the guide. So far this has been the most interesting part of the city.
- Convento de la Popa. A former fort and now a museum with a lovely chapel and great views of the city. We also met a guy at the entrance who had a pet sloth which he let us hold (for about $1.75). The girls especially found the sloth much more interesting than the convent, but it’s one of the “must sees” in Cartagena.
- Gold Museum. In the historic center, there is a gold museum where they have lots of pre-colombian artifacts, including gold earrings, nose rings, animal figures, and other objects that have been found. It sounds like there is still a lot of gold found in the rivers in Colombia, as well as silver and emeralds. There are lots of jewelry stores here as well. The museum is free of charge, and we chose the optional guide for about $2.75.
- City Walls.
You can actually walk up on the walls of the old city, which is great to do in the evening when it’s cooler, and is a nice place to watch the sunset from, which we did tonight. The sunset wasn’t spectacular today, but it was a peaceful evening (except for the guy who starting giving us a “tour” but which I cut short when the girls started getting tired and hungry, and when he wouldn’t give me a straight answer about cost.)
- Wandering around the city. We also enjoyed the cathedral, modern art museum, naval museum, and a horse carriage ride around the city. But most of all, we just enjoyed exploring it on our own. We had some fresh fruit juice (it’s so nice to have passion fruit again! They don’t offer that many places in Costa Rica), and rested in the park for a while. While there, Emily spotted a large iguana in a tree, along with several monkeys and squirrels. We had fun watching them. We also saw a cool pirate ship that we got to go on, and some interesting street dancers. There are plenty of nice restaurants in town in as well, but only one real ice cream shop that we could find called Alegría.
Tomorrow is Emily’s birthday and we’re leaving the itinerary up to her, but we think that part of it is going to include the beach, which she’s been asking us about ever since we got here. Happy 7th birthday, Emily!!
Watch the video below. Click the pictures to see a larger image.
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It was certainly love at first sight when we saw the sloth. He was such a sweet and cuddly little guy. The old city reminds me quite a bit of the historic area of the Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands where I used to live, so it was fun to experience that. I also really liked the tour of the fort. Our tour guide was fun and really kept the girls engaged in what he was saying. :)
Yeah, it really reminded me of the Canary Islands, too. The old town has a real European look to it.
Oh, I’m so happy for this post. The sloth is adorable – and he looked like he had a big grin on his face while you were holding him.
Cartagena looks like a beautiful place. Glad you’re having such a great time. You’re taking some great pictures – and I’m delighted that you (Brandon) are showing up in some of them :)
I loved the music you chose as the background for the video. Keep them coming!
P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY EMILY!
Yeah, he was a cute sloth. I’m glad you like the pictures – did you see the cool night shot I did of Cartagena? I finally figured out how to change the shutter speed on my camera and was able to make my first night shot that actually looked half decent.
You can thank the tour guides for the videos of our family. That is one advantage to having a guide – built-in picture taker whenever you want.
The music comes from some Colombian music CD’s I bought here. I mainly bought them so I’d have some music for the video. lol. :)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEET EMILY :o)
The city looks very beautiful. Thanks for all the pictures and the video. I like your mom am very happy to see the whole family in some of the pictures. It looks like Jen’s hair has returned to it’s curls :o) I loved the facial expression of Marie as you were being serenaded… it’s priceless. Loved all the pictures and the video. It’s great experiencing the sites through your eyes. love you !
Yes, we loved the serenading. They played us three different songs and it really set the mood for the night. Thanks for the comment.
Hello Brandon, Jennifer, Emily and Marie! Its really great to read about and see such great photos of your trip! The sloth looked like it wanted to go home with you…! :D And the 3 guys serenading you looked very conscious as you were filming them… :P Look forward to seeing more posts and photos!
Cheers and keep safe!
Thanks Cindy. I’ll definitely keep the posts coming, so you can see some of the things you helped us plan. :)
Hola…. Le deseamos un muy Feliz día de Cumpleaños a Emily!!!!
Se ven que estan disfrutando, el video y las fotos estan muy lindas.
Estaremos pendientes de lo que publiquen y más fotos.
Saludos desde Grecia!!!!
Gracias! Emily tenía una cumpleaños mui divertido. Yo voy a escribir sobre eso después. Esperemos que todo es bien con su familia.
Colombia looks beautiful. I can’t believe how old Emily is looking now and that she is turning 7. What a great place to have a birthday. Happy Birthday Emily!
Thanks Lori. Yes, we’re enjoying it a lot, even though we’re only seeing a very small part of Colombia. I just watched some older videos of the girls and it is amazing how quickly they’ve grown. It just happens to fast!!
Awwww cute! That sloth is so adorable! He really does look like he’s smiling :)
And those pictures are very cool. I like the pirate ship. And Emily’s striped dress is adorable. Do they have one in my size?…
Happy birthday EMILY ELIZABETH!!!
Emily loved the pirate ship. She was so excited when she saw it as we were driving by, and just had to see how close we could get. They had another ship, too, but we couldn’t go on it. I think it’s now a restaurant but wasn’t open. The dress was from Grandma Alli – arrived just days before we left for our trip. :)
Hi! Well I just thought it was a crazy coincidence that I was looking through the pictures from the search “cartagena weddings” and our picture was there! Those two people that you have labeled on your blog under weddings is us :) I remember seeing your family across the street! Anyways I took a look at your blog and I think what you are doing us great. We have been toying with the idea of moving to Costa Rica so I just couldn’t believe it when i started reading and you guys just did it! Good luck with everything and we will keep an eye on your blog! Thanks for the pic!
Wow, Martha! That’s so interesting how you found the blog. Congratulations on your wedding – what a beautiful place for it! Let us know if you decide to move to Costa Rica. It would be fun to meet you.
[…] Toured an old fort in Old Town Cartagena, Colombia […]
Cartagena is going to be the first stop in our RTW trip — thanks so much for the post.
Hi Brandon, great post! thanks!.
I live in Sydney Australia but originally from Colombia. This coming June my wife and I will be travelling to Cartagena for the first time. Reading your post has given me lots of ideas and tips for the trip!