If you’ve seen Romancing the Stone, or Love in the Time of Cholora, you’ve seen the (seemingly too perfect) picturesque Old City of Cartagena, a village set in fortress walls that have preserved the history, and kept out not only pirates, but the modern signs of globalization.
Our home base was Hotel La Passion, a colonial-era mansion that was recently converted into a boutique hotel. Located in the heart of El Centro, the historic walled city of Cartagena, we were walking distance to all of the city’s sights. The hotel surrounded an amazing courtyard, and was topped off by a rooftop deck and pool. Breakfast every morning was on the rooftop deck, consisting of fresh fruit, bread, an
amazing papaya jam, and eggs cooked to order. The highlight–fresh squeezed mango juice!
The city was easily accessible (considering you don’t get lost and meander around for over an hour in circles, like we did) with the walls to guide you. In fact, you could even scale the walls and walk above the city, stopping briefly by cafes on the wall for a cocktail with a view. Every so often, you would hear the clickity clack of horse
shoes on the old cobblestone roads. The mood of the city was sultry and yet inviting. We kept finding pockets of beauty in the city….from markets selling everything from bracelets to sex toys…to beautiful churches ringing the bells throughout the day. Even near the hotel, music would faintly pass through the streets from a dance theatre down the street.
The character of the city also changed along with the time of day. The mornings were slow and lazy, with the occasional local walking to work, and a smattering of tourists walking through the city’s squares. The streets cleared out during the middle of the day as the oppressive mid-day sun shone down. In the afternoon, however, the city was alive with locals of all sorts conducting business, peddling their wears, visiting with friends, and buying lottery tickets. Weekday evenings were calm and serene, and we virtually had the streets to ourselves (granted, this was the shoulder season in late April, your mileage may vary). Friday nights were a completely different story. The streets were absolutely filled with people! Rows and rows of night-time market stands enticed shoppers; the restaurants and bars were overflowing with patrons, and the squares were filled with a broad sampling of the population. It seemed like everyone, however, was quenching their thirst with a cold bottle of Aguila beer.
Getting to Cartagena from the United States is surprisingly easy. Spirit Airlines flies nonstop from Fort Lauderdale, and the flight is under 3 hours in length and is usually far cheaper than many U.S. domestic flights. In that short time, you can find yourself in an entirely different world of horse-drawn carriages and Latin flavor.