We arrived at about 1pm and took a taxi into the historical centre. After a bit of searching around we settled on the first hotel that we had been to ! Villa Colonial is a cheap friendly hotel with a/c and cable tv !
Cartagena de Indias was founded in 1533. It was one of the storage points for merchandise sent out from Spain and for treasure collected from the Americas to be sent back to Spain. There are a series of forts protecting the city and a wall all around the inner city. It is vibrant, interesting and beautiful city and there are many fine colonial buildings along the city's central narrow streets.
Despite its daunting outer forts and encircling walls Cartagena was challenged repeatedly by the likes of Sir Francis Drake (who was successful). It was most famously defended by a one-eyed, one-armed and one-legged hero Blas de Lezo whose statue is prominant in front of the largest fortress (San Felipe).
In the afternoon we wandered around town and picked up a bit of food on the street. Monica was amazed by the different coloured buses/trucks, they look like something out of the sixties. We then went back to our room to get a good night's sleep.
As they didn't have breakfast at our hotel we had a yoghurt with cereal instead. We then walked into the old part of the city. All the houses are old colonial buildings with wooden terraces and they are all immaculately kept. We visited the plaza los coches where there is an impressive clock tower, the cathedral in the corner of plaza Bolivar and the church and monastry in plaza domingo. This last church is being restored at the moment so we could only peer in past the workmen.
We were very impressed with the buildings and the shopping wasn't bad either (Monica finally found a new bikini after weeks of looking in every single bikini shop !!). After walking for hours we sat out in the plaza domingo where there are many pavement cafes from which you can watch life go by. While we were sitting there Queen Sofia from Spain came out of the opposite building to say hello !!! We went back to our hotel for a while to relax and watch some english tv. In the evening we went back to the old town and ate at Cafe San Pedro, which was in plaza san pedro claver. It was a really nice restaurant and we ate in the courtyard (asian food). There was lots of food and after we took a walk before returning to our hotel.
We decided to do the beach the next day, so after our yoghurt and cereal we walked across town to Bocagrande which is strip of land crowded with hotels and shops (touristy). The sand was grey and wasn't particularly nice and it was sweltering (35 degrees). We managed to lie on the beach for one hour but by midday we had had enough. We looked around some shops in the area and then took one of the colourful buses back to the centre. Most of the afternoon was spent on the internet, catching up. In the evening we went to the dragon oro restaurant (Avenida de Venezuela) for some chinese food. We ordered far too much but it was really good food.
More walking was the order of the next day. We walked along the wall towards Plaza de las Bovedas and saw lots of school children in the buses/trucks. They were all waving to us and wanting pictures taken. We carried on around the ramparts and along a line of very touristy shops, off the plaza. We carried on wandering through the beautiful streets, stopping at churches (San Agustin, Santa Toribio) and interesting buildings. We had a snack in parque fernandez de Madrid and watched life for a while. In Plaza Bolivar Nick went into the Palacio de la inquisition where there were torture instruments from the inquisition based in a beautiful building with a stone entrance, balconies, cloisters and patios. It was a fine example of colonial baroque. Meanwhile Monica relaxed in the Bolivar square, watching life.
After a another short walk in which we saw a children's school parade, we decided to buy a bottle of wine to drink in our room. We had a nice bottle of Trapiche Malbec and watched tv. We were planning on going out, but the wine went straight to our heads and we ended up staying in the room and eating a few ritz crackers for dinner !
The weekend brought more people out on the streets as we walked across the Puente Heredia to get to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. This is the largest fort in the Americas, built on San Lazaro hill. It was finished in 1657 after 18 years. There are lots of tunnels running through the castle and we managed to get lost in them all ! We then had another walk around town and took lots of pictures of buses, as they are all so colourful and different. For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant for pasta. The room we ate in was surrounded by wine bottles, and Monica had a lovely carbonara. Nick had arrabiata followed by Tiramasu ! We then went to a bar called Via Apia, which was near the plaza santa domingo. We sat in a table at the window and had a few drinks, watching people go by and they had music videos in the bar.
We slept in late and watched a bit of tv in bed. We then went out to grab some breakfast on the street and take some more pictures of buses (we have loads !!!). We had a walk in the old city and took pictures of doors and doorknobs. We also saw the statues of Pegasus outside the centro Internacional de convenciones. In the evening we went for pizza and a bit of street food. We returned to our hotel and got an early night.
We packed our stuff in the morning and headed out to the supermarket for supplies for our impending 18hr bus journey. We then checked out of our friendly hotel and headed for the bus station. The first bus out was full so we had to wait for the 3.30pm bus.
VILLA COLONIAL - Nice rooms, friendly staff and cable tv !
Cafe San Pedro - Good quality restaurant at a good price