Cartagena – the icing on the cake of Colombia

This is it – my last post in South America (for now)! Next, join me in Europe.

For me, Cartagena was a jewel in the crown of South America. I found the place enchanting. I stayed for 4 days and didn’t leave the city for any excursions, I found that it was a great place to relax with loads of places to explore in the old town and chill in cafes.

I took a four hour bus to reach Cartagena from Santa Marta and when we arrived all the passengers were asked which hotel they were going to so we got door to door service. I was staying at Republica Hostel in the Old City and my first impressions were great. It’s a nice old mansion style house set around a big airy courtyard.

There were some renovations going on to create a bar area upstairs which look promising.

I decided to stay close to the hostel to get some lunch and stumbled across a fantastic looking ceviche place called Pezetarian, a couple of doors down, couldn’t ask for more. The ceviche was spot on too.

I spent the rest of this afternoon exploring the Old Town and souvenir shopping.

I enjoyed a coffee in a library and the atmosphere was wonderful just walking around with such perfect weather and beautiful surroundings. A very romantic place.

I wanted to check out a bar that I had heard about called Alquímico. Once it got dark I headed there for a drink, or 5. The atmosphere was lovely and I sat up at the bar chatting to the staff. I got a few of the more interesting sounding cocktails for free so I ended up drunk enough that I realised I should probably eat something there rather than try and find anywhere else!

I certainly slept well!

I had such a good few days in Cartagena, I just totally relaxed and wasn’t under time pressure to march around to see the sights.

On my second day I walked around the city walls. I felt so safe and at home walking around the city. It’s a shame that it’s so expensive and that if I were to spend a long time there I would need to stay outside the old town.

I visited the Bovedas, the cellars that are now home to some excellent artisan souvenirs.

These colourful bags are for sale all over the city and they are more expensive in general here than in other cities. I was genuinely struggling with the weight of my bag so only when I knew I was leaving soon was I happy to stock up (and take up all remaining space in my backpack).

You can barter in some shops and not in others. The bags I preferred had tended to be more expensive than the basic ones in other places but here the base price was higher anyway so I was able to get the ones I liked for an alright price. I paid $60.000COP (about £15) for the ones I bought as gifts, though most shops would start at or near $85.000.

I did some more coffee drinking and some more exploring too.

I went to watch the sunset at a gorgeous cafe called Cafe del Mar on the city walls (Baluarte de Santo Domingo) and treated myself to a UK-priced cocktail ($27.000COP, £7) and it was absolutely worth it.

I decided to have dinner at a restaurant called Bourbon Street as I had just confirmed my tickets back to the UK via New Orleans!

The food was mediocre and the service was abysmal sadly. Should have been a cool place and would have been fine in a group, it was only because I was sitting alone, despite being in the centre of the place. I can’t recommend it to you unless you are really craving American junk food.

On my last full day in South America I walked to Millennium Park to see the tame wildlife. I had heard that there are two female sloths with babies living there.

When I arrived I was approached by a man who helped me to find the sloths and one of them was quite easy to see which was great! Then I wandered around and found some really tame birds, iguanas and titi monkeys.

I really walked around all day, exploring the city walls and the old town again. As the sun started to set I decided to go back to Cafe del Mar for sunset cocktails. The atmosphere there is just so lovely.

I decided to go back to the hostel before heading out for dinner and I claimed my two welcome cocktails there too. At the hostel bar I got talking to a girl who mentioned that she and a guy were going to eat at the restaurant that I had decided I wanted to go to tonight so the three of us went together to an Argentinian parilla restaurant for steaks! Marzola was lovely and the decor was fascinating! Bottle caps lined the walls, the menus were stickers on wine bottles and the steak was delicious. Not cheap but it was good quality.

After dinner we went to Alquímico for some last night drinks and I got to see the roof terrace that was now open. Funnily enough, even without going “out-out” I still managed to get back to the hostel at 3am in time for a reasonable night’s sleep. In the morning I headed to the airport to fly to New Orleans and meet James (who I met on the Quilotoa Loop) for a weekend in New Orleans!!

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