It took me 27 hours to arrive in Cartagena. Originally, I was supposed to arrive at a leisurely pace, mid-Friday on a direct flight from JFK. Angela and I had reserved a street food tour months in advance and I had Google translated dinner reservations to Spanish so that we would arrive with a plan in motion.
Estimada Michelle,Cordial saludo. Reserva confirmada, me indica por favor si dentro de las 5 personas hay menores de edad o personas fumadoras.
What transpired was a series of events that led me to toss my head back and laugh because there’s only so much that you can control for, even with the most impeccably detailed planning.
I was bumped from my 4 hour flight in the AM due to an overbooked flight. As a woman of my word, I refused to let Angela be the only one in our group physically present in Cartagena on a Friday night. I booked a new and costly flight (because friends are always worth it) to Bogota in a last-ditch attempt to make it in as planned so that Angela wouldn’t have to roam alone. In Bogota, customs took 2 hours to clear and I missed my connection to Cartagena. I was then booked on a new flight to Cartagena that would leave at 11PM. At midnight, they delayed my new flight. At 12:30AM, my new flight was cancelled due to mechanical errors.
At 1:30 AM, I found myself in a questionable airport express hotel by the side of the road with my empty carry-on (I always pack an empty carry-on to bring gifts back in). I had no spare clothes, toiletries or extra contact lenses. I bought a toothbrush for $2 from the vending machine. My face was extremely dry from the airplane air conditioning, and I would have even gone to the lengths of putting body lotion on it had there been some in the bathroom. Years of habit had me balk at the idea of getting into bed clad in my dirty airport clothes, so I took a shower, wrapped myself in two towels and shimmied under the thin sheets like a mummy. I was freezing!
In the morning, I returned to the Bogota airport and slapped on lotion in the Duty Free (resourcefulness is key) store. Upon arriving in Cartagena, my checked in luggage was nowhere to be found. At this point, life needed to move forward luggage or no luggage. I made my way to the Airbnb where Angela lent me a blue shift dress to wear during lunch. The suitcase was delivered shortly after.
Cartagena was a classic seaside town. Humidity hung in the air and the best air conditioning was self-generated by a cruising boat. The city was colorful, the people were kind and like most seaside towns, there is a relaxed air that one carries oneself with.
Here are some recommendations from our trip:
Cartagena Boat Tours (ask for Keith). We also arranged for a snorkeling instructor, Jessica, to join us as our guide and translator for the day!
Alma (highly recommend)
Interno (highly recommend as a way to get to see more of Cartagena outside of the pearly tourist gates)
Kiosko El Bony
Mercado de Bazurto
Lucy Jewelry (for emeralds)
St. Dom’s (upscale Colombian designers)
Street vendors sell mochilla bags that are woven by indigenous women. Prices range between $12-16 USD for the petite-sized bags.
In the old city in Cartagena, there are also lots of local artisans and I picked up a pair of earrings there that I adore.
La Sierra Jewelry (focused primarily on gold pieces that are trendy and unique)
Loto Del Sur (botanical-based beauty products)