Sunday, January 23, 2011


Cartagena is port city with a population of over a million, but nestled within the old town is a beautiful well-preserved colonial city.  Pirates like Sir Francis Drake have layed siege to the city in search of Spanish riches, and writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez have written novels based on the romance and allure of such a beautiful place.  Today the city is a hub for tourists, each street meticulously preserved and restored. There is also a distinct Afro-Caribbean feel with music, dance, and food all heavily influenced.

Cartagena was used as the primary shipping hub for the Spanish in the exportation of gold and goods back to Spain. As such, it was attacked and sieged numerous times. The result was a well fortified city with underwater sea walls, forts, and cannons protecting an ornate and beautiful inner city.

Below are photos from Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the ominous Fort across the channel from the Old Town.

Seafood is abundant and local tropical fruits are everywhere.  Food choices revolve around the staples of rice, beans and plantains, mixed with the regional specialties.  On her last night here, Christine treated me to a meal at La Vitrola, a posh Cuban restaurant catering to the local elite with live jazz.

Garlic shrimp over a bed of plantain chips at La Mulata
The menu at a local juice restaurant
Arepas at a street cart
Cartagena by night.  Sweltering heat keeps the city quiet during the day but at night a cool breezes moves in.  The city seems to wake up once the sun is down, with dance performances and horse drawn carriages ushering tourists about.

Next Stop: The San Blas islands(Kuna Yala) and Central America.

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