Sunblock 50: What I did in Cartagena (Part II of III)

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Photos by Barbara J. Rosen and SJRG

* Walked around the walled city and admired the architecture (generally done between the hours of 10AM-noon and 4-7PM, when it wasn’t too hot).

* Discovered I like mojitos and alternated between ordering mojitos and piña coladas for my nightcap at the Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel bar.

* Explored the stores on Avenida San Martín, the main shopping strip in Bocagrande.  Although I saw some pretty bathing suits and cute matching cover-ups, I was a little disappointed by the shopping.  Everything I liked was over $100 and you could buy similar clothes for the same price or less in the U.S.  I did buy a nice cotton blouse on sale at a Colombian boutique for $12 and some FIFA t-shirts for friends, but that was about it for my purchases.

* Ate a lot of seafood, particularly in the form of shrimp ceviche and fish soup.  Entrees were generally served with coconut rice and fried plantains, neither of which I liked enough to replicate at home, but were interesting to try.  The best thing I ate was actually ceviche from a street stand called Cocteleria La Torree, which was more established/safer looking than the typical street stand (it had a refrigerator, the chef wore a disposable surgical mask, and the sign said it’s been around for 25 years).  I also tried several types of fruit juice (ex. melon juice and tree tomato juice), although I wouldn’t strongly recommend either.

* Visited some nice small museums, the gold museum being the standout.  I really wanted to see the enormous gold museum in Bogota, but it was too far for our short visit, so we made do with the smaller version in Cartagena and it did not disappoint.

* Went on a chiva bus tour party bus.  This would be my least favorite (and the most over-hyped) activity in Cartagena.  Every guidebook and website says that the chiva bus tours are a must do activity and fun for families and people of all ages.  I think the real trick/secret to enjoying the bus tour is being drunk when you get on.  As my mother and I were not drunk, we did not enjoy the loud sweaty people, live mariachi band two rows behind us, rum and Pepsi on board, and tour that was more comprehensible in Spanish than English.  The most annoying part of the bus tour (aside from the overall loudness and perspiring neighbors leaning on us) was that the bus circled around the same neighborhood for over an hour looking for more tourists to pack into the already overly crowded bus.  We bolted at the first stop, two hours in and two hours before it was supposed to end.

* Read at the pool (and I’ll admit, more often in my room b/c I prefer AC to sun).

* Spoke a lot of Spanish.  While this seems like a given, I got more practice in Cartagena than anywhere else that I’ve visited as almost no one spoke English and I served as translator, negotiator, and guide for my mother.  The trip was a great refresher!

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