by Danielle Robles
Cartagena is unreal. Like taking a trip to Disney World and getting sucked into the Pirates of the Caribbean kind of unreal. A fantasy imagined. A daydream come true.
The city itself sits behind 20-inch thick stone walls built by the Spaniards to keep those plundering ole pirates at bay. Pulling up to the entrance I instantaneously knew I was about to experience something of other-worldly proportions.
Esmee and I arrived in the early evening. The air was muggy and hot. A nice little treat from Bogota’s cold rainy days. As our cabby made its way into the walled city, we were greeted by candy-colored colonial architecture, horse-drawn carriages, people singing and dancing in the streets.
After getting settled in our hostel, El Viajero, we decided to set out on a strolling adventure. The cobblestone streets were buzzing with affluent tourists dressed in head-to-toe white, and local street vendors were sprawled out selling anything and everything imaginable. The neighborhood inside the city walls was quite small so it wasn’t long before we stumbled onto two of the best things I experienced in my entire time in Colombia: a dance troupe performing to a live steel drum band and homemade Caribbean street ceviche. It was at the very moment I lost my shit.
We decided to pick up a bottle of rum, being that we were living the pirates’ life and all, and headed back to our hostel. Card games with a group of Argentinians were played, drinks were, well, drunk, and laughs were had before our hostel bartender whisked the entire group out to explore the nightlife.
Just outside the city walls lies the “Golden Triangle” of Cartagena’s best bars, discotheques and restaurants. A little ‘hood called Getsemani. Our hostel group hopped around, dancing our faces off in the humid stale air, soaking up the intoxicating energy of Colombia nightlife. It was epic.
The next day we had decided we NEEDED to see the sea, so we set off for the Caribbean coast. Best 3 things of this day: finding (and eating) the largest avocados I had ever seen, bartering on the beach for a cooler full of ice cold beer (and keep ’em coming!) and swimming in the bath-water-warm ocean with bunch of 10 year olds that were trying to spit mad game at us (apparently they start them young here).
The beach sat alongside the city high-rises, while local Caribbeans squeezed fresh juice and grilled fish on the sand. About every 5 minutes a vendor would stop by our cabana (yeah, we took it there) to try to sell us some goods. Now this…was my kind of heaven.
Post beach we decided to go big before we went home so we dined at the Café del Mar on the wall. Where the ocean met the cotton candy-colored sky, we devoured grilled calamari in a mushroom, white wine, cream sauce and shrimp with mango salsa. It was everything I could possibly hope for. And so much more.
My time in Cartagena was brief but beyond beautiful. Truly a magical escape. And while I pencil in the next time I can visit a place so majestic, I take away one key finding. The pirate’s life is fo sho for me.