Cartagena, Colombia April 27, 2022

Our first port was Cartagena, Colombia. Colombia has coastlines on both the north Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It has 1,993 miles of coastline. It is the 2nd most biodiverse country in the world. The main language is Spanish along with 68 ethnic languages. It achieved its independence from Spain in 1819.  The population of Colombia is 50.88 million. 

Our port of call was Cartagena, population 914,552. It is a major port located on the northern Caribbean coast of Colombia and has an important history linking it to the West Indies route during world exploration. It is one of the country’s oldest settlements and a UNESCO site. 

We booked a Holland American excursion which included a Hop On Hop Off bus which included a guided tour of the colonial walled city Centro Amurallado (Old Town). The bus picked us up early and we immediately experienced a Cartagena traffic jam. PXL_20220427_124527785PXL_20220427_131411674

We took a bus tour followed by a walking tour. original_80d9e049-740f-4f3e-9b85-d8a00a8dbc17_PXL_20220427_130525190

During the walking tour the vendors peddling their wares and the occasional beggars were relentless. No thank you or ignoring them didn’t stop their efforts to get us to buy things or give money. Our guide warned us not to have a picture with any of the colorfully dressed women with a basket of fruit on their head. They expect to be paid for their picture. I managed to sneak in a couple pictures when they weren’t looking. They try to talk you into a picture and then expect payment.original_b03c1602-b7ff-4bb1-a11a-6714c0a62be1_PXL_20220427_134728861PXL_20220427_141257837PXL_20220427_140455215 

The streets are cobbled and you have to be very careful where you walk. Potholes, cracks in sidewalks and unexpected holes are waiting to trip you up. No one worries about getting sued here. You are expected to watch out for yourself. You fall and get injured, your problem, your fault.PXL_20220427_133332600PXL_20220427_133410405 

On our tour we visited the Clock TowerPXL_20220427_131558829.MPPXL_20220427_131939068original_4d067525-deea-415d-9b4c-84a798f6e4ca_20220427_093628 original_cf46d0cc-3805-4e85-96d5-0d9d74633479_PXL_20220427_132732099.MP and walked the narrow streets with beautiful old buildings decorated with balconies and intricate windows located in Coches Square and the Baloco Street Corner. 20220427_080510original_9b6bc172-3b7e-4b62-9670-5254d2cd4028_PXL_20220427_133422637original_f125d724-0180-40d0-88d9-2fa8f2a4c848_PXL_20220427_133445535PXL_20220427_133958780


Palace of Inquisition Palace

The outside of the Palace of Inquisition Palace had a Spanish architecture depicting the country’s history of the Spanish Empire from 1492-1975.

LA Gorda “the Fat One” statue in Plaza Santo Domingo is located where there was once a slave trade market. Our guide told us it was supposed to be good luck to rub the statue, especially the backside.original_b03c1602-b7ff-4bb1-a11a-6714c0a62be1_PXL_20220427_13472886120220427_084639PXL_20220427_13403143820220427_084759PXL_20220427_13473584120220427_084726PXL_20220427_134942447PXL_20220427_134212188 

Catedral Santa Catalina de Alejandria

The Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Santa Catalina de Alejandria, built between 1577-1612 was beautiful.PXL_20220427_140854505

As part of our tour we went to an emerald museum. Colombia supplies about 90% of the emeralds sold in the world. They had a video and exhibits on how emeralds are mined. And of course as part of the museum they had a gift shop where they hoped you would buy emeralds (we didn’t).20220427_094136 

It is always a joy for me to find the public library, but unfortunately no time to go inside.original_5ea2ab41-6900-4686-8e34-7d0bca825d22_20220427_090121 

At this point the walking tour was over and we decided to continue on our own while the others got back on the Hop On Hop Off bus to continue the bus part of the tour. Bill’s sharp eye had seen a Hard Rock Cafe and we walked back there to get a shirt. Bill collects Hard Rock Cafe shirts and he has a nice collection from around the world.20220427_082859 

Next we caught another Hop On Hop Off bus and rode to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress built in 1536 by the Spanish. It is built in a triangular shape on top of a hill with eight batteries. In 1984 it was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site along with the walled city center. 20220427_080003

We paid $10 each to visit the fort. It was a very long steep uphill walk to the top where we were rewarded with fantastic views of the city. This was actually the hottest day of our seventeen day cruise and the walk really wore us out. By the time we walked back down the hill we were really feeling the heat and our water was almost empty. Across the street was a very small family market. We went inside and bought some Diet Coke and a few extra cans to take back on the ship.original_492a8d1b-f3cf-4a94-ba8b-98bed28f946a_20220427_10211520220427_10214420220427_10320820220427_10322120220427_103636 

At this point it was getting late in the day and we were concerned whether the next Hop On Hop Off bus would get us back in time before the ship left! Knowing a ship was in port, the bus company had positioned “ambassadors” at several of the stops. The ambassador at this stop was very helpful and called for a bus headed directly back to the ship to detour and pick us up. We made it back in plenty of time. By the way, throughout the cruise in most ports, we noticed local ambassadors, extra security or police presence wherever we went. We always felt very safe. With tourism being the #1 source of income for these countries, the last thing they want is for a tourist to have a bad experience.

Back at the port before boarding the ship we had some time to visit the Cartagena Port Oasis, a 1,000 square meter garden with peacocks, toucans and macaws to name just a few. They were obviously used to being around people. Of course there were several souvenir shops to visit for last minute shopping before heading back to the ship.original_a19eb771-98c9-40d9-a285-73c6ddca8c4d_20220427_11301320220427_113135 

As we boarded the ship we were handed wonderful lemonade and cold washcloths. Boy was that appreciated on this long, hot day!original_1a9fc356-fb23-46a6-98d1-e9b45f26da94_20220427_114731 

At dinner we enjoyed sharing a table with three other couples, one couple from Calgary, Canada, another from San Diego and the third couple was the same couple from Denver, Colorado as on an earlier day. Always interesting to see who we will end up with when we say “we will take a shared table”. It was fun listening as everyone shared stories of our day in Cartagena, especially when we each went on excursions to different places. 

Next up: Our day transiting the Panama Canal

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