19 May 2014

Eating Cartagena

The journey to Cartagena from Iquitos was a long and tiring one, so when we woke in our cramped but beautiful hotel room we were very excited to be in Colombia. Cartagena is a major port on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has a beautiful, Spanish colonial walled town and an impressive fortress that was built to defend the city against pirates. We stayed in Getsamani, a small neighbourhood outside of the old walls where back in the pirate day the African slaves used to live, more recently its where prostitutes made their living and today it’s very backpacker friendly!

cartagena colombia

Our first morning got off to a difficult start as there was still no hot water and the receptionist had now changed his mind from last night and admitted that this rather expensive hotel never has hot water. This really riled Steve as the guy had blatantly lied last night when he said there'd be hot water in the morning and had taken payment for the room in advance. Eventually the guy refused to speak to Steve and only to Vicky in Spanish but it didn’t matter as we weren’t getting any money back. Defeated, we retreated back to our room for a cold shower. 

bronze statue cartagena colombia
"The priest and a slave"

We hadn’t experienced Cartagena's humidity at this point, only the hotel’s AC so we were not looking forward to our first shower in 36 hours anymore. Whilst Vicky was showering there was a knock on the door, and outside were two policemen! Oh no, Steve had really annoyed the receptionist and decided to let vicky do the talking. It turned out that they were only the tourist police and they were here to reinforce the hotels claims that nowhere in Cartagena has hot water. We didn’t believe them. Especially when they launched into a patronising explanation of Cartagena’s hot climate vs. Englands very cold one and hot water was not needed. Vicky politely nodded and thanked them for sharing their wise insights, anything to avoid Steve getting issued a Colombian ASBO!

getsamani cartagena colombia
"Getsamani, so colourful"

After that insightful conversation we knew we headed out in search of a new abode and thankfully found the perfect place, Casa Ebano. We had a huge room with breakfast, AC and hot showers for much less than Casa Baluarte, plus the staff were absolutely lovely. There were also a few novelty crazies on the street outside but, they were usually so drunk that they were harmless and paid us no notice so it was all good! In Getsamani you really get to mingle with the locals, every shop sells beer and the local men seemed to take a chair round to their mates shop to sit and watch football all day whilst enjoying a few Club Colombia. Its a really busy neighbourhood too, full of colour, people and music - an ideal place to sample Colombian life.

cartagena colombia
"The beautiful old town."

Our time in Cartagena was mostly spent wandering the streets, shopping for Steve’s new wardrobe, and sampling street food - we had a lovely time! Cartagena’s old town, within the city walls, is a beautiful area to wander aimlessly in the daytime. 

cartagena colombia

We loved the bright coloured buildings with ornate balconies and the narrow cobbled streets. Its a busy place and the pavements are lined with street sellers showcasing panama hats in every colour combination imaginable, handmade jewellery and of course, beer and tasty snacks. 

There are two street food snacks you have to try in Cartagena:

street food cartagena colombia
"Mmm! Cheese and potato."

Arepapa con Queso: Mashed potato patties with chunks of mozzarella grilled on a hot plate. Served with a pocket full of butter in the middle and eaten piping hot from a paper bag. So simple and so damn amazing! The ultimate hangover cure. Not to be confused with Arepa, cornflour based patties served with almost every Colombian meal often as dry and stiff as cardboard.

ostreria cartagena colombia
"More stalls should wear hats!"

Ostreria: Fresh, cooked prawns served cold in delicious chilli, coriander, tomato, lime and onion salsa eaten from a paper cup. There are a bunch of ostreria stalls close to the city wall on the Getsamani side of town, they are all priced the same and we chose to eat at the stall wearing a sombrero for obvious reasons. Its actually quite expensive but its popular for a reason.

ostreria cartagena colombia

Sticking with the subject of food we also discovered a few great restaurants in Getsamani. The best was Serano where Vicky had the best ceviche ever for the same price as a cup of ostreria. We also enjoyed fantastic steak at Quebracho and some authentic Indian food at a nameless restaurant on Carrera 10. 

mango ceviche cartagena colombia
"Mango ceviche - muy bien!"

There are loads of great restaurants and we loved not having to walk longer than five minutes to find one. For drinks Media Luna Street has loads of bars to choose from, on a Saturday its rammed full of young (as in teenage) locals eagerly getting their grind on to reggaeton. 

street art cartagena colombia

Cartagena is famous for real pirates of the Caribbean so we spent an afternoon lost in the fortress. It was really good fun, we got the audio guide so enjoyed the tales of invading pirates and exploring the tiny, dark tunnels underneath. Apparently it was never seized but we’re pretty sure than one of the stories given during the audio described a defeat. 

cartagena fortress colombia
"A mighty fine fort!"

We spent six lovely days in Cartagena, we’re not sure what we did with our time, we just really enjoyed being there! We also spent a couple of days at the dreamy Playa Blanca… disgustingly gorgeous Caribbean beach pics coming soon!

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