Cartagena is full of character, cobbled streets, fruit vendors and street art. All of this is found within two neighbourhoods: the old city, contained within the old city walls and the gentrifying Getsemani, a neighbourhood just outside of the walls, filled with hostels, trendy cafes and bars. We actually stayed in Bocagrande, an area that looks like it comes straight out of Miami as it is filled with new, modern business hotels and stunning oceanfront views.
We spent four days chilling out in the city and of course, bringing in the new year.
Beer & Laundry
Our first day was mostly a journey back from the islands and a very important mission: get rid of the bed bugs. So we got off the boat and went directly from the pier to Beer & Laundry, an all-inclusive Laundromat in Getsamani – by that, I mean they serve pizza and beer and provide you with wifi while they do your laundry! Later that evening, we wandered the old town to grab dinner & check out the streets.
The Old City
On new years eve, the city was busy making preparations for the evening. We wandered through the old town, strolling past churches and cafes and stopping in little stores for a bit of shopping — in my case, I bought a pair of yellow undies as apparently, the Colombians believe it is good luck to wear them on NYE!
That afternoon, amidst all our excitement of this lovely old town, we wandered in the choco
museum and greeted by Luz, a 22-year old Venezuelan girl. While she gave us tour and a tasting of everything – chocolate, chocolate tea, coca, chocolate liquor with fruits, etc – she also shared her story with us. She talked about how much she hated the city, explaining how the tourists are enchanted by the old city but there is so much more to the city that is not as glamorous. While sad, it gave me some perspective and also reminded me of how fortunate I am. In the case of Luz, she has found a family in Miami, and is saving enough to buy a plane ticket to join them as their au pair – and she will eventually get there, finish her accounting degree and no doubt be extremely successful.
New Years Eve in Cartagena
People had told us this was the place to spend NYE and it’s clear why. We started our evening at Alma, a fancy restaurant in Casa San Agustin, but then decided to head out of the party, to hit the streets. We poured our champagne in paper cups and joined on the locals (and many tourists) to watch the fireworks and ring in the new year. Following that, we headed over to Alchmico, a cool cocktail bear with a great vibe on the ground floor and a true party on the terrace above. While indulging in drinks on the terrace, we bumped into a few Americans, and headed out to Crazy Salsa, to dance until 5am. It was an amazing night and a great way to start the new year.
The morning after
Given the late night of partying, Jan 1st would be a day of recovery. Fortunately, our hotel had a massive pool, which was the place to be.
Eventually, we regained enough energy to get ourselves to Café del Mar for sunset and beers, and then finished the night with an early dinner at El Kilo.
The Fort & Getsamani
On our final day, we decided to do one actual tourist activity – visit Castillo de San Felipe.
Following that, we wandered the streets of Getsamani, a very cool neighbourhood with trendy cafes and bars. The neighbourhood was once the bad area of Cartagena but gentrification has changed that.