I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Colombia (3)


Cartagena today


We’d been here before and stayed overnight, so when choosing what tour to reserve this time, we tried to choose something new.  Except there wasn’t really anything new on offer, so we simply booked the walking tour, thinking that at least we’d get some exercise.




We arrived to find another of our sister ships in port.  We last saw Mariner in Buenos Aires a couple of years ago and it was good to see her again.   Actually, the last time we were here in Cartagena, it was on board that very ship.




Cartagena hadn’t changed a great deal, though the main thing which we noted was the difference between this South American city and those we saw in Central America.  In a different league, I’d say.




Bearing in mind we’d tried to avoid places we’d been to previously, our hearts sank as we pulled up by St Philips Fortress.  It was already hot and the thought of climbing to the top of the structure didn’t appeal one bit.




So I began to take photographs and make a few observations.




Paying particular attention to the statue, really doing my best to avoid the constant stream of vendors selling everything and anything.




With two cruise ships in town, there were plenty of potential customers but some returned to their shady spot to wait for the next group to appear.




Thankfully, our guide M C Victor (!) had no intentions of spending long at the fortress and we were soon on our way again.




As soon as we started to walk, we recalled how much we enjoyed being here in the small, colourful streets, full of flowers.




Offset by that clear blue sky, the colours sing.




The fruit vendors were doing better business than the tourist tat lot.




I was just wishing I could spend longer composing better shots, to capture the colours and the atmosphere more effectively.  But Victor kept on walking and we just had to follow.




Even the pavement goods were colourful.




It’s just that sort of city.




Before long, we reached another familiar place.  Please, no visit to the Palace of the Inquisition.  (I hated it last time)




Thankfully not.  We walked through the Square, paid homage to Simon Bolivar up there with a bird on his head and joined in a jolly Salsa lesson.




Well, you know, we seasoned salsa dancers Winking smile




I admired the bicycle being used as a kind of shop window.




and the row upon row of fabric shoes.  But no time to try, or to buy.




Now, we were near the Cathedral.




Well, there was quite a large clue, even if we didn’t go inside.




Instead, we admired the artwork outside.  I guess you can tell what you need to rub for good luck?




A few more streets and I had totally lost my bearings.  A good job my Hero has an inbuilt compass (and we had Victor to follow)




Next stop was Colon Square, with the statue of Columbus up there, shining white in the sunshine.




And just as we were thinking that we’d done well to avoid the inevitable shopping opportunity, we were led into the Emerald Museum.  Hah!  As if.




As we walked about the city, we noticed a pair of “painted” statues.  you know the kind of thing; they paint themselves all over and then stand still for a while, hoping to gather some money in their pot.  Well, two black statues were following us around a bit – they’d pop up here and there and were quite recognisable since one had a fish on a stick and the other, well, he was just the other half!  Of course, as soon as we’d noticed them in one place, we spotted them everywhere.

The thing is, they’d discovered a bit of a trick. They’d stand in front of a popular tourist location and then expect money from those taking a photograph.  I’m pretty sure that had this sweet family not posed in front of the statue of the Pope as we passed, one of them would have been draped over or around it.  They were certainly by the statue of St Francis de Claver – so I’m afraid I just kept on walking.  I don’t like being pressured.




Anyway, our walking tour at an end, we jumped on the minibus and drove along the seafront back to the ship.  I recalled making a note of these individual sunshades previously.  No common or garden umbrellas here!




As we neared the port, we could see the two ships side by side.




Mariner was preparing to leave, and as we got off the bus, we waved goodbye to her.  Bon Voyage!




As for me, I had one activity in mind for when we returned.  I was going to head straight for the infinity pool!




As I enjoyed the fresh blue water and admired the beautiful tile work, I took a few more photos to share in a post tomorrow. 

It was utter bliss!


Impressions of Cartagena


Here overnight, we had two opportunities to see and experience the city.  We’d booked two tours, thinking they were diverse enough to avoid repetition, but there was still some crossover.  Never mind.  Cartagena is a visually exciting city and as long as there’s something going on to watch, to photograph and to notice, I’m happy.




Yesterday afternoon, Sergio took us up to La Popa, the monastery on top of the hill which, when reflected in the water looks rather like a ship.  Hence the name – referring to the “poop deck”.  To reach the top of the hill involved a drive through the suburbs, initially through areas which had been settled by Lebanese and Syrian families in the early part of the 20th century.  Then, as we began to climb the hill itself, the settlements became poorer and more marginal.  The road itself was lined with police barricades, for on Tuesday, there will be the annual procession of “Our Lady of Candlearia” and her figure will be brought down the road to the church at the foot of the hill.




There was a great view from up there and as we looked out over the areas around the harbour, Sergio pointed out that we were looking over the middle class, richer areas of the city.  Because, as is often the case, Cartagena is home to a very diverse population and just over the other side of the hill, he showed us where the more ordinary, less wealthy people live.




Here were no high rise apartment blocks or hotels, but a densely populated area of single storey homes which filled the available space between the harbour and the ocean.




Though we were told that the current government had taken action to build a more effective police force and as a result, crime levels had been reduced, we nevertheless noted that houses were secured with high railings and metal window and door guards.




As we wandered around the city, we weren’t bothered by anyone at all, with the exception of a few good natured approaches to buy silver jewellery, leather goods, hats and T shirts, perhaps.  In these cases, a smile and a “no thank you” usually did the trick – these vendors were not in the slightest bit persistent, surprisingly.




Some sellers were very colourful themselves and those selling juice or cold drinks were doing a brisk trade.  Sergio explained that some of them are also selling “phonecalls” because although many people here have a mobile phone, many can’t afford a contract.  So, they go along to a street seller and buy some calls from them.  Interesting!




Though coffee is one of the major exports of Colombia, Sergio said that surprisingly little is drunk here, since people prefer the fruit juices and cold drinks, actually.  There were a few coffee sellers around and about, though this one had left his flasks on the kerbside for a few minutes.




Hats appeared to be a mainstay of the tourist trade, together with one or two other, more colourful souvenirs.




Once in the old city, the streets were lined with the most beautiful houses, with bougainvillea blossoms tumbling from decorative balconies.




Yesterday afternoon, the light was beginning to fade rather, so my photographs were a little dull.  Look at the difference when we returned this morning!




Actually, the whole city is really lovely and a very comfortable place to walk and appreciate.  The old part is virtually traffic free and the few vehicles which were moving around seemed to be tolerant of groups of tourists standing in the middle of the road taking yet more photographs.




We visited several of the same buildings twice, though thankfully only stepped inside the Palace of the Inquisition once, when suddenly, I found the sky and the beautifully inspiring walls rather interesting.  Yes, for sure there were some who were happy to “just imagine” those instruments of torture, but I wasn’t one of them!




I was happy to simply be here and contrary to all warnings and advice offered, felt quite safe and comfortable.




The Colombian people I encountered were charming and I’ll take away some fond memories of beautiful Cartagena.  Not only that, but I have a rather different impression of Colombia than before and have learned more history in the last couple of days than I’d have ever thought possible !

What a great city.


Cartagena, Colombia

Now, Colombia…that’s a serious “ker-ching!” – a new country for us both!




We were at sea this morning and around lunchtime, as I was “chatting” to my work colleagues who were receiving “OFSTED vibes”, I happened to look out of the window and saw Cartagena on the horizon, appearing from the mist like the emerald city. The Captain had said that visibility was around 10 miles, so at this point, we didn’t appear to have far to go.




Except that we had been listening at the port lectures and we knew that the way into the harbour was not by the obvious “Boca Grande” entrance, but by the smaller deep water channel to be found at the “Boca Chica”.  We made our way onto the outdoor deck and listened to the commentary as the pilot joined us and the Captain steered us through the narrowest of channels imaginable.  Good practice for the Panama Canal, perhaps?




Terry, our port expert, had spoken of the challenge of getting to Cartagena and of the remains of the 17th century Spanish fortifications which can still be seen and sure enough, as she talked us through the last stages of our journey, there they were.




There too was the dredging operation, maintaining a clear passage through what appeared to be pretty challenging waters.




As the newer, smarter city centre skyscrapers came into sight, we became excited at the prospect of setting foot in Colombia for the first time.




It was a beautiful afternoon and the statue of the Virgin Carmen in the harbour was pointed out to us as the patron saint of navigators, who offered thanks on their way out to sea, we were told.  But in the modern world, the role of the navigator extended to chauffeurs and taxi drivers too, which meant that this figure carved from Italian marble had renewed influence..

We turned right at this point and headed to our berth.




Another port, another tug boat.




In no time at all we were turning 180 degrees and reversing into the empty space. 




As we did so, we noticed the old town of Cartagena and looked forward to getting a closer look at what appeared to be an attractive city.




We’d heeded all warnings about removing jewellery and the cheap Casio watch I bought at Heathrow was the only adornment left.  I’ve become quite attached to it, though, even if I do need my hero to adjust the time each time we lose/gain an hour!




I got the impression too, that some crew members were looking forward to everyone going off to explore the city, because they were starting to clear the decks for a party tonight.




In fact, as we left the ship, the sun loungers on the pool deck were cleared away and the crew were all working at full speed to move furniture around.  This was going to be some party, for sure!




So, in the capable hands of Sergio, our excellent tour guide, our group of 20 left the ship and headed into town.  Learning a little about the city and its inhabitants, we headed first for the Popa Monastery, driving through the busy streets and spotting one or two interesting sights.




We saw the candy floss man making his way across a busy street on our way to the monastery and then spotted him relaxing later in the afternoon, the stick of pink bags leaning against a shop doorway whilst he snoozed in the sunshine.




As for the little cart, well, I’d spotted one of these down one of the side roads before I’d got my camera to hand, so I was delighted to catch a decent picture of this one.  Not that they were commonplace here, just rather typical of the simple way that some Cartagenians move their stuff around.




So, here we are.  Sergio has labelled us all with his name and attached the sticker vertically on each of our left shoulders – a somewhat unusual way to wear a sticker, but who were we to complain?  The twenty of us in his group spread ourselves out rather in the modern coach which was taking us to the monastery at the top of the hill and though I’d love to spend another hour or so telling you all about it, I’ll wait until tomorrow to do that.  We are in Cartagena overnight, we’ve just enjoyed the best party out on deck this evening and when we set sail after lunch tomorrow, I will not only have more time to tell the story but might even have a few more additions  to enhance it as well.

Suffice to say that, as we toured the museum of the Spanish Inquisition, I thought of those friends who have been entertaining OFSTED  Winking smile