When I first set eyes on Cartagena the vibrant colourful buildings and hot tropical air first captured my senses. This was one of the most beautiful places I had ever visited and I was instantly smitten.
Walking around Cartagena and its historic streets is a must for any visitor to Colombia. The old houses with their balconies are so beautiful and encapsulate what is special about the city. I could have walked for hours just looking up and being hit by the colour, the scent of the plants spilling over the railings, and the sense of time standing still.
There are stories of pirates invading and ransacking the town. Sir Francis Drake knocked the top off the cathedral and extorted thousands from local residents. Cartagena has a sombre past too with the Spanish Inquisition and the slave trade. This is a city steeped in history and it fascinated me to think of all those people who had wandered the streets before.
Fruit sellers with colourful stalls filled with vibrant tropical food line the streets whilst determined women in Carmen Miranda like turbans demand fees for photos. This is a city that is full of life. I could walk those streets all day even in the oppressive heat.
One of Cartagena’s most beautiful places is Getsemani- an up and coming area free from crowds of tourists but where locals can be glimpsed taking a siesta in their living rooms, where barbers trim away, and where neighbours gather in the streets to talk and enjoy a drink. Noticeably, this was a neighbourhood where doors were open. For me, walking around Getsemani was how I imagined Colombia to be.
I sat outside the Church of San Pedro Claver enjoying a gin and tonic in the late afternoon. Earlier I had visited the church which was named after the monk Pedro Claver who helped slaves in the town. It was a beautiful place to see and very poignant to hear the story of this man who worked tirelessly to care for those in the slave markets.
It was my last day in Cartagena and as I sipped my drink I reflected on the beauty of Colombia, how my Spanish had improved through 2 weeks of barely meeting people who spoke English, and the warm welcome from the country. I just knew then that I will return.