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Cartagena de Indias, Colombia

Despite Cartagena de Indias’ large size, this vibrant and historic city offers countless intimate moments to it’s visitors.  Discovered by the Spanish in 1501, the city was founded in 1533, and, like many cities in Latin America, retains the fingerprint of Spanish colonial architecture and cultural influence.  Centuries-old buildings with terra cota roof tile, wood balconies draped in boganvillas, and brightly painted walls line the streets in the infamous walled city (the historic district), and Manga, a neighborhood located over el Puente Roman (Roman Bridge) that houses two marinas: Club Nautico and Club de Pesca.

A short walk in Getsemani, a neighborhood six or seven blocks from the historic district, demonstrates the flavor of Cartagena that makes it so welcoming.  Tall colonial buildings tower over sidewalks filled with people strolling to work, school, or to run errands.  This neighborhood has the familiarity of a small town: Neighbors frequently stop to greet each other, children gather to play soccer in Plaza de la Trinidad, the plaza facing Templo Trinidad, a bright yellow church still frequented by locals, and small old women, garbed in brightly colored, frilly dresses, dutifully sit at their front door as small yellow taxis whiz by.  A smile to passerbys is always returned, and is usually accompanied with a “Buenas,” or “Como estas?”  Getsemani, an area that has undergone a facelift within the past five years with police presence on every corner and a hostel boom on the well known street Media Luna, offers a true slice of Cartagenian life.

If taste-testing local cuisine strikes your fancy, Cartagena offers a variety of edibles at extremely affordable prices.  Comida corriente, a lunch special offered everyday in most local restaurants, usually offers a hearty portion of soup and a meal for $2-3 USD.  Meals often include a meat option or fish, rice, beans, plantains, and salad.  Street vendors can be found frequently, selling fruits, vegetables, small cups of hot coffee, empinadas, and arepas, a typical Colombian meal that includes meat and cheese sandwiched in a fried or grilled corn patty.  The healthiest and most refreshing option, however, are the juice vendors, who sell freshly-made juice made to order.  Equipped with old metal juice presses, these vendors juice pineapples, mangos, papayas, guayabas, oranges, melons, and many other native Colombian tropical fruits.  Juices are mixed with water or milk, and cooled with broken ice.  The colorful array of fruits is stunning, and a juice break on hot days are a wonderful way to cool off.

Nick, Domino, and I arrived in Cartagena October 10th, and plan to remain for the week of Independence Day celebrations, which begins November 11th.  Stay tuned for Ramble Writer picks for Cartagena, including suggested hostels, restaurants, and activities!

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