Travel Diary: A Day in Cartagena

Sunny springtime weather has me flashing back to a favorite winter weather escape, Cartagena, Columbia.  We visited just after Christmas and this beautiful coastal town was bustling with holiday revelers.  The city was full of people but very manageable in that reservations for dining were easy to come by and shopkeepers were attentive and helpful.  The vibe was festive and the people of Cartagena are warm and embracing. Encamped within Cartagena’s Old Town at the delightful Bastion Luxury Hotel (built on the site of a 15th-century house), we were perfectly located to explore the historic Old Town. We started our day with breakfast in the shady Bastion courtyard and then set out for our daily exercise routine, circling the walled city.

Walking along the top of the wall, about a 4km distance, is a great way to orient yourself to the Old Town and capture great views of the Caribbean Sea and the skyline of modern Cartagena. The wall itself and accompanying fortresses were built in the early 15th-century to defend the city against pirate attacks.

Step down from the wall and enter the gates of the city and you are immediately struck by the warmth of the people and the vibrancy of the the colors.

The exuberance of the Cartagenan people is never more present than in the facades and doors of their homes and businesses. Saucy colors and cheeky combinations are the order of the day. I was completely taken with the bravado of the people and their bold use of color.

Attention jewelry lovers: Fabulous options abound for contemporary gold jewelry and don’t miss a stop at Cano for sculptural cuffs and earrings.

Our favorite boutique, St. Dom, requires a deep dive and an extended stay in the dressing room. With an eclectic array of clothes, jewelry, art and accessories, St. Dom features over 100 Columbian designers including Johana Ortiz’s spectacular shop-in-shop.

Next stop is lunch at Lobo De Mar for icy margaritas and guacamole followed by tuna ceviche.

While most shops remain open, the traffic in the afternoon in the Old Town slows as the heat increases and we returned for a while to take advantage of the Bastion’s rooftop pool with gauzy-draped perches ideal for a siesta.

The poolside burrata salad at The Bastion…

We hit the streets again landing at the fabulous home emporium Casa Chiqui. A feast for the senses for this designer, Casa Chiqui, is stocked to the brim by it’s owner, Columbian socialite Chiqui de Echavarria, and is filled with gorgeous tableware, furniture, embroidered textiles, Columbian woven baskets, clothing, and jewelry.

One of each please!

…and then more doors.

There are even doors within doors:

Fabulous doors are often dressed with even more fabulous door knockers… the design giving a clue as to the profession of the resident, in this case, a fisherman.

One of the best dinner spots in Cartagena is unquestionably El Gobernador “The Governor”, located at the Bastion. In the coziest of dining rooms, we dined on native delicacies like lionfish and their signature dessert “Coco Loco”.

The best nightcap of all…some late-night star gazing back at the Bastion rooftop.

Goodbye beautiful Cartagena until next time 🙂