January 25, 2019:
Just outside of the walled old city, where our previous post focused, lies the vibrant neighborhood of Getsemaní. This is where we stayed while in Cartagena. Google it and you’ll see lots of references to a neighborhood that was crime/drug-ridden a few years ago, but now is THE hip spot.
The neighborhood is filled with restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and hostels, with plenty of colorful graffiti as we saw in Bogotá. [click to enlarge]
We stayed in Hotel Leyendas del Mar. It’s a small, not-boutique hotel with really kind staff, clean rooms, A/C and a good breakfast. Cartagena is easily the most expensive city in Colombia, so at about $35/night, it suited our needs perfectly. [click to enlarge]
Half a block from the hotel we found Di Silvio Trattoria. We ate there four times in 10 days. They recognized us on the second visit and welcomed us like old friends. The food was great. The restaurant is built into an old two story building, with the second floor and part of the roof removed, leaving a high roof over half the space and open sky over the other half. In spite of the heat, this kind of quasi-open air construction is pretty common in Cartagena, and honestly pretty comfortable once the sun goes down. [click to enlarge]
Though there’s plenty of tourism in Getsemaní, it’s still a neighborhood where people live. There’s nothing touristic about this block. It’s just a space where locals hang out in front of their houses to socialize and escape the heat. That table in the background sees a lot of lively dominoes games.
Of course, traveling for an extended period of time required that we occasionally find somewhere to wash our clothes. Would it surprise you to learn that in Getsemaní we managed to find a wonderful establishment called Beer and Laundry? They wash/dry/fold while you eat pizza and drink craft beer. Perfection.
At the heart of Getsemaní is Plaza Trinidad. During the day it’s pretty quiet.
But as the sun goes down, the Plaza heats up, filling with food and drink vendors, street performers and on Sunday nights, a group Zumba class. Surrounding the plaza are hip taco, pizza and tapas restaurants. It’s fun for the whole family. We couldn’t get enough. Until we did, and then happily the hotel was just about a block away.
Getting out of the city for a couple of days, we joined our friends at a house they rented on the island of Barú. (It’s really a long peninsula, but in the early colonial period the Spanish cut a canal across the base, and now they call it an island.)
Our journey to the island started at this marina. Across the water are the highrises of Bocagrande. This is Cartagena’s beach / resort area. We spent an afternoon out there. The beach is OK, and there are plenty of beach bars to keep you hydrated in the heat. But in general the area lacks the charm of the old parts of the city.
Once we got to the island, there weren’t a lot of people around, which was a nice break from Cartagena. [click to enlarge]
Though there were passers-by.
We took a boat ride from the house, visiting a few spots in the Rosario Islands, just offshore from us. We’ve been to a few places in the Caribbean, but the water here was incredible, probably the clearest we’ve ever seen.
There are conflicting stories about which house is which, but we were told by our boat captain that this one was once owned by Pablo Escobar:
But other sources say this was Escobar’s retreat:
Escobar is the source of much mythology in Colombia. Maybe he owned both. Or neither.
We made a stop at the Oceanario. We were prepared for an underwhelming experience, but it was a pretty incredible aquarium.
There was a selection for birds that are being rehabbed.
At first we thought the it seemed a little cheesy. This small pool with a few birds and fish, and why are these women wearing wetsuits? We soon learned, however, that this little entrance area was a minor part of the site. The woman above feeding the birds would soon be hopping into the water (elsewhere) where two dolphins would position themselves under her feet, lift her almost completely out of the water, and rapidly carry her to a floating platform, where she would then conduct an impressive dolphin show.
The major portion of the Oceanario consists of various sea water pens, containing dolphins, sharks, and a variety of other sea life. Note the tiny dolphin swimming with its mother – it was born the day before we arrived. [click to enlarge]
Another trainer put on a somewhat disturbing show with a bunch of sharks: [click to enlarge]
This area of the Rosarios is filled with very small islands, some containing a single private house. Many are vacation rentals.
Back at the house, we weren’t exactly alone: [click to enlarge]
You don’t even have to go to the supermarket to buy lobster. It comes to you. Which is good, as there aren’t any supermarkets.
It was a nice place to relax and watch the sunset:
That’s all for the coast. Next time, we’ll be in a totally different part of the country. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you soon!