Curious Cartgena

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November 29th 2018
Published: November 29th 2018
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We awoke to a cloudy sky and the ship coping with a 2m swell. Walking around was not too bad but there was some rocking and rolling. It was a full day at sea on our way to Colombia.We had a late breakfast and read and relaxed until Trivia at 12 noon. Our ladies from New York failed to join us but we managed 12/15 on our own and were only one off the winners.Another quiet afternoon before drinks in the Atrium at 6pm. I am enjoying being able to read and relax without having to worry about cooking and housework! We ate in The Restaurant, after chatting to other passengers at the bar and had a lovely dinner. Not the most exciting day but one to enjoy nevertheless.

On Wednesday morning we repeated our routine, but we did not have a good run at Trivia. Our ladies have failed to return but this time we only got 8/15 and missed their input. We tried to play Shuffleboard but it was so windy outside, all the equipment had been packed away. At 1pm we picked up the pilot boat and watched as Cartagena emerged on the skyline. Tall white buildings, rising straight out of the sea greeted us and grew ever closer. We docked about 3-30pm and were given the all clear to leave the ship just after 4pm. We were staying overnight here and our included tour wasn't until the next morning so we decided to go it alone and see some of the city that night. We left the ship about 4-30pm and took the shuttle bus to the terminal. Here there was a great suprise awaiting us. A pond full of flamingoes and a tree full of macaws and parrots greeted us. There ws also an enclosure with 3 large anteaters wandering around.We were told later that these had been rescued from some Colombian drug dealers and transferred to this safe haven at the port. The birds could leave if they wanted to but because they had regular food they chose to stay around, much to the delight of ship travellers.

After browsing the large terminal shop, and finding an elephant for Fletcher's collection we went to negotiate a taxi ride into the city. A couple from Colorado, Charlie and Barbara , asked if we wanted to share and we agreed. Then it was a negotiation with Gino Bambino who offered us his presence to take us to the city, wait for us and return us to the ship for $30 a couple. After some discussion we agreed and we boarded his van and headed into Cartegna. It was late afternoon and twilight was setting in. The traffic was chaotic but our driver was at ease negotiating the narrow streets. We crossed a bridge and made our way to the Old Town. Cartagena had been founded by the Spanish in the early 16th century and became a hub for slave traders It is still the largest port in Colombia. Much of the new city is based on reclaimed land and the sea level is so high that at times the water washed over the road.Charlie and Barbara wanted to do a horse carriage ride around the Old Town while we were keen to walk and see some of its attractions for ourselves. We parted at the carriage stop and agreed to meet back there in an hour. Gino insisted in accompanying Charlie and Barbars and said we did not have to pay him until we were safely back at the ship..

With that assurance we set out to discover some of the beautiful buildings in this UNESCO World Heritage site.The sun was setting, sending an orange glow over the town, as we strolled within the city walls. There were plenty of market stalls and people trying to sell us various items. The ladies of African descent were dresssed in colourful costumes, balancing fruit bowls on their heads and posing for photos for a price. We came to one of the main squares in which the Cathedral of San Pedro Claver was situated. He was known as "the slave of the slaves" for his tireless work amongst these people.There are some wonderfully restored buildings here and the church doors were wide open revealing a Spanish style interior, richly decorated. We watched the horses and carriages containing the tourists, come trotting by and saw Charlie, Barbara and Gino in one of them. Then it was a stroll through narrow lanes and beautiful buildings with wonderful statues and artwork. As it got darker the pace quickened and we returned to the square for a beer at one of the impressive looking restaurants, directly opposite the open doors of the church, through which we could see that they were saying Mass.The local beer was very drinkable and we enjoyed watching the passing crowd. We walked slowly back to our meeting place really enjoying seeing the vibrancy of the place. Gino was true to his word and at 6-30 we were back in the van with Charlie and Barbara and heading back the port. It wa dark by now and we enjoyed seeing the trees and fountains lit with many sparkling lights as we drove back around the bay to the docks.

We gladly paid the fare and strolled back to the ship. For dinner we went to The Chef's Table for a Sweet and Salty degustation. This was not as pleasant as the first dinner we had had there, perhaps because they were trying to be too clever with the combination of tastes. The scallops were very tasty and the veal tenderloin beautifully cooked but I couldn't finish it. I did enjoy the dessert, though.A G&T nightcap in the Atrium and were we off to the cabin for a good night's sleep.

We awoke early and had breakfast about 8am. Our morning tour was scheduled to leave at 10. This proved to be very disappointing, It was labelled"Panormic Cartegena" and we had presumed it would include a walking tour of the Old Town. However, we were first driven to the hillside fort,of San Felipe de Barrajas which was an imposing sight on the hill above the Old City. However, we did not go in, only stopped for photos. From there we did drive to inside the Walls of the Old Town , but only to an avenue of souvenir shops where we had 30 minutes to shop. We did buy a couple of things but regretted time ill spent there. Finally, the bus drove us around the outskirts of the Old Town and we had to be content with glimpses of the cathedral etc down narrow side streets. We then were taken out to the new high-rise part of the city which, though having a few nice beaches, consisted of tall white buildings with no character. We returned to the ship after 2 hours of disappointment. Thank goodness we had gone into the town last night as we would have missed the main attractions of the vibrant place.

Back on board we are now heading to the Panama Canal and a stopover in Panama City. We will certainly go it alone again if we get the chance.

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