Cartagena ... an Emerald (and a Topaz) in Columbia

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South America » Colombia » Cartagena
March 20th 2009
Published: April 10th 2009
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Day 720 (19.03.09)

"Get lost!", that's what someone had said to us. No, it wasn't an attempt to get rid of us it was their suggestion as to what to do in the city of Cartagena. And that's exactly what we did, on numerous occasions.

The maze like streets of the old town are wrapped inside chunky walls built centuries ago to protect this major port from pirate attacks and it's easy to become lost as you meander your way around. We were staying in the more down and dirty area of Getsemani and started the day with some breakfast in one of the many cheap eateries that fill this sector of town.

Fuelled up and ready to go we headed for the historic sector of El Centro where we wandered back and forth between pretty plazas admiring the multistoried and multicoloured old houses with their jumble of beautifully carved wooden balconies.

Having poked our noses into the multitude of tourist shops and smart boutiques that evidence the fact that Cartagena is a stop on many big cruise ship itineraries we began to target in on the jewellery stores. Colombia is famous for Emeralds and Vic wanted to buy a stone and possibly have a ring made. With Chrissie's birthday also rapidly approaching we thought we might do the same. Several shops later Vic had chosen a stone and design and the ring was being made but Chrissie decided that actually green wasn't really her colour! Instead she was drawn to some blue topaz stones by an excellent sales lady.

Over the next 20 minutes or so, with garbled Spanish and English explanations and finally a paper model being made, Chrissie chose a stone for her ring, designed the setting and style and Mark bartered very effectively for the price. That's teamwork!

Whilst the rings were in production and the ladies waiting nervously and excitedly for the final results we headed to the Plaza de los Coches with it's clock tower and grand colonial arches and were pleased to find, nestled beneath the arches, a selection of stalls with jars upon jars of homemade biscuits. We selected a few and savoured them over a coffee or two - delicious!

We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the smaller streets of the San Diego area of the city winding our way past houses coated with flowing bougainvillea and grabbing another coffee from one of the commonplace street vendors who walk around hefting great flasks of "tinto", an energising sweet, black coffee.

Before we knew it it was time to go and collect the rings. With a touch of trepidation we entered the shop - had they truly understood what we wanted? Both rings turned out to be fantastic and the girls left their respective shops sporting not only sparkling new jewellery but massive grins as well.

A great day exploring Cartagena was to end with a night bus to Medellin and after a crazy taxi ride to the station, way out of town, we were installed on another icily air-conditioned coach for a chilly and largely sleepless night.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19



Mark is holding $25,000 worth of emerald here. Quick run!!!!

Choosing a stone

Yummy biscuits

10th April 2009

wow thanks for wonderful story
13th April 2009

Cartagena it self its a jewel
I was recently in Cartagena and although the jewels are something else, the old city was the most beautiful thing I've seen in a long time. There is a grea site where you can find more about the great cityt, visit

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