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Published: June 30th 2015
Les Lezards B&B
The resident kitten ambassador. We fell in love with this little guy.
Setting The Tone For A Great Stay
While researching places to stay in Cartagena, I chanced across Les Lezards B&B
in the Getsemani area and saw that it had very positive reviews. I knew we would be in for a good stay when minutes after booking our room, Marcus, the owner of Les Lezards, emailed me to ask for my flight information and told me that he'll send a driver to get us with his compliments. We were certainly off to a good start!
Jeff and I left Medellin on June 25th and landed in hot, sultry Cartagena to find our driver waiting for us as promised. A quick 15-minute drive later, we were at our accommodation. What a cute little place this is! Our room was small but cheerful, and we had an outdoor shower which was a lifesaver as Cartagena is hot and humid. More delights revealed themselves as we stayed there - there was a friendly resident kitten who entertained us, and there is also a tortoise on the property. Apparently our room is special for the tortoise as it likes to sneak in whenever the door is opened. Imagine our surprise when we looked down on the
Les Lezards B&B
View of our cute little room.
floor and saw it there! Dandy, the neighbor's chihuahua, was a delight to play with. Every morning, we woke up to squawking from another neighbor's birds. This was critter overload!
Marcus and his assistant Luis were great hosts. They arranged activities, recommended things to see and do, where to eat, and called for taxis when we needed them without being asked. When we set off for Volcan El Totumo
, Luis saw us off and handed us towels as we got into the car, and he was at the front door waiting for us when we returned. Even though our departing flight was well past check out time, Marcus let us return to use the hot tub and shower before we set off for the airport. Les Lezards also offers complimentary breakfasts which were good with toast, freshly made jam, fresh fruit and eggs.
I rarely rave about my accommodations but I would return to Cartagena and stay at Les Lezards again. Our room there cost USD85 per night, but be aware that various local taxes are added to the basic price.
Getsemani - The Unexpected Gem Of Our Trip
We went to Cartagena expecting to be wowed by
the historic town center and the forts. Don't get me wrong; we were wowed by these even though they were tourist traps, but the unexpected gem of our trip was the neighborhood of Getsemani where we stayed. Getsemani is situated within the walled city and it is a gentrifying but still somewhat gritty part of town. My understanding is that it wasn't safe to wander these streets just a few years ago. The streets are narrow, the houses are brightly painted, there is street art everywhere and ordinary people still live there. In the cool evenings, the streets come alive with food vendors and people hanging out. The cobblestoned Plaza de la Trinidad is the center of life in the community, and people gather there to hang out. On both our nights there, we ate on the sidewalks and soaked in the atmosphere. Our second evening was particularly fun as it seemed as if the entire neighborhood was in the square watching the Colombia-Argentina match. I've always wanted to be in Latin America when a goal is scored in a futbol match and this crowd did not disappoint. Sadly for Colombia, they lost after a penalty shootout. Attached below is
We loved the street life in Getsemani. It may be hard to see, but there is a guy getting a haircut on the sidewalk in front of the pink building.
a video of the crowd's reaction to a goal during the penalty shootout.
There are some really great restaurants in Getsemani. In the evenings we ate at Trinidad Square - one meal was at a Mediterranean restaurant with tourist prices, but my spanish seafood rice was out of this world. The other meal was at a pizza place with a mix of tourists and locals where we shared a huge vegetarian pizza for only COP24,000. We ate lunch twice at Donde Socorro, a seafood joint. They made special off menu vegetarian meals for Jeff while I enjoyed seafood stew and cerviche.
Unlike in the old town (Centro), few street vendors will bother you in Getsemani.
Other Sightseeing Highlights
I wrote about our trip to Volcan El Totumo
in a separate entry. Our other sightseeing highlights included: Fuerte San Felipe
: A massive fort built by the conquistadores to protect their port of call while they spread disease, DNA and general mayhem all around. There isn't much English signage but there is an English language video presentation which you have to ask for otherwise they play the Spanish language one by default. For us, the highlight of
Fuerte San Felipe
Jeff and his cannonballs.
this visit to the fort was exploring the dimly lit (and in some parts, not lit at all) tunnels - there are apparently several hundred meters of tunnels within the fort. It was great to be allowed to explore the tunnels, unlike at Castillo San Cristobal in San Juan PR where the tunnels were accessible only by guided tour thanks (I am guessing) to all those silly American fears of liability. The city views were great too. City Walls
: The city walls are well-preserved and we walked on them a fair bit. Admiring the Architecture
: The houses within the walled city were brightly painted and a delight to look at. Museo del Oro
: The Museum of Gold in Cartagena is small compared to the one in Bogota, but since we weren't going to Bogota we decided to visit this one. Admission was free and all the signage was bilingual. We both liked this museum a lot as it told a coherent story of gold in Colombia (especially how it relates to the Zenu people) and struggles over this resource. Palacio de la Inquisicion
: There wasn't much English signage in the Palace of the Inquisition but we
could more or less figure out what was being communicated in the exhibits. The torture and execution instruments on display on the ground floor were pretty horrifying - they included gallows, a guillotine, instruments for garroting and pulling people apart. Museo Naval del Caribe
: We were warned when we bought our tickets that there is no English signage but we enjoyed this museum nonetheless. The highlight was playing with a submarine mockup upstairs. Churches and Squares
: Almost all the churches were shut, including Santo Domingo. The only one that was open was Iglesia de San Pedro Claver, and even then large parts of the interior was blocked off for renovation or restoration. Plaza Bolivar was good for people watching.
Travel Tips Getting Around
: Unlike Medellin and Cali, taxis are not metered in Cartagena, so negotiate your price in advance. Getsemani to airport should cost around COP10,000, but throw in a tip if the driver assists you with luggage. Annoyances
: Most of the Centro area is a tourist trap, so expect to be constantly approached by people selling you all kinds of wares. We were approached once by someone offering to hook us up with ladies
of the night. His response to our rejection was: "No swinging and banging for you?". I guess he didn't notice our matching wedding rings! Such annoyances are minimal in Getsemani. Accommodations
: I cannot overemphasize how great our stay at Les Lezards was.
Be warned that Cartagena is very hot and humid and the tradewinds offer little relief. Dress sensibly.
We observed that many luxury developments were recently built or are being built both within the modern part of the city and along the coastline to the east. This could indicate that Cartagena is getting popular with well-heeled foreigners, and it will be a pity if Cartagena becomes yet another playground for the rich.
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