¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


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South America » Colombia » Cartagena
December 31st 2011
Published: September 30th 2017
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Geo: 10.4137, -75.5336

Tolu - such a cute and charming little Colombian seaside town, even though there isn't much to see or do in the town itself, it's the kind of place perfect for lingering and doing very little of anything other than drinking a cold beer or refreshing tropical fruit juice, eating some fresh seafood, and chilling in a hammock with a book.

Having said that, there is another side to Tolu - any place popular with tourists, especially those from Colombia, is bound to have some great nightlife. You wouldn't think it, but apparently Tolu is known for it, with Colombian tourists getting pretty wild in the discos around town. Not that we would know - having to get up early to see the sights and also getting our asses handed to us by the oppressive Colombian heat and humidity, our nightlife adventures in Tolu have consisted of watching TV and drinking bottles of ice cold water and Gatorade while cooling off underneath a ceiling fan.

Tolu isn't on the radar of most foreign tourists passing through the area, so for that reason alone it is worth stopping by, as it isn't overrun with us foreigners just yet. Yes, it's still a very touristy place, but the important difference is that it's mostly Colombian holidaymakers. Tolu is nearly the complete opposite of our next destination - back to Cartagena, a city of over a million people, and bursting at the seams with tourists from all over the world.

The city itself is one of contrasts - you have the modern Bocagrande district full of high-rise hotels and condos, popular with well-to-do Colombian tourists. There is the beautiful colonial old town, full of history and picture-perfect sights and of course, there are the working-class neighbourhoods, poor and run down.

So far, the highlight of Colombia has been the glorious lack of foreign tourists - there were a few we've come across here and there, but they just aren't as prevalent in Colombia as they are in other South American countries. Unfortunately, there will be no avoiding it tonight, as Cartagena will be packed with tourists for New Year's Eve.

Having been part of two massive New Year's Eve celebrations the past two times in South America, one in Valparaiso, and the other in Fortaleza, tonight's celebration was positively tame and quiet in comparison. Cartagena's celebrations in the old town are all private parties, and there were no massive public celebrations like there were in Chile or Brazil. But we're still fortunate to be celebrating New Year's Eve in Colombia, so who cares? ¡Feliz año nuevo!


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Women Carrying Wares on Their Heads ...Women Carrying Wares on Their Heads ...
Women Carrying Wares on Their Heads ...

... common sight in Cartagena, mostly selling beautifully-coloured tropical fruits - a veritable rainbow of deliciousness!
Getting Ready For the New Year, Brazilian Style ..Getting Ready For the New Year, Brazilian Style ..
Getting Ready For the New Year, Brazilian Style ..

... dressed in all white! It's the Brazilian way of celebrating Reveillon - everybody gets decked out in white and heads down to the beach, a pretty cool sight with hundreds of thousands of people all in white. Only a handful of people did the same in Cartagena tonight - not that we expected Colombians to celebrate the same way.
Family-Style Gatherings in the Streets ...Family-Style Gatherings in the Streets ...
Family-Style Gatherings in the Streets ...

... there were many private block parties throughout Cartagena with pay entrance, but also a number of smaller ones set up by friends and family. Super cool way to celebrate the New Year, if you knew some locals and scored an invite.
Expensive Meal at Restaurante Malagua ...Expensive Meal at Restaurante Malagua ...
Expensive Meal at Restaurante Malagua ...

... being New Year's Eve, many restaurants were milking it with set menus. The restaurant was already expensive by Colombian standards, but you could probably still have a multi-course meal with a beer for about $30 CAD on a normal evening. Tonight the asking price for the set meal was double that. Unfortunately, there was no choice in the matter, as you were forced to order the set meal. The cream of shrimp soup starter was good, though a bit salty.
Crappy Salad ...Crappy Salad ...
Crappy Salad ...

... the mango was a nice addition, but the remainder of the salad was completely lacking in flavour.
Odd Addditional Course ...Odd Addditional Course ...
Odd Addditional Course ...

... after the starters, we were given a platter of salad and rice. The coconut rice was amazing, sort of like a Caribbean version of Chinese fried rice. The salad was just lettuce, tomato, and onion, but the passion fruit dressing was very tasty.
Top-Notch Mains ...Top-Notch Mains ...
Top-Notch Mains ...

.... beef medallions served with a delicious assortment of prawns, scallops, fish, and shellfish in a cream sauce. And once again, some killer Colombian potatoes. How do they grow such scrumptious potatoes here???
Stuffed After Another Serving of Coconut Rice ...Stuffed After Another Serving of Coconut Rice ...
Stuffed After Another Serving of Coconut Rice ...

... but it was oh so delicious ... pan fried fish fillet, juicy and tender, with more assorted seafood in a kind of coconut curry sauce. Killer! And the patacones kicked ass as well, crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. A big improvement over some of the questionable ones I've had in the Zona Cafetera and Medellin.
Unnecessary ...Unnecessary ...
Unnecessary ...

... so full after the first couple of courses, we asked the waitress to wait a while before bringing us dessert. But then she brought us each a plate of grapes as a pre-dessert, and told us it would help with digestion.
Over 30 Minutes After the Main Course ...Over 30 Minutes After the Main Course ...
Over 30 Minutes After the Main Course ...

... we were ready to tackle the desserts. This one was billed as Symphony of Sensations, though it was nothing more than some canned fruit with a chunk of chocolate cake and rum raisin ice cream. In the land of both incredible quality and variety when it comes to fresh tropical fruit, anybody caught serving crappy canned fruit should be sentenced to death! This dessert didn't live up to the billing!
Same Same, But Different ...Same Same, But Different ...
Same Same, But Different ...

... borrowing a popular phrase used in Thailand, this was chocolate cake with rum raisin ice cream, pretty much the Symphony of Sensations but without the crappy canned fruit. Pretty good chocolate cake, however.
Another Use For Rum Beyond Cuba Libres ...Another Use For Rum Beyond Cuba Libres ...
Another Use For Rum Beyond Cuba Libres ...

.... having gotten sand in my sandals in the Islas San Bernardo and scratched up my feet pretty badly, I needed something to disinfect it. Worked like a charm! But strangely, I had this overwhelming desire to douse my feet in Coca Cola after and lick it off ...


7th January 2012

Jaja The grapes are not for de dessert , in colombia thre is the tradicion of eating grapes for news years. You eat one gropue after asking one with for each month of the year.... I have read all your blog, and it seems you have lots of cr
itics. Just a respectfull recommenation, if you travel to a new country with oppsote cultures, you should be more respectfull and open minded. Hope besides all your trouble in colombia, wish you spend a nice trip.Really sorry for my english I Know its very crapy, but i wanted to clarify the mistake.

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