Dirty Laundry


Advertisement
Colombia's flag
South America » Colombia » Santa Marta
January 3rd 2012
Published: September 30th 2017
Edit Blog Post

Geo: 11.2508, -74.2061

The vibe in Cartagena changed drastically today - it's normally full of street vendors but all sorts of extra vendors popped out of the woodwork, with guys even walking down the street with display cases full of high-end sunglasses and watches. You can also bet that the price of everything went up today, as well - this is what happens when cruise ships come in! Glad that we had already enjoyed Cartagena on a relatively quiet day.

We only had a few hours in Cartagena before leaving for Santa Marta - lucky for us the manager at the Hotel Lee, Luis, suggested we consider a minibus booked through a tour operator. They checked for us and the price ended up being 42,000 pesos each with pick up from the hotel, which ended up being cheaper than doing it via public buses that cost 35,000 each, when you factor in the additional 20,000 pesos on top for a taxi to the bus terminal.

It's a great example of the incredible service at the Hotel Lee, from Luis all the way down to the receptionists and the kid who cleans the floors. Sure, it's a business so it's what they need to do
House of Bling ...House of Bling ...House of Bling ...

... thick steel doors house the Museum del Oro's golden treasures.
- but you genuinely get the feeling that they go above and beyond because they want to, because it's in their nature, and because they are good people. Kudos to them all!

First impressions of Santa Marta weren't that great, mostly because it's a completely different type of city from Cartagena, more of a concrete jungle-type of place. Despite that fact, it's very popular with Colombian tourists, so hotels are pricey but seemingly offering little value - because of that, we decided that if we were going to pay a lot for a substandard room, we'd be willing to pay a little more to get something nice, and ended up at this beautiful little boutique hotel, La Casa del Farol. Up to this point, our accommodations have ranged included a boutique hostel, backpacker hotels, simple hotels, and now the high end - as much as I'm a proponent of traveling cheaply to both save money and connect better with the local culture, I think we could get used to such luxury!

The primary mission upon arrival in Santa Marta was simple - get me some clean clothes! Having expected, but not finding any laundry facilities at the hotel in Cartagena, nor
Stalker ...Stalker ...Stalker ...

... the creepy Chinese girl found me again at the museum, this time leering at me from behind this glass display case while making obscene gestures with her tongue. She ran away before the security guard could apprehend her.
any laundromat that could provide a quick turnaround given the New Year's day closure, I've been stretching my clothes as much as possible, since I'm too lazy to do any by hand. A lack of clean clothes wouldn't be a problem in the Zona Cafetera, with its cooler temperatures - but here in the hot Caribbean? Let's just say I'm not spring fresh!

Staying at a lovely boutique hotel does have one drawback - expensive laundry! I don't deem my tattered backpacker rags to be worthy of dry cleaning, so I ventured off in search of something cheaper. The receptionist pointed out an area of Santa Marta that we should avoid, not only because there isn't anything for a tourist to see there, but because it's just a little bit dodgy. So of course the only laundromat listed in the guidebook happens to be right in the middle of it all!

Though it turned out to be better than was suggested, it was an unsettling neighbourhood, filled with dark corners, empty lots, the odd person shouting at another, even a man throwing a beer bottle at a woman across the street, which shattered at her feet. Even with policemen on a few corners it had a sketchy vibe to it, definitely not the place you want to linger, especially as an obvious tourist.

Being a spoiled Canadian used to picture-perfect neighbourhoods with neatly-manicured lawns and shiny new SUVs parked in front of mini-McMansions, it's easy to occasionally assume that a neighbourhood not matching the North American ideal can't have anything worth sticking around for. You can forget that any neighbourhood, whether pretty or not, still houses normal people not entirely different from yourself.

I found the laundromat and quickly darted through the door, hoping to quickly drop off my dirty laundry and be on my way, before it got too late. But a funny thing happened - I ended up chatting with the owners of the laundromat, the nicest Colombian couple, for a good fifteen or twenty minutes.

It was like having a private tour guide provide an overview of the region, getting suggestions on places to visit on my next trip to Colombia, a brief rundown on the differences between the areas surrounding Cartagena and Santa Marta, even a quick summary of the people of the area, and some insight into some of the social problems found in the La Guajira peninsula.

It was the most random, but also the nicest conversation you could have in a Colombian laundromat! In fact, when I went back the following night to pick up my laundry, B was a bit worried as I was gone for so long, this time immersed in a conversation about la comida costeña, the cuisine of the Colombian coastal regions, concluding with a lesson on how to prepare the perfect plantains.

Apparently, there's a whole science to it - ripe plantains have certain uses, while unripe ones require completely different techniques. Stuck with some unripe bananas? They can be substituted for certain plantain applications as well! Even the seemingly simple patacones require careful preparation and technique, something which they offered to serve me when I one day return to Colombia.

I have no idea how or when I'll make it happen, but I'd already decided a while ago that Colombia was one day worth returning to. I thought it would be to further explore the Zona Cafetera or La Guajira but instead, I think I'll be back to sample what are sure to be some kick-ass homemade patacones!


Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Advertisement

Lunch at El Bistro ...Lunch at El Bistro ...
Lunch at El Bistro ...

... great little chicken sandwich, with a tomate de arbol (tree tomato) juice. The waiter told us it wasn't actually a tomato, but we had a hard time believing it as the juice tasted a lot like a sweet version of tomato juice, but extra light and refreshing.
Run For Your Life - Cruise Ship Tour Groups!!! ...Run For Your Life - Cruise Ship Tour Groups!!! ...
Run For Your Life - Cruise Ship Tour Groups!!! ...

... luckily for us, we were only spending a few hours in Cartagena before heading to Cartagena. It's quite the comical sight - these horse-drawn carriages are everywhere in Cartagena, but to see them lined up for an entire block filled with people from the cruise ships made us chuckle.
Seat Covers On the Bus ...Seat Covers On the Bus ...
Seat Covers On the Bus ...

... don't tell me they didn't just take a pair of panties and stick them on the headrest!
Welcome Drink of Aguapanela at Casa Del Farol ...Welcome Drink of Aguapanela at Casa Del Farol ...
Welcome Drink of Aguapanela at Casa Del Farol ...

... a drink made by dissolving panela in water and adding lime. Panela is made by evaporating sugar cane juice, resulting in what is basically a chunk of cane sugar. Casa del Farol is a top-end boutique hotel, and it shows in the excellent service and attention to detail.
Capetown Suite ...Capetown Suite ...
Capetown Suite ...

... all the rooms at Casa del Farol are themed, and ours had the African vibe going on, complete with mosquito net. I had to complain to the front desk however, as my stalker had followed me from Cartagena and was hiding behind the net, ready to pounce.
Santa Marta's Oceanfront Promenade ...Santa Marta's Oceanfront Promenade ...
Santa Marta's Oceanfront Promenade ...

... Santa Marta isn't the most picturesque of cities, but there are a few nice areas for walking.
Cerveza Michelada ...Cerveza Michelada ...
Cerveza Michelada ...

... Colombian-style beer, served in a glass rimmed with salt and a healthy dose of lime juice, resulting in a very refreshing beverage, perfect for a hot tropical climate. The limes we've been served in the Caribbean so far have been nice, as they aren't very sour.
Incredible Seafood at Donde Chucho ...Incredible Seafood at Donde Chucho ...
Incredible Seafood at Donde Chucho ...

... recommended by the guidebook, the hotel staff, and a fellow hotel guest, Donde Chucho actually exceeded the rave reviews that were given by all. Served on a bed of surprisingly tasty and moist mashed plantains, the sauce had a bit of an Asian flair to it, which went nicely with the Afro-Caribbean influence which made use of coconut milk and curry to make the dish pop with flavour. The seafood was marvelous - giant prawns and mussels and calamari, all perfectly-cooked. The only slight complaint about the dish was the octopus, with some pieces being just a bit tough.
Surf and Turf ...Surf and Turf ...
Surf and Turf ...

... delicious and tender beef medallions, perfectly-cooked and encrusted in crushed almonds, and served with some more huge prawns. The flavours were amazing, again with an Asian influence, starting with the sesame seeds and ending with the sauce, which was a nice balance of sweet and acidity. Divine!
Gone in 60 Seconds ...,Gone in 60 Seconds ...,
Gone in 60 Seconds ...,

... we actually made a mistake ordering the flan, confusing the guidebook's review of Donde Chucho with that of another restaurant, which had recommended the flan. No matter, as this flan was excellent - normally not a big fan of the stuff, it was so rich and scrumptious that the flan disappeared in no time at all. The waiter laughed as he walked by, as he had dropped off the dessert and walked by again barely more than a minute later, and the dish was empty!


Tot: 2.531s; Tpl: 0.089s; cc: 12; qc: 31; dbt: 0.0423s; 2; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.3mb