Cartagena, Love at First Sight
Article and photography by Michael Morcos
It is easy to love this beautiful city by the sea. Sunny hot days, wonderful cuisine, Caribbean beaches, an exceptional colonial walled city, welcoming people and the list goes on. It was love at first sight and the romance with Cartagena kept on going.
The city was a major port founded in 1533, located on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and became the main hub for trade between Spain and its overseas empire. Named after Cartagena, Spain, its history can be traced by various indigenous people back to 4000 BC. In 1984, Cartagena’s colonial walled city and fortress were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Carriage ride and Flamenco Show
On our first night, we would take horse carriage ride throughout the Historic City, which was a great way to see the old town with a cooling breeze and wonderfully kept streets, followed by dinner at El Burlados de Sevilla – Flamenco Show.
Here you will find a menu inspired by Spanish cuisine and the only flamenco show in the city that evokes the traditions and magic of the Iberian country every night.
We took advantage of the variety of fresh local seafood, which were combined with the seasonings, condiments, cheeses and sausages brought directly from Spain.
A one hour boat ride brought us to the Rosario Islands which was a great change of pace from the city. The Islands are ideally close to the city and are a scuba and snorkeling diver’s heaven with many well-preserved coral reefs and some wreck-dives to enjoy, scuba divers will find endless adventures.
There is natural aquarium on one of the islands, also known as the Oceanarium and is a great place to visit if you’re not into diving. With dolphins, sharks, and many more amazing species, it’s a fun and educational way to spend some time.
We snorkeled for almost one hour and then had an amazing lunch. The seafood available on the islands is fresh and delicious. Our snapper come directly from a local fisherman and is sold on the beach.
Speaking of which, the island’s beaches had crystal clear and refreshing water. The rest of the day we would lazy around beach chairs in the shade. But the star feature is definitely the phosphorescent plankton at the ‘Enchanted Lagoon’ which, on a dark, star-free night, glows and shimmers. Swimming with these creatures is alone worth the trip to the Rosario Islands.
Old City Tour
We would start our city tour at Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas that dominants the skyline and overlooks the harbour. Views and tours were plentiful and gives many photo ops.
Another interesting stop was the Palace of Inquisition, an eighteenth-century building that was the seat of the Holy Office of the Inquisition in Cartagena which now serves as a museum showcasing historical artifacts.
The beautiful Customs square and clock tower is the largest square in Cartagena. It was originally a parade ground and the mansion where Pedro de Heredia, the founder of Cartagena, lived. This is a history buffs dream.
To enjoy the nightlife of the city, there is a no better place then Café Havana as it has dancing to salsa music with a ten person band belting out the rhythms of Latin America. The wonderful Mojitos were perfect for the moment and served around a gorgeous horseshoe bar surrounded by wood-paneled walls and a ceiling full of whirring fans. It was like a movie set.
Anyone who visits this corner of heaven will be confronted by a vast array of gastronomical greatness, and houses some of the best restaurants in Colombia.
We enjoyed a dinner at Club Pesca which lies over the San Sebastian Fort, a great outdoor setting by the waterfront that specializes in Cartagenian dishes. It serves a fantastic Colombian grown beef with native ingredients and has a modern, fresh kitchen.
Our lunch at El Santisimo was sensational. For more than 18 years this restaurant has offered little tastes of Caribbean flavor through provocative recipes influenced by the French techniques.
In a city perceived for its color, aroma, land and its people, Candé restaurant typifies the experience by flooding guests with innumerable sensations. With live dances every night and a menu filled with aboriginal influence and colonial architecture, Candé offers you the opportunity to enjoy Cartagena with all your senses.
Destinations just cannot get better than a visit to Cartagena. This city is filled with fabulous gastronomy, accommodations for every taste and budget, wonderful year-long sunshine and endless miles of sandy beaches. But hurry the word is out, this little Colombian paradise will soon be favorite of the masses.
InterContinental Cartagena de Indias
The InterContinental Cartagena de Indias has an ideal location in the waterfront`s Bocagrande district, one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city. It is also located near the Ciudad Amurallada, a very popular tourist attraction in the city, with an old town, numerous cafes, museums and theaters to visit.
It is also just a few blocks from the beautiful bay of Castillogrande. This area was a retreat for foreign oil barons in the 1950s, and is now a meticulously planned district lined with private clubs and resorts.
A short distance from here is the old town and its unmatched colonial charm and rich history. One of the best features is that the hotel is just a short trip from Rafael Núñez International Airport making it a great location to jump right into your vacation.
We were blown away by the great breakfast buffet filled with colorful exotic fruits and juices with a wonderful setting overlooking the pool and beach from the sixth floor of the hotel. Lunches and dinners are delicious, filling and well presented. Happy Hour in the Oceanika Lounge Bar was an experience itself.
Our well-appointed room had all the creature comforts one would expect including satellite TV, Wi-Fi services and wonderful all marble washrooms with luxurious rainforest shower. The sunsets were extremely beautiful from the 21st floor, as were the views of the ocean and beach, both night and day.
Their spa treatments were also second to none, and I enjoyed a massage that was perfect after a day of tourist-ing. We could also relax in one of the most beautiful swimming pools in Cartagena. An infinity design, it offers a perfect way to enjoy a spectacular sunset on the Sunset Pool Terrace.
The InterContinental Cartagena de Indias had all the amenities to make this a comfortable, convenient and magnificent stay and in the heart of it all.
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