Cartagena – Put it on your list!

Think Europe with a Latin flair, or Latin with a European flair. Add some African spice, throw in the colors of the Caribbean, traditions and cultures from the indigenous tribes, and you have Cartagena!

It’s a fabulous and unique place to visit.


When you go, stay in the old walled city for at least a few days to enjoy culinary delights, culture, and the sights and sounds of a vibrant city.  You’ll see ladies in their colorful outfits posing for photos with fruit baskets on their heads on every corner.  They show the old ways when after the slaves were freed, those who had run away and hidden in the mountains could come down and sell their harvests to the city folks. IMG_7534

The Castillo de San Felipe is within walking distance and the Volcano Totuma and Pink Sea are an hour away by car.  There are plenty of beaches but since we live next to one in San Diego, it wasn’t a priority.

Taxi’s are cheap and food can be too.  It all depends on your budget. We spiced it up by doing a bit of everything.  Truth is Eric has missed a lot of it by working on the boat but at night when he comes back we stroll around the city and find something delicious to reward his hard work with.

Our first trip to Cartagena in July started with a hectic day of checking into customs and racing the clock to get to the boatyard in time to haul out.  We sailed from the San Blas (off Panama) and on the way our mainsail fell down when the ring that holds it up failed.  So grateful it didn’t happen near the pirate zones!


We took a 6 month break with Eric returning in October to do a few jobs.  Upon returning in January kids Bobby and Chelsea joined us.  But before I show those photos, here are some of the examples of the colors of houses and restaurants in Cartagena. I never get tired of walking the streets and seeing how beautiful they are! OK some of the color combos might not be my favs, but it is the Caribbean with style.  The bougainvilleas growing out of the sidewalks add the perfect touch.  I will be adding some to our house someday.  We only have one, and it is not sculpted like these beauties.



Kids trip.  That is not them in the line for immigration BTW.

Castillo de San Felipe.  This is how they guarded the treasures they took from Colombia to give to their kings.  Until it was built, Sir Francis Drake was successful in his attempts to capture the city.  One of the places where he holed up in is now a boutique hotel in the old city.  Bobby and Chelsea practiced their firing skills and overcame their fear of walking into low lit passages that seem to have no way out.

Some interesting facts:  Cartagena Colombia (sp not Columbia) has a sister city in Spain with the same name.  We’ve been to both.  The Spanish Cartagena is where they received the goods from here.  But another sister city is Coral Gables in Miami Florida.  I went to Coral Gables High School!  There is a statue of a pair of children shoes in CocoPlum made by Botero, the same artist who made the big naked lady in the Santo Domingo plaza, and Boll Koch (a former boss at A3) owns a couple of these as well.  Botero, the Colombian sculptor,  is well known in the art circles. Notice how her butt is shiny?  Her breasts are too from everyone rubbing them for good luck and photo ops.


There are all kinds of restaurants so we sampled as many as possible.  This is one’s Mexican! Below are photos of where we stayed.  It’s an AirBnB right in the center of the city.

This is Gestamani.  It’s a very hip section of the old city filled with artists, good food, and hostels.  So colorful!



One day we headed to the Volcano Totumo and then the Pink Sea with Alvaro, our driver, a local who also works on El Gato.  Always nice to show a local his own country’s fun spots.  He was laughing at both places because he’d never been and could not believe what he saw. Suddenly he was a tourist too.  But before we committed to taking the plunge in to the mud, we took a short boat ride to a little island.

On the way back Bobby declared he was down.  So we all decided yes, we are here, we should go for it.  Never ever in my life did I expect I’d go willingly into a mud bath, with others, but the good news it didn’t smell.  Some smell like sulphur and I think I would have puked. Now THAT would be gross!

When we emerged the kids looked like Avatars. I just looked dirty and chunky.

IMG_7744IMG_7751I love how when the mud dries it becomes art on your body! Getting it aloof was a task and there were ladies grabbing our arms and pulling us into the water to wash us. For a small fee of course.

Next stop was the Pink Sea.  They used to harvest salt and evidently there’s a company ready to resume.  In the meantime, it was not easy to find, but well worth the effort.  It was blowing hard that week.  Glad we were not on our boat!



This is Alvaro and our local Pink Sea guide.                                                                         He wanted photos to show HIS family!

Sadly, when I asked to hop out to see the local beach, I found tons of plastic trash washed upon the shore.  People, it is not getting better!

I ate a Big Ass Ant one day.  I had taken a Polaroid photo of this man a few days earlier, gave it to him, and he remembered, so he let me try an ant without buying. Crunchy, salty, and would not eat them again unless I was starving.

We saw a monkey and a sloth in a tree in the park too. 

On the last night with the kids, there was a wedding across the plaza. What a charming place to tie the knot!

So Eric and I moved over to Gestamani for a week to finish getting the boat ready.

IMG_7852 The port engine wouldn’t start and we were still waiting for our NS main to arrive from the states.  So while we waited I did laundry and activated our satellite devices.

Love this place. Laundry and beer! And of course WiFi.

They sold pizzas and fresh juices too. How cool is that?  You’re already hanging out waiting for your laundry, you might as well eat, drink, and meet other people doing the same thing.  Brilliant. I challenge someone to do this in the states.

Launching tomorrow, Friday and the plan is to sail to Panama (approximately 250NM) on Sunday after cleaning, getting our main, provisioning, and then San Blas (50NM) after checking in to customs on the mainland.

Then to Shelter Bay Marina (80NM) by Feb 4th and keep El Gato at a dock so we can fly home for Helena’s wedding!

Lots to do and of course we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Life is good.  EAT SAIL LOVE!!!

One thought on “Cartagena – Put it on your list!”

  1. What a colorful story… literally.

    Love the Avatars you were hanging out with. I hope you were able to get all of the dirty and clunky mud off.

    Sounds like things were not as dramatic as the last San Felipe you were hanging out at.


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