Narrow Passages to Open Worlds — The Allure of Cartagena

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I always forget how important travel is for expanding our views on the world.  I’m limited by language in places like South America, but then again, I’m not. I just have to think about communication in a slightly different way.

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Cartagena is an old walled city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. It has a reputation of being a destination for lovers and party goers. Clubs get started at 11pm and go until 4am.   Warm air, combined with constant cooling (but nowhere near cold) breezes can be caught on second floors and up, any time of day. Concealed nooks for a coffee or just a sweet little view are the norm, yet every single one of them will feel like a fun secret. If you don’t have access to a roof deck, your only opportunity for a view is along the perimeter — the old wall, down a street (one doesn’t bend after one block), or through a grand courtyard. It makes the city incredibly stunning to view, and nearly uncapturable with photography.

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My first day in Cartagena was a fall Sunday in 2012. It was quiet! Typical of the Spanish Colonial architecture, and urban infrastructure the streets are incredibly narrow, same with the sidewalks. Buildings sit right on top. Windows have wooden bars,
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doors are impressive masses of wood adorned with the cast-iron (i think) artistry of door knockers, mammoth pad locks, and ornamental nails. Arriving on a Sunday means all these doors are shut. The impression will leave you scratching your head wondering where all the people are and when do the parties begin.

Then, come Monday morning I realized what I saw was a restful Sunday. The streets are now full of vendors selling things like fruits, tinto (coffee) and empinada-like things.  Observe where most of those shut doors were and you’ll see thriving businesses—restaurants, coffee shops, juice bars, retail spaces for native fashion designers and jewelers. Wait a little longer and come Thursday night even more of the doors open to reveal the bars, music stages and dance floors of the clubs.

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Behind every door is another world.


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Malagana, located in the Getsemani neighborhood. Balconies catch the cooling breezes.

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Typical sweets for sale at Plaza de los CochesIMG_0033_2

Peru Fusion, Centro neighborhood. Simple and delicious from the mood and food right down to the Lychee Martini.

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Knockers, Centro & San Diego

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Caps for sale.
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