La Cuidad Hermosa (The Beautiful City)
As we mentioned in our previous post Colombia-The Latin Redemption I, we visited Colombia in the summer (Dec. to Feb.), for this reason a good number of Colombians had migrated to the warm weather spots of their country. One of these warm weather spots happened to be Cartagena. After two nights in Bogota, we boarded the Chilean Airline (LAN) and with much excitement departed for Cartagena. We had been told to expect good things in Cartagena, coincidentally during our stay in Cartagena, the “Summerland music festival” featuring several world renowned DJs was taking place. Unfortunately, we did not get to attend because tickets were sold out. On the upside we got to do a lot more in cultural stuff in Cartagena than we did in Bogota. We checked into the Hotel Sonesta, which happened to be one of the numerous hotels on the strip facing the beach.
On arrival at the hotel, we could immediately tell Cartagena was going to be an amazing time. We were told we could not check in till 3pm, which seemed to be the standard in Colombia. Since we couldn’t check in, the hotel staff suggested we either go stroll on the beach till our hotel was ready or use the Hotel’s pool. We choose the latter, changed into our bathing suits and went for a swim.
After a couple of laps in the pool and a few pina coladas, we decided to head to the beach and see if we could get to mingle with some Cartagenians.
As soon as we stepped on the beach, an afro-colombian fellow approached us and inquired where we were from. We found this secretly amusing since we thought we looked like the average Colombian. To be honest, we were surprised that he knew we were not locals.
Our conversation with our new acquaintance went along the lines…..
Afro-Colombian: De donde eres? Estados Unidos?
Partytrail: Si, Soy Americanos.
Afro-Colombian: Ahh!, Hablo Ingles???
Partytrail: Si, Si, you speak English?
Afro-Colombian: Un Poco
We would then go back and forth in our broken Spanish and his broken English about the best places to party in Cartagena. He emphatically told us that we had to visit downtown Cartagena. He also suggested we attend a traditional New Year Celebration downtown Cartagena.
Based on our new friend’s recommendations, we decided to spend the rest of our day by the hotel and then head downtown the next day.
New Year’s Eve Party
After spending the whole day walking around Cartagena, it was time time to party and we had previously heard from our friend that Cartagena was the place to be if you want to party in Colombia for New Year’s Eve. We headed back to our room, put on our party gear, asked the receptionist to hail us a cab and headed downtown. We found a gathering where everyone was dressed in white, tables were arranged outside, and latin music was being played. It was great to see people just having such a good time. We tried to get in, however the party was at full capacity, so most people were being directed to a bar which had a balcony overlooking the street party.
We headed over to the bar and were shocked at the price to get in. At 130 U.S. Dollars per guest, we got to ring in the new year with a bunch of strangers, most of them expatriates working in Colombia. The set up at the bar was basically the same as that on the street. There were tables in the bar, where patrons wearing white sat, ate, drank and made small talk. Once we were seated we were told that we got unlimited food, champagne, and bottles of rum. The hefty price tag all of a sudden made some sense. After a delicious meal, and some bottles of Champagne, we headed to the balcony overlooking the street party. Incidentally, we had unintentionally positioned ourselves to get a great view of the upcoming fireworks.
No sooner had we settled in, did we start hearing loud booms coming from the fireworks as they lit up the sky. We were literarily 60 seconds away from 2015 A.D. A sense of accomplishment came over us, we thought of all the good things that happened to us in the previous year, how lucky we were to be able to party-trail and travel to the previously dreaded Colombia. It was a feeling that we simply could not describe. After about an hour of continuous fireworks, the skies went dark, the fireworks stopped and people started clearing out the streets. It was time to go home. We simply packed up and headed to our hotel room for an afterparty. The next day, we would be heading on another LAN flight to San Andres. We honestly could have used more time in Cartagena, but every second of the short time we spent in the beautiful city was beautiful.
Please stay tuned for our “next post” where we give you insights into one of Colombia’s top vacation spots. Till then, stay tuned….