Saturday, April 19, 2014

#indie 30 Day 19: The Only U in Colombia Should be YOU!

This post is included on the Sunday Traveler Block Party Link-Up. You can check out this page for other fabulous travel pieces!

For today's #indie30, the prompt is: Have You Ever Been to South America? What Stands Out?

A tribute to my grandfather, and to my heritage:

In the walled city
Fort around Cartagena's Old City
With a large family
My abuelo, abuela, mom, aunt and uncles - my mom is oldest of six - she has the headband on

Lived a fisherman named Eddie
Abuelo spearfished - one of his catches
Who longed for the sea

On the way to Islas del Rosario

A fish they called him 

And from Barú to La Popa

Known was he

La Popa
He’d pick up his camera and roll through the colorful streets of his city
The colorful streets of Cartagena

To give to the eyes of the people the treat of his photography
Abuelo shot film with antique cameras he repaired himself. Photo credit:

And when he painted, they'd all say, "Masterpiece!"

Oops, I did this backwards. On the right is the start of the painting and on the left is the more finished product.

Then one day the ticking of the clocks he collected decided to cease
Puerta del Reloj - the main entrance into the Old City
And under an incredible sun the ocean whispered, “It’s time. Return to me…”
This is the sunset on the night my abuelo died in the ocean (and the spot he passed away) - It was found on Facebook right after he died and I do not take credit for the photo, it comes from one of the tourist companies there
Where abuelo returned to the sea - my aunt's photo - his favorite place in the world: La Tenaza in Crespo

There are many places in South America I have yet to see - Machu Picchu, Easter Island, unexplored mountains of Patagonia and its wine country...I thoroughly look forward to exploring those regions, but when I think "South America" one word comes to mind: familia. And for me that is synonymous with Colombia.

What can I even begin to write about Colombia and my beautiful Cartagena de Indias? My mother's ancestors left Morocco, Africa for Las Islas de Canarias, Spain then later immigrated to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Not to be confused with the many towns of Columbia we have in the United States. I always joke the only "u" in Colombia should be you. And that is true. It's part of our family. My heritage is just that meaningful.

For so long people have feared going to Colombia because of the kidnappings and the drug cartels. For awhile I avoided Colombia because *I* feared it, too. Then I realized I was being silly and the love affair continued...

I grew up much closer to my Colombian heritage than my European roots. There is no reason other than my father didn't have as close a relationship with his parents. My paternal ancestry is extremely interesting, but I'll save that for another day (plus it has nada to do with South America). Colombia and Cartagena have been part of me since before I was born. I mean, if it weren't for that trip to Cartagena in August of '75 mom and dad took, I wouldn't be here today!

I sifted through probably a thousand photos trying to condense a way to convey the beauty that is the people, the food, the colors and the city of beautiful Cartagena. I hope you enjoy looking at these as much as I did taking them:

At night hop on La Chiva and get your groove on as you are taken on a ride through the city. Then get off in Old Town and walk to Plaza Santo Domingo. Grab a seat or stroll around a bit as you listen to some music and watch the dancers move in their native garb:

My mom and cousin on La Chiva. You will be given Pepsi and rum along with an empanada or pastelito - buy some maracas from one of the vendors - it makes it more fun!

Definitely grab handmade bracelets and don't be taken, the locals WILL negotiate - just walk away and find someone else if they won't

Also in Plaza Santo Domingo is a sculpture by a famous Colombian artist, Botero called La Gordita:

La Gordita by Boltero (the edges were from my Shutterfly editing kick days)

She faces my favorite church in all of the city, Iglesia Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo was under repair this time, but I LOVE how it looks in this state

Although there are PLENTY of churches from which to choose YOUR favorite:

The cathedral

Outside of Iglesia San Pedro Claver

Iglesia San Pedro Claver

The remains of San Pedro Claver are at the altar of the church

Santo Toribo

Make sure you make your way through all of the squares on your way out of the Old City...

Plaza San Pedro Claver

And then stop for some candy at Portal de los Dulces. I must recommend the ariquipe. 
Portal de Los Dulces

That will lead you to the famous Monumento a los Pegasos

And these kinds of views of where the Cartagena film festival takes place:

The cine:

Keep walking, turn toward Old City and feast your eyes on your views
What a view - Iglesia Santo Domingo and the Cathedral
The Cartagena Convention Center

Then make your way through the colorful buildings toward Manga

DO NOT miss Castillo de San Felipe! It is said to be very haunted. My cousin and I had a weird instance while in the tunnels here. Full battery on the camcorder, all of a sudden we hear a strange noise like a crash and the camcorder light goes out, then the entire camcorder died. We ran out of the tunnels really fast!

A view from Castillo de San Felipe on an overcast day - it shows you the poverty and the wealth in Cartagena

 After you've had your adventure at the Castillo, you can also stop in Manga to check your email...
This is where I check my email in Manga
Stop a fruit cart vendor if you get hungry - they have some good stuff!
Taken from the window of a family friend's home in Manga
At some point before you leave Cartagena, definitely negotiate a price for a ride up to Convento La Popa (the convent on top of La Popa)
La Popa behind me (the building on top of the hill is the convent)
 And visit Candelaria, the patron saint of Cartagena...
 AND see all of her dresses:

Before you go, take a photo of the beautiful view:
Zoomed in on Old Town | LoaTNW©
You should also definitely visit Islas del Rosario. Make sure you are going with a reputable vendor!
One of the operations that will take you out (we went with another group, but these guys were legit, too)

Islas del Rosario

And get someone to give you real coconut
If you find yourself in Boca Grande, take a stroll... find a place called Pan de Bono (I don't have a picture of it, darnit) - get some pan de bono, which is an amazing bread, and a fresh juice con hielo (with ice). My favorite is jugo de mandarina (mandarin)
If you see "Calle 8" (I took this because of the famous Calle Ocho in Miami) you're heading in the right direction

And check your email:
The ice-cream shop/internet cafe' where I check my email in Boca Grande
End one of your nights back in old Town at Enoteca. It's one of my favorites in Cartagena for Italian (there are a lot of Italians in Cartagena).

While on your journey find a palenquera - Respectfully ask to photograph her and offer a small amount of money to do so. (I couldn't find my palenquera photos). This is a sculpture between the Old City and Boca Grande:

Before you leave, find your favorite place to take in the view
From La Popa
And watch the sunset

Toasting to ¡Salud!
My mom, abuela, abuelo and me at one of favorites - La Tinaja.
Que descanse en pas, abuelo. Lo extraño mucho.
Abuelo = grandfather
Abuela = grandmother
Familia = family
Iglesia = church
Salud = health (when you toast, it loosely translates to toasting to good health)
Gordita = an affectionate way of saying fat, I know, I know. But in Spanish I promise it is mostly seen as a term of endearment


  1. HAHAHA...I was chatting w/ my husband on Skype. and his mom popped on and was all proud of herself because, in English, she said (with a huge smile), "You look fat!". I laughed and said thank you, but my husband was in the background all like "Mom, mom, that's an insult in The States. You dont call women fat". I thought it was hilarious though.

    (She then, with help from my husband, told me, "You look, be-u-tee-full". It was adorable.

    1. Awww that is so sweet. :) HAHA we used to call my cousin gordo (fat boy) and I remember people asking how that was okay. I just kept saying, "Believe me, it's such a good thing!" It is so sweet your mother-in-law did that.

  2. What a great post! Love the creative beginning with all the pictures and poem. Well done!

    Seeing all this photography has me longing to go back to Cartagena (and Colombia in general). We loved starting our day in Cartagena by visiting a juice stand and getting a fresh, tropical fruit smoothie. I can taste it right now!

    Thanks for taking me back to one of my favorite countries in the world! :)

    1. Oh thank you so much. I was happy to be able to do that dedication to my abuelo/grandfather. His passing will be one year on May 1st. I hope you make it back soon. And I am tickled to read it is one of your favorite countries! I am so biased, but yes - such a great place. :)

  3. What a lovely tribute to your grandfather... I have so much of South America to explore, it looks fantastic! :)

    1. Thank you so much. I hope you get there, soon. It *IS* fantastic. :D

  4. Looks like a fabulous part of the world that I can get to one day... I hope! Big thanks for linking up with us for #SundayTraveler

    1. Thank you so much! I love new visitors and I'm so glad to have discovered so many other great blogs. :)

  5. What fantastic photos - thank you for sharing!!! Found your blog through #SundayTraveler!

    1. Thanks so much Justin and Lauren! :)

  6. I love how colourful the houses are! I've yet to go to South America but hopefully one day. One time I made the mistake of spelling Colombia with a u and I was quickly corrected much to my embarrassment. I'll never make that same mistake again.

    1. Haha I think Colombians are always quick to correct that. :) It's a great segue into why you should visit. Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope you make it there someday, too! I think you'd love it. :)

  7. Heather, this is a beautiful post! I enjoyed reading it. Your photos give a real taste of the city. Curious to hear about European side of your family. And well, in my world fat doesn't sound too good :). Thanks for linking up with us for the #SundayTraveler.

    1. I take this comment as the highest compliment. Thank you, so much, for your words.

      Oh my gosh, the European side! That is definitely an interesting story I will have to post about! Where to even start...

      HAHA I promise you, gordo or gordito are loving terms! HAHA if I ever have the pleasure to meet you, I also promise I won't call you that! :) It's primarily reserved for babies.

      Thanks for having me! I'm really enjoying reading all of the posts.


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