Cartagena: Within the Walled City

Our last night we stayed in the walled city.

Inside the walled city

Inside the walled city

Walking through the city

Walking through the city

 We had quite an adventure trying to find dinner that night.  After checking into our hotel we loaded the kids up in the stroller and walked outside the walls to what looked like a promising restaurant on TripAdvisor.  We walked up and down the dark street, navigating piles of trash along the broken up pieces of sidewalk.  Cartagena wasn’t unlike most other cities we’d visited in South America in that respect.  We finally gave up locating the restaurant and headed back to the walled city.  We thought we’d have an easier time finding a good eatery there, but it also proved challenging.  Eventually, we stumbled upon a tiny local, over-decorated and somewhat dusty Colombian restaurant.  The food was decent, and at that point we didn’t really care too much anyways!  It was bedtime already for the kids, so we ordered some coconut rice as soon as we sat down in our chairs and they started chowing down.  Coconut rice was the kids favorite Colombian treat (after Arepas, of course).  It was browned and sweet, cooked in coconut water, and went great with the local whole fried fish they served up in Cartagena.  Dinner was long and a little painful with two very sleepy toddlers, but we survived!  The next morning we got an early start.  The breakfast at the hotel was wonderful and the kids loved all the fresh juices.  After that, we started out on a walk around the Walled City.

Walking through the city

Walking through the city

At the edge of the city

At the edge of the city

The lookouts were really fun to see.  Took us a while to find an empty one!  Popular place!

Hola!

Hola!

Hanging out in the sun

Hanging out in the sun

 From the opening you could see the Caribbean, just across the road.  It was hot, hot, hot, by this time.  We were glad for a little shade.

Me and my girl

Me and my girl

In the lookout

In the lookout

Enjoying Cartagena

Enjoying Cartagena

 We’d promised the kids another ice cream popsicle, so we headed back to the center of the city.

Cliff loves "caballos"

Cliff loves “caballos”

At the city's center

Livi and daddy

Buying some fresh squeezed orange juice

Buying some fresh squeezed orange juice

Enjoying the city

Enjoying the city

 While we were waiting for it to open, we grabbed some iced coffees for us adults at a delicious local coffee shop.

Being "patient" in the coffee shop

Being “patient” in the coffee shop

Iced Colombian coffee!

Iced Colombian coffee!

 The kids were good, with the promise of ice cream looming, and soon they were holding their fruity ice cream pops.

La Paletteria

La Paletteria

Delicious ice cream popsicles

Delicious ice cream popsicles

Happy kids

Happy kids

 It was almost time for us to leave this beautiful place, but we had one more fun thing planned….the hotel pool.

Splish-splash!

Splish-splash!

Fun times!

Fun times!

 Just seconds after this picture, Cliff plummeted into the water.  He’s a tough boy though, and was laughing it off just a few minutes later.

Fun with daddy

Fun with daddy

 Olivia was super excited to get to use her “eye-gols” again.  Those kids crack me up sometimes.  It was a great end to our time in Colombia.

Beautiful warm people and bright colors

Beautiful warm people and bright colors

We’d really enjoyed this country!

Cartagena: San Felipe de Barajas Castle

Our third day in Cartagena, Colombia we toured the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, or Fort, as our tour guide stressed.

San Felipe de Barajas Castle

San Felipe de Barajas Castle

The fort

The fort

This castle was hard to imagine anyone living in, and surely was not meant for luxurious living; but it was a very strong, obvious fortress.  There were dozens of cannons stationed throughout the fort (or trains, as Cliff was convinced).

Cliff and the canon

Cliff and the cannon

Ready, aim, pose!

Ready, aim, pose!

The sun felt unbearably hot by just 10am and we did our best to stay shaded.

Cool in the shade

Cool in the shade

Little man

Little man

The heat just seemed to be reflected back at us from the stone under our feet.

Trying to stay cool in the hot sun

Trying to stay cool in the hot sun

Beneath the fort was a maze of tunnels (which added to Cliff’s belief that the cannons were trains).  They provided a nice respite from the heat.

Down into the tunnel

Down into the tunnel

Tunnels!

Tunnels!

The guide explained to us that when the fort was under attack, men with muskets would hide in the little alcoves, waiting for enemy attackers to walk by them.

In the tunnel alcoves

In the tunnel alcoves

In the tunnels

In the tunnels

There was a great view from the top of the fort and the Colombian flag was really beautiful against the backdrop of the city.

The top of the fort

The top of the fort

Colombian flag

Colombian flag

Near the end of the tour we spotted some large iguanas in the grassy square beneath the fort.

Iguanas

Iguanas

The kids did great for this tour, but if we had it to do over, we would definitely go in the early morning or the evening, as the sun was setting.  Cartagena was sure proving to be a warm place!

Touring the fort!

Touring the fort!

In case you missed our first two days in Cartagena, you can read them here and here.

Cartagena: the Caribbean

Our second full day in Cartagena, we decided to do a boat tour. Looking back, we probably should have planned it better and done a little more research for a good, fast boat. It took over 3 hours to reach the first stop. The island we visited first had a little “SeaWorld” type show and tanks of fish and sea turtles.

Sea turtles

Sea turtles

Watching the sea turtles

Watching the sea turtles

Watching the sharks

Watching the sharks

There were even dolphins!

Showing Cliff the dolphin

Showing Cliff the dolphin

Though we hadn’t planned on doing the show, we actually enjoyed it. These sharks had been trained to all climb up the side of this platform on command, and then go back into the water after feeding.

The sharks

The sharks

There was a dolphin show at the end that the kids really liked, too.

The dolphin show

The dolphin show

Jumping

Jumping

It was a cool experience, even if it was pretty commercialized.

Next, we made for the real island – Playa Blanca. By this time we were starving because it was after 2pm and we’d boarded the ship at 9am.  We’d been on the boat a long time!

Almost to land!

Almost to land!

Changing a diaper....real life

Changing a diaper on the ship….real life

We were so happy when we saw land. We took small ferries to the shore of the island.  It was a bit scary, since the waves were so rocky!  Thankfully there were plenty of helpful people as I boarded the small ferry with Olivia sleeping in my arms.  Lunch was local fish and some plantains and rice, which was pretty good. We finally got beach time after that.

On the beach

On the beach

Building huge sandcastles

Building huge sandcastles

The waves were crazy big, so the kids didn’t spend much time in the water, but we all had fun building sandcastles and watching the tide come in and wash them out.

Cliff wasn't so sure about the sand

Cliff wasn’t so sure about the sand

We only had an hour on the beach before time to leave for the long ride back to Cartagena. At least we didn’t have too much time in the sun! It was a long day, and all of us were glad to be on dry land after all that rocking!  This was our second full day in Cartagena; to read about our first day click here.

Cartagena, Colombia: Old Town

We arrived in Cartagena from Bogotá in the late evening, just as the sun was setting on the horizon over the Caribbean.  I was glad we got to catch a nice glimpse of it – our first view of the Caribbean!  The drive from the airport to Bocagrande, where we were staying, was really pretty.  Cartagena had a small-town, beachy feel to it that I really liked.  It was warm and humid, and the sun felt hot.  Like, hot hot.  Not just regular sun-hot, haha.  We were even closer to the equator here than we are in Peru.

The first day in Cartagena we started at the clock tower in the Walled City.

The clock tower

The clock tower

There were some beautiful old buildings there.

Walking around Old Town

Walking around Old Town

Beautiful old buildings

Beautiful old buildings

Church

Church

Outside the church

Outside the church

Our little ball of energy

Our little ball of energy

We decided to visit the Naval Museum that morning.

Museo Naval del Caribe

Museo Naval del Caribe

It was an educational tour.  The kids were mesmerized by this replica of an impaled pirate.

Impaled pirate

Impaled pirate

Looking at the "little tiny boats!"

Looking at the “little tiny boats!”

Cliff thought all the canons were trains….so there was a lot of choo-chooing going on during the tour.

Say, "choo-choo!" Huh??

Say, “choo-choo!” Huh??

They got to steer the boat!

Olivia

Olivia

Cliff

Cliff

Sailing

Sailing

And shoot the bad guys.

More modern Naval ships

Modern Naval ships

From the top story of the museum there was a beautiful alleyway.

Beautiful views all around

Beautiful views all around

After the museum, we hunted down the famous ice cream “popsicles” that I’d read about before coming.  After a little searching, we found them, and the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Yummy popsicle ice cream

Yummy popsicle ice cream

While we had been in Bogotá, I’d found a necklace made of amber, so I was on the look out for more like it here in Cartagena.  Sure enough, I found a woman who was selling jewelry and she had some amber stones!  She took the one long piece she had and made it into two different necklaces for me.

Making amber necklaces

Making amber necklaces

Right there while we waited.  She was a sweet woman. The Colombians here in Cartagena seemed to be especially warm and friendly.  I tried a coco frio next, just a plain cold coconut with the top hacked off and a straw stuck in.

A cart of Cocos Frios

A cart of Cocos Frios

It was refreshing on that hot afternoon.  While I was sipping my coconut, we saw an artist making paintings on mirrors.  It was incredible – he finished each painting start to finish in five minutes!

Watching the artist

Watching the artist

Happy, hot, sticky kids

Happy, hot, sticky kids

It was a fun morning out. We’d already decided we really liked this place!

Bogotá, Colombia

John flew to Columbia on a Sunday, and I stayed behind in Lima with the kids for a few days while he attended meetings and such. We prepared for our trip in the midst of a tummy bug and an unrelated visit to the ER (when it rains it pours!). Thankfully, we were all well by Wednesday and continued with our plans to fly to Bogota on Thursday morning.

Thursday was a long day. It was the first time I had flown with both the kids by myself since Cliff was a few months old.

Waiting in the airport

Waiting in the airport

(I swore I’d never do it again after last time! Obviously, I don’t learn my lessons easily…) They’re 3 1/2 and almost 2, so in some ways it was easier, but it was a very long 3 1/2 hours! They both love planes, especially Cliff, so it was at least entertaining for them!

Hanging out watching planes

Hanging out watching planes

When we got to Bogotá, John was waiting for us outside Customs with two arepas con queso for the kids. Arepas are one of the main foods you find on the streets in Colombia. They’re delicious flat rounds, made from fresh corn and usually have cheese inside.  Bogotá was warm and sunny when we first arrived, nice and inviting. We went to dinner that evening at a chic new restaurant serving authentic Colombian style food. I got a sampler for me and the kids, complete with plátanos and a fried egg.

The city was prettier than Lima. There were a lot of brick buildings as well as some that resembled a Swiss style. There wasn’t as much concrete as Lima. Instead, stones and bricks lined the roads in a neat and orderly fashion.

Overlooking Bogotá from the hotel

Overlooking Bogotá from the hotel

Though the city boasts a population of 10 million (the same as Lima) there seemed to be much less pollution.  The weather is pretty wet.  It rained a bit on us each day, but it wasn’t bad.

The first full day, the kids and I just hung out in the hotel while John traveled a bit with his peers. We made forts with the blankets and pillows and walked to the nearby mall for lunch.

Playing with magnet blocks in the hotel

Playing with magnet blocks in the hotel

The next day we went with the group to see Monterrico, a church set up on a mountain above Bogotá. We took an air tram up the mountain.

The air tram

The air tram

Ready to board the tram!

Ready to board the tram!

The kids loved it. There were amazing views of the city from all the way up there.

View of Bogotá from the top

View of Bogotá from the top

View of Bogotá

View of Bogotá

It was raining on us most of the time, so we were glad we bought an umbrella at the bottom of the mountain.

Monterrico

Monterrico

Walking in the drizzle

Walking in the drizzle

I was wishing I had brought my rain jacket as it was pretty chilly! We found the kids some hot arepas to warm them up (their new favorite snack) and browsed the vendors for a little while.

In the rain!

In the rain!

At the top of Monterrico

At Monterrico

Cliff at the top

Cliff at the top

When it was time to meet back up, we all decided to take the train down instead of the air tram. The track was nearly vertical for most of the ride. Cliff was so excited to be riding a train and kept saying, “choo-choo!” while we continued down the mountainside.

The side of Monterrico

The mountainside of Monterrico

It was a really beautiful excursion!

Next, we headed back into the city for a little time to see the buildings and museums.

Stone carvings on the old buildings

Stone carvings on the old buildings

We got lunch from a street vendor selling Anticuchos (meat on a skewer) and roasted corn on the cob. We fed our whole family for about $3 USD, or 6,000 Colombian pesos. We went into the gold museum after lunch. Because gold and emerald mining are a big industry in Colombia there was a lot of history. I didn’t stay long since a Cliff was getting pretty loud and tired. I took him out so he could fall asleep in the Ergo, away from the stimulation of his big sister. Five minutes later he was out like a light.

We continued on down the Main Street to see the big plaza.

Side streets on the way to the Plaza

Side streets on the way to the Plaza

 I decided for a bit of coffee to try to warm myself up, as it was still pretty damp and chilly.

Getting a cappuccino

Getting a cappuccino

The buildings were beautiful.

Beautiful old building

Beautiful old building

The kids liked seeing all the pigeons and llamas in the plaza, but it was a bit smelly and loud, so we didn’t stay long.

At the Plaza

At the Plaza

The Plaza

The Plaza

We did get to see the presidential palace and several other big buildings.

The presidential palace

The presidential palace

It was a fun cultural day. We ended it with a swim at the hotel pool for the kids, and met some more of John’s colleagues at a dinner (in which we politely bowed out of after drinks…the kids were ready for bed!) If we’ve learned anything traveling with two toddlers, it’s to be flexible and know when to fold!

The next morning, we decided to take the kids to the park nearby and snag another good cup of Colombian coffee at Juan Valdez Cafe before leaving for our flight to Cartagena.

Park fun

Park fun

Hello....!!

Hello….!!

Sipping a coffee in the drizzle

Sipping a coffee in the drizzle

 Olivia had fun climbing on the jungle gym.

Did someone blink??

Did someone blink??

 And Cliff enjoyed steering the ship.

Steering the ship

Steering the ship

 It was drizzling when we arrived, but by the end of the morning, the sun was out in all of its force, forcing us to remove our sweaters.

"Trash, mama!"

“Trash, mama!”

 We had enjoyed Bogotá, but were really ready for the sunny warm Cartagena waiting for us on the other side of the flight!