Fruit basket ladies, friendly tourists, and mouthwatering ceviche made globetrotter Gezelle Renée's trip to Cartagena, Colombia one big vibe. After trips to Morocco and Aruba, the always colorfully-dressed Renée decided to explore new territory all by herself for some much-needed alone time. The result: a helluva good time in Cartagena. Keep scrolling for her guide to navigating the cosmopolitan city.
"The Palenqueras (fruit ladies) of Colombia inspired my visit to Cartagena. I’ve always wanted to see them. Around 2011 when I first got on Tumblr, they were ubiquitous on there, as well as Pinterest. For me they represented me, they look like what my grandma looks like. They are varied in shades and hues so that’s amazing. They exude some kind of energy I felt I needed to see and experience for myself. I had also recently lost my favorite aunt so I was depressed and needed to get away from having a routine. I came back from my trip refreshed and at peace."
Beauty Packing List
I just started taking care of my skin so I only had a cleanser, make up wipes, and shea butter. I have a whole new skin care routine that I’m trying out now.
Fashion Packing List
Swimsuits from ASOS and Tularosa, hat and sunglasses from ASOS. I normally try and make an outfit and have someone tailor it for me. I also scored a Zimmerman outfit with a promo code.
Booking the Trip
I used Expedia to book the trip. Pinterest is my haven so I did a lot of research there before going. There are lots and lots of guides. Normally I geo tag the location on Instagram and find people who live there. I connected with a lady on Instagram but didn’t get to meet her because she got under the weather.
Where to Stay
Stay at Casa Pombo. The workers were so pleasant, it didn’t feel like a hotel but a home with family. I stayed in the old city. It’s a very touristy place where the locals and all the tourist stay. I stayed in a hotel and Airbnb so I got a feel of the different parts. The energy was unmatched. For me traveling is therapeutic so going there was one of the best things. They are extremely upbeat and positive. I had little Colombian kids walking up to me and locals inviting me into their homes for coffee. I met a lady from Philly living in Santa Marta, she walked up to me speaking Spanish fluently assuming I was Colombian. We ended up at the local square dancing and singing our lives away. And ended that night just sitting on my hotel bed talking about life. I also met three American guys from LA and went to dinner with them. So the vibe was a positive, welcoming one. Not just with locals but other tourists too. Traveling is about connecting with people—I don’t just want to travel to places and leave as I came, I want to learn about the city, the history, and the culture not just from what the western world says but from locals, which I did on this trip. I went alone and it’s the best decision I’ve made in a while.
Dressing the Part
I went in June which wasn’t blooming season, but I still had to pack light and very summery. It’s extremely humid. I was taking three showers a day because I would get back to my hotel drenched in sweat. Synonymous to NYC subways in the summer.
Walking definitely. I only took a cab to and from the airport.
Tip for First-Timers
Go with less plans and wander the city. Everything was noteworthy. My goodness. Food was great, people were eclectic, the art scene was through the roof. Everything was what I imagined and more.
11AM Breakfast at Arepas (hotel breakfast).
2PM Lunch at Restaurant Alma. I searched Trip Advisor and decided to go there. The ambiance, food, and service was top notch. I went there three times. The ceviche, octopus, and passion fruit cocktails (not the name but it has passion fruit) was yummy.
5PM Walking down the street, there are local vendors and stores everywhere. It’s important to help local artisans with their craft when visiting countries.
7PM Dinner at La Vitrola. I met three guys from LA and suggested this place. So we all ended up going for dinner and telling the craziest stories. The tuna carpaccio had me going the very next day for dinner. They also have a live band, couldn’t ask for anything more.
9PM Go out to Cafe Havana in the local square at Getsemani.
10:30AM Head to Epoca Expreso bar for breakfast.
12PM Go island hopping around Isla Baru.
1:30PM Lunch at Maria. The food was amazing. I’m not sure about the service, but if you don’t mind like me it’ll be a great place to stop by.
3PM Walk around the old city and visit Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a castle located on the Hill of San Lázaro.
5PM Just walking around the city with a coco fresco in hand. There’s always something coming up and you could end up at some bar, or church or even dancing with locals you just met.
8PM Dinner at Cevicheria Cartagena was delicious (Anthony Bourdain ate here so I went there).
10PM Hang out after hours at Cafe Del Mar, Alquimico, or Cafe Havana. All these places are amazing to meet other people and chill out. It was always a vibe.
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