Panama Canal Cruise: Day 5: Cartagena, Columbia

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Aruba to Cartagena, Columbia = 383 nautical miles
Docked in Cartagena at 07:57am
Temperature 86F degrees
Departed 14:34pm

Ahhh, the city featured in "Romancing the Stone"...I could never spell it but I could pronounce it. Stu jokes that as soon as I heard one of the stops on the cruise was Cartagena, I was ready to go (okay, so maybe there is a kernel of truth there....LOL!)

The excursion of the day was "Scenes of Cartagena", a guided tour of the historic walled city including the Forteleza de San Felipe, the Inquisition Palance, San Pero Claver Church, the Navy Museum and, of course, the requisite shopping stops. It was scheduled from 9:15 to 12:45.

The day was warm, humid and very sunny. We seemed to wait forever for our buses but were happy to be put on an air-conditioned one. Our first stop was a photo opp at the Forteleza de San Felipe, the larger of the two fortresses protecting the city. The street vendors were aggressive, including the ones that wanted you to pay to take their photo! But we got some good shots anyway.

From there we stopped at the old dungeons, now a nice shopping area for handcrafts. I fell in love with the large spreads depicting scenes of daily life. I eventually got a t-shirt made in that same fashion.

We then moved on to the main part of the tour...the historic walled city. The walking started...we all carried water and tried to stick to the shade. Don't know how hot it ended up being but we all felt the heat. The city was beautiful and ugly, fascinating and disturbing, a city of extremes, of contrasts. I couldn't stop snapping photos (you can see them all in the SmugMug album).

We stopped to watch a sidewalk vendor paint beautiful scenes on a matter of minutes. His two young daughters watched intently. We bought one to keep for "when" we have a stix 'n brix again.

The Palacio de la Inquisición (The Inquisition Palace) was our first major stop....historically all the weapons of the inquisition were burned there, the whole building was burned. It has been recreated and replicas of some of the instruments of torture have been reproduced. Mans inhumanity to man....UGLY!!!

We went through the beautifully treed square and saw the statue honoring Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo, a Cuban planter who freed his slaves, and made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started the Ten Years' War. As we left the square we stopped to watch some street dancers.

The next stop was the San Pero Claver Church...beautiful!!! So much history...we sat for a bit and reflected before moving on to the Navy Museum where we got a cold drink and watched some native dancers perform.

Finally it was back on the bus (and air-conditioning) for a quick ride to a newer part of town for, you guessed it, some shopping. We were initially directed into a specific jewelry store where there was a display on emerald mining. Stu won a little keepsake piece of emerald in a sealed Lucite cube. Since emeralds are "not my thing", we left and wandered the shopping area while we waited for the time to leave. We picked up a few little odds & ends in a wonderfully air-conditioned store. LOL!

Back on the bus traveling from one end of the city back to the port, we saw where the high tide flooded the road....a normal occurrence. Some nice scenery along the way and then we were at the ship. The day ended up a little longer and a LOT hotter than we expected. While we want to go back to Aruba, we don't feel the same way about Cartagena. It was interesting to visit once....

Cruising is a great way to get a "taste" of an area before booking an extended vacation. Tomorrow we head to the Panama Canal....early arrival, guess we will actually be setting an alarm! LOL!

Till next time - keep on rollin',
Donna & Stu

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