No plan is often the best plan– learning the history of Cartagena.

Sometimes while travelling, it’s best not to plan anything for the day. I’m glad that was the case today because I was still feeling a little tired. We originally planned on taking a boat to the islands, something several friends had recommended, but decided to keep the day open. So instead, we took our time in the morning and eventually began wandering the streets. We stopped at a few historic points and read about them. The historic center is small, so we easily walked from one side to the other in 20 minutes. It was still pretty early and not many shops were open, but I found a cute clothing shop to browse while Ryan had a coffee and some cake (the cake was dry, which we’ve now experienced a couple times while in Colombia). We found another store where I bought some statues and Ryan bought a colorful painting and coffee beans. Shopping aside, the streets were just fun to wander because they were so colorful. I stopped a few times to take pictures of the brightly contrasted buildings. I also posed for a photo with a woman in traditional dress and fruit basket.

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The woman was called a Palenquera, from a small village southeast of Cartagena called San Basilio de Palenque which was ruled entirely by runaway African slaves. It was the first free town in the Americas in 1961. Although free, they were cut off from the rest of society with limited access to resources, the town was (and still is) extremely poor. The Palenqueras decided to use what they had around them in abundance: fruit. They would pack their hand-woven baskets full of ripe tropical fruits, put on their traditional African dress and make the long and exhausting journey into the bustling city of Cartagena by foot. There, they would sell the fruit to passersby and made a steady income. Today, they sell less fruit and make more money posing for tourists.

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There was a historical museum that we wanted to visit, but apparently it was closed due to renovation. A man outside told us about a temporary one nearby and offered to give us a tour for $5 each. I knew this was one of those situations where you probably don’t need a tour guide but agreed anyways. We followed Tony, in his red blazer, heeled boots and drawn in eyebrows to the museum. He gave additional color and anecdotes to the museum artifacts and descriptions, so it really was worth the money. We learned about the Zenu, aboriginal people who lived in the area before war took it over. They wore a lot of gold body jewelry and Emeralds which were mined in the area. He told us how they mix gold and copper to get different carats. He also showed us some of the techniques for making it, like using wax molds to achieve thin strands of gold. The most interesting tidbit I learned was if a man or woman died, their spouse was also killed as they believed the two had to travel into the afterlife together. At some point during the tour, Tony mentioned he would take us to see the best Emeralds. It was at this point I realized this was also one of those tours that gets commission by bringing you to a store hoping you’ll buy something. I didn’t mind as I planned on not buying anything.

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He took us to a jewelry store where they briefly showed us how they make the jewelry in the back room. As expected, they next showed us some of their pieces for sale. To my surprise I actually liked a lot of them and they were reasonably priced. I picked out a pretty silver ring with a light green Emerald. After that, we decided we needed some down time, so read a little until heading to lunch. Lunch was at a sushi restaurant which had a huge line the night before. I’m glad we went because I was craving good sushi, and the pitcher of Red Sangria was delicious as well. Knowing that we wanted to stay up a bit later tonight, we took another nap before dinner. Our dinner spot was fabulous as well! I had a lychee martini and filet mignon and Ryan had a rum cocktail and lemon BBQ chicken. I tried his chicken and it was the juiciest chicken I’ve ever tasted. My steak was super good too, but was a little too undercooked for me, I guess I didn’t understand their cooking scale, I ordered it “quatro”.. We attempted to find a salsa bar to dance at but it didn’t seem anyone was dancing (it might have been too early). Instead, we found a balcony table to sit at and enjoy one more cocktail.

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Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

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