Gracious and welcoming, but only if you’re rich.


The streets of the old city were narrow but it didn’t feel as if the buildings were looming over us or about to fall on us.

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Neither did they feel crowded (in spite of the fact that it was also a holiday here, and so were more crowded than usual with sightseers, shoppers and people out enjoying their holiday.)

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They felt enclosing and comforting – due no doubt to the fact that most of them were in shade! It was really hot! There were a number of squares in old city, all of which were open and airy and bright with grass, trees, bushes and statuary.

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Balconies were everywhere, and so were plants – flowering plants and bushes on the balconies, and growing in pots in the courtyards and squares, and trees growing wherever there was room. There were lovely touches all over the walled city:

P1020143No practical reason for the decoration on the doors, it’s just to make it pretty.

P1020145Note the door in door – the big doors were for horses & carriages, the little ones for people.

Birds abounded – flocks of bright green parrots squawking overhead, pelicans everywhere near the water – they were like gulls here in Victoria – if there was water and people, there were pelicans. They even had statues of them along the waterfront.

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We climbed on the bus for one more stop at an upscale (toursit) modern shopping complex in the “New City” in the Bocagrande which is the main tourist area of the city and then took a leisurely drive back to the ship along the waterfront.

I got the feeling over the course of the day that Cartagena is a city of extremes – there is a lot of wealth there – the construction going on and the prices of property in the old city (out of anybody but millionare’s ranges) says that lots of people do have money, and lots of it, but I could see poverty as well. I didn’t seem to see much in the middle. I’m assuming that the street vendors and the shop keepers in the tourist area of old city are not all that well off – with the street vendors, their wares weren’t handmade and we saw identical merchandise for sale regardless of where we were (I had to smile when one of the vendors selling unframed paintings tried to convince us he’d painted them all. Either he was lying or he could move really quickly, since I’d see the exact same “painting” back at the fort) which says there’s somebody organizing a lot of them, which means probably darn little of the money they earn ends up in their pockets. I got the feeling health and social services aren’t a high priority with the government. We passed two hospitals, one a civilian, the other military. All I can say is if I get sick in Cartagena, I hope they take me to the Naval hospital.

But there were lots of parks and sports fields, soccer, of course, and baseball, and lots and lots of wide open grassy areas that were well looked after and were being used. The beaches along the Caribbean were well populated and it looked like people were having lots of fun swimming, sitting, visiting and just enjoying the day. There’s loads of construction going on, and I had the impression of an prosperous, growing city. The neigbourhood immediately adjacent to the container port was gorgeous – full of large, gracious houses built in the early 20th century, with some wonderful 1920s and 30s Spanish architectural features. I half expected to see langourous women in cool cotton flapper dresses lounging on the porches with mint juleps and white suited men standing near them. We passed through another shopping area just inside the container port, with a sort of conservatory/gardens/zoo, and saw our first monkeys. No idea what type, but they looked like they’d love to get into the bus and wreak havoc. One is cute. Several aren’t quite as cute as they are threatening!

Cartagena is still an important port, and there are three open ports and over 40 private ports in the city. There’s lots of industry, a petroleum refinery, and Cartagena’s industry contributes 8% to the GDP, so why the impression of so much poverty? It’s something I don’t understand. Nice to have visited, but not a place I think I’d like to come back to.

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Once we got back on board, it wasn’t long until supper – and a nice surprise was to have roast turkey on the menu, complete with all the trimmings. In honour of our Thanksgiving of course. We, really enjoyed it – but I’m sure the kitchen didn’t. As we were leaving the dining room, we happened to get into the elevator with one of the officers in charge of the kitchen, and he told us that they had only planned for approximately 200 turkey dinners, since that was about the number of Canadians on board. Instead, it was only 6:30 and they’d already had more than ¾ of the rest of the diners order the turkey. There was one more reserved seating, and open seating went on until 8:45. I wonder if they ran out?

Two at sea days coming up with one final wine tasting – a “super premium” tasting that I’m really looking forward to, and then we stop at Holland America Lines own private island – Half Moon Cay.

 

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