Cartagena, Columbia 2016

Old Colonial Cartagena with the modern city in the background.

Old Colonial Cartagena with the modern city in the background.

An Azamara Cruise from Miami through the panama Canal started with a stop in Cartagena, Columbia. After cruising past the modern city, we took a tour with Dora De Zibiria of Cartagena Tours

Cruising into Cartagena aboard Azamara Journey

Cruising into Cartagena aboard Azamara Journey

Our whirlwind tour (we arrived in port at 1 PM)  was conducted in English, with Dora as our guide, although she has multiple guides working for her.  We were transported in an air conditioned van in excellent condition, with more than enough seats for the people in the group.  

Dora and a professional driver provide a safe comfortable and informative introduction to the old walled city of Cartegena

Dora and a professional driver provide a safe comfortable and informative introduction to the old walled city of Cartegena

Our tour started with a ride out to Convento La Popa, a Colonial era convent built on top of a small hill with a panoramic view of Cartagena. 

Photos from the Convent (click on photo to expand)

Our next stop was a visit to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas the fortress within the Colonial walled city.  If you'd like to explore inside the fort, be sure to make time for this and arrange it ahead of time.  

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

The fortified city was built by the Spanish to protect the gold they were moving out of South and Central America as it was transported back to Spain. It was a lawless time where the legends of pirates, and privateers grew.  The Spanish Admiral Blas De Lezo who fought off British Privateer Vernon in a 1741 battle between the British and Spanish, and has his statue at the base of the fort.

Admiral Blas De Lezo

Admiral Blas De Lezo

Our next stop was Las Bovedas, which are the former prison cells in the fortress. Today they are tourist shops. We felt there were excellent art galleries inside the old city, these shops are largely tourist items and handicrafts.

 Instead of shopping we also had the option to spend 20 minutes to climb on the city walls, which we decided to do. It was there that we saw a real slice of Colombian life, as people meet and travel along the walls. 

The horse drawn carriages head out to pick up tourists for tours.

The horse drawn carriages head out to pick up tourists for tours.

La Popa and Las Bovedas and the Fortress are bit outside of the central old colonial walled area where most people walk in Cartagena, so it's a good idea to book a guide or take a taxi. Once inside the inner part of the old city, the easiest way around is on foot. On our 1/2 day tour we were able to "see" a lot of sights, but we would have needed a whole day to explore inside the fort and Palacio de la Inquisition, rather than just walk by them. 

On foot we could fully appreciate all the renovated colonial architecture.

On foot we could fully appreciate all the renovated colonial architecture.

We made our way into Plaza De Bolivar and saw the Catedral de Cartegena.  While walking around we noticed that nearly every door featured an interesting door knocker.

Another stop on our walk was the Convento San Pedro Claver. The church was named for San Pedro Claver, who was a Jesuit sainted for his advocacy for the slaves in Spanish Colonial Columbia.  

There is a an art museum of religious art, and it amazed me that religious art over three centuries old is displayed out in the open without protective  cases. Inside we were able to see San Pedro'd remains on the alter. 

We also passed by several statues of notable people in the history of Columbia; India Catalina (a native woman captured who guided the Spanish) Simon Bolivar (who fought for an independent Latin America) and Pope John Paul II (who visited the city in 1986)

While we were on foot we were able to get a better feel for the people and the place.

Some graffiti on a wall 

Some graffiti on a wall 

A slice of life in the old town: an art dealer sits with his wares while tourists take photos  and workers make repairs.

A slice of life in the old town: an art dealer sits with his wares while tourists take photos  and workers make repairs.

On the street we saw fruit sellers, "illegal"motor bike taxis, and fellows in their USA various USA caps.

A young couple poses for photos in a scenic plaza

A young couple poses for photos in a scenic plaza

By evening time, we thanked Dora for her tour and she dropped us back off at our ship where we prepared to visit the Teatro Heredia for a special. private concert arranged by our cruise ship with Ivann, a thoroughly modern Columbian Youtube sensation performing for us in an old colonial theater. 

We were greeted outside the theater by actors dressed in traditional dress tossing rose petals.

We were greeted outside the theater by actors dressed in traditional dress tossing rose petals.

The interior of the Teatro Heredia is beautifully restored and had a fascinating art work on the back drop that featured many of the statues we had seen around town earlier in the day!

The interior of the Teatro Heredia is beautifully restored and had a fascinating art work on the back drop that featured many of the statues we had seen around town earlier in the day!

The charming Ivann presented an energetic, multi media show with lots of energy, dancers, lasers and even some audience participation.

In a half day tour with informative and organized Dora, we did see a lot of the Old Town of Cartagena,  but there is so much more to see and do, including the modern city and it's new "food scene", so without a doubt it's place we'd like to return and spend more time!