Screw Bogota, Gimme All the Cartagena
Okay - before anyone from Bogota gets defensive, I have many many reasons why my time in Bogota was not my fave part of my Remote Year experience so far. It was cold and wet, and that includes being cold inside of buildings, the altitude definitely affected me, particularly in my sleep and my immune system, I just didn't feel safe, and I really feel like I was burned out of playing tourist in every city we went to. I had my reasons. But, before I skip bogota completely...here were some highlights.
Lucia londono tostadores.
We kicked off our time in Bogota with an absolutely awesome event that played off of the fact that legitimately all of the coffee fiends among us were so stoked about! Learning more about Colombia coffee. This time through the eyes of a roaster as opposed to a grower. We met Lucia Londono in her toasting facility in the heart of Bogota. She told us all about her history as a grower. She was a fascinating woman and told us all about the different aspects of toasting and how you can smell, taste, etc different things in the coffee. We tried different coffees of different qualities and compared the aroma, taste, etc. It was amazing! Some of the coffee grounds (before adding water) legitimately smelled like beef! It was so crazy! We then tasted our favorite grounds brewed in different ways. It was so fascinating and the coffee fanatic was in heaven. So naturally, I bought some extra of her amazing beans to take with me on my adventures.
Caving in the suesca region.
This is one of the few times that I actually left the city...and this region is perhaps the only reason I would. I was obsessed with the Suesca region outside of Bogota. Not only is it an absolutely gorgeous region, but there are so many incredible things to do. Not only is it a region known for rock climbing as you can tell from the gorgeous rock face I snapped a photo of, but it also has great hiking and of course caving. This caving experience was...crazy. In good and bad ways. We hiked up to this little house, geared up in helmets and headlamps, and then proceeded to the entrance of the cave. Thank God I'm not claustrophobic or that would've been a problem. We thought we'd just be crawling through caves, but it turns out there was some standing water in the cave and some deceptively deep water at that! There were places where the water would've at least been up to my chin. Hell I might have had to swim, but instead the guides had us traverse some sections of the cave with some rock climbing esque moves. It was mentally so challenging and my adrenaline was majorly going for all 3 of the obstacle we had to traverse. The whole day definitely demonstrated the advantage of being short.
Wearing jeans again was kind of awesome.
I feel like this needs no elaboration, but the Seattle-ite in me was really happy about buying a couple new cozy articles of clothing, including long pants.
And be sure to get above the city for some wonderful views!
I didn't go to Montserrat, which is a Medellin-esque cable car to a viewpoint above the city. But I did go for a nice, steep, albeit short hike with a wonderful view of the city at the top. Basically, this was the only day where I really could see how beautiful of a city Bogota is. It was also one of the few days we had sunny, beautiful weather. So that probably contributed as well, haha.
Now, For the wonderful side-trip to Cartagena...
WHEN DID WE GO: May 14-18, 2018
WHY DID WE GO: To get a little beach vacation and to celebrate my 29th birthday!
HOW LONG WERE WE THERE: 5 days, 4 nights
WHERE DID WE STAY: Hotel Almirante Cartagena
Our hotel was amazeballs. I literally cannot but into words how in love with this hotel I am and was during our stay there. I found it on Expedia and we splurged on it a bit because of it's proximity to the beach and the pool area. Everything else was a bonus. Not only did they upgrade our room on arrival after my friends gave them a not-so-subtle hint that it was my birthday. Not only that, but they then let us check-in 5 hours early at no-cost. Plus, they had an incredible gym, spa, amazing and in-expensive cocktails, an awesome buffet breakfast every morning, and incredibly helpful and accommodating employees and workers. I loved loved loved my stay at this hotel and would totally go back again.
The Beach! The beach was so beautiful and it was so nice to just walk along the beach with your feet in the water, people watching as you went. People said before we left that the beaches in Cartagena aren't the best, but honestly? I loved the beaches here. Ya it wasn't the most picturesque beach I've ever been to, but it's exactly what I wanted. Plus they have umbrellas and lawn chairs that you can rent for the day. And the security along the beach will even bring you cocktails. So so nice! Oh, and the water is actually much warmer than it looks! Win win am I right? This is probably the biggest reason in my opinion to not stay within the Walled City. If you stay down the strip a bit, you're much closer to the beach and it is much more accessible.
The Walled City. That being said, we were within walking distance to the walled part of Cartagena. The "old city" as it's called. The aesthetic within the city is so quaint and there are so many cute shops and cafes. It was wonderful to walk down to the old city and spend a day. Plus walking around the wall in and of itself is pretty fun! It's like a mini Great Wall. This was perhaps the only active, touristy thing we did while we were in Cartagena, and it was perfect! Exactly what we wanted!
Flat and walkable - aka super easy to get around. After our time in Medellin, I'm always super grateful for cities that are flat and walkable. Bogota definitely had that going for it as well, but we did a lot more walking and touring in Cartagena than we did in Bogota, so that was much appreciated. We walked basically everywhere. To the beach. To the store. To dinner. To the old city. There really wasn't any need to take a Taxi or an uber. Just walk! Those extra steps will be good for you, especially after all the cocktails and buffet breakfasts.
Pedalers on the Beach. I HATE PEDDLERS!!!! There were peddlers in Cabo San Lucas. There are some peddlers in Playa del Carmen, though vastly less than Cabo. And damn are there peddlers in Cartagena too. This seriously is so damn irritating for me. When I'm on a beach, I just want to relax. I just want to turn off my brain and enjoy myself, but when there are peddlers you can't. You have to sit there and say "No gracias" like 80,000X and what is even more maddening is how many of the peddlers refuse to take no for an answer. And I have never experienced that as much as I did in Cartagena. On our beach day, we had just settled into our chairs when these women came over offering massages. I've done this beach peddler thing and I didn't want any part of it. So I said "No gracias." She continue to persist. Next thing I know, she was massaging my feet. I continued to say "No gracias" and then she just said, "Tranquilo, only your feet. Just a sample." I continued to say "No gracias." I physically had to push her hand away and pull my feet up toward my body before she would stop. My friends weren't so persistent and they ended up having to pay $80,000 (about $25) pesos for unwanted full-body massages after the fact. Then, as I was walking with my friend down the beach later in the week, another women came up offering massages as we were walking along the beach. We said "No gracias" and she continued to put her hands on my friends shoulders, persisting. I'm sorry, but I have a huge problem with someone touching me and touching me repeatedly, especially when I have continued to say that I don't want them to. The peddlers in Cartagena pissed me off and some of them made the beach an unpleasant experience. But they weren't all bad. Click here to read all about our wonderful encounter with Jose, who sold us these beautiful bracelets.
All in all - I loved cartagena!
And If it means another stay at the Hotel Almirante, I'm definitely game!