Cartagena (reprise) | 28.6.18 – 1.7.18

Returning to Cartagena, we took the opportunity to mop up a few unexplored destinations before we bade farewell to my family and moved on.

After a fabulous dinner at a Lebanese fusion restaurant ‘Zaitun’, we made our way to a nearby salsa club in the city – ‘Donde Fidel’. Salsa music blared from innumerable speakers built in to every corner of the club, while the bar heaved with locals and tourists of all ages.

Making our way through the sweaty throng, we cleared enough room for a basic salsa routine (fortunate for me, as this exhausted my repertoire of dancing skills). At various points Erin, who is a very accomplished dancer, was paired with a succession of enthusiastic (but respectful) local characters. Escaping outside to the cool night air, we sat with beers by the old city wall and people-watched the night away.

On Saturday we visited the Emerald Museum, where we were given a history of the emerald trade – Colombia is responsible around 50% of the global emerald supply. Tom Feiling’s excellent book ‘Short Walks from Bogotá’ features an interview with a Japanese emerald kingpin, shedding light on what was once an extremely bloody and dangerous industry. The bulk of the ‘museum’ was given over to selling expensive emerald jewellery, and we beat a hasty retreat as soon as the presentation finished.

My very lovely parents

After an excellent lunch at ‘Sinko Bar’, we toured the Chocolate Museum, which was again more a glorified shop than a source of education. Chocolate is much more affordable than emeralds though, and free samples were pleasingly abundant.

Leaving the museum with more than a few tasty souvenirs, we sat atop the old walls of Cartagena, our backs to the Caribbean. A passing family paused so that their baby could give us all an exuberant high five (adorable), and before we knew it the time had come to say a surprisingly emotional goodbye to my family. That night Erin and I consoled ourselves with takeaway pizza, beer and films; a far cry from our recent fine dining experiences but most comforting nonetheless.

On our last night in the city, Erin and I enjoyed free rum, pimientos and hugs (!) at the amazing ‘El Arsenal’ rum bar, then walked to a nearby park to gaze out at the lights of Old Town, reflected in the dark waters of Cartagena bay.

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