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Beyond Friendly, Great Food, Insane Heat…and Boobies

Three weeks ago today we arrived in Cartagena, Colombia, our new home for the first part of 2018.

I wanted to share my first impressions, especially for those of you who may be most familiar with Cartagena from the movie Romancing the Stone (complete with imagery of narcos and running from them in the jungle). That movie was actually shot in Mexico, by the way, but that’s for another day…

First, the Heat

We were worried about this before we arrived and it turns out we were right. It runs 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit most days, but actually feels closer to 100 degrees with humidity.

A little considered impact of this heat: we have not yet worked out how to buy ice cream and get it home from the grocery store (no joke). One day we naively believed we’d solved this dilemma by purchasing ice cream bars in the pharmacy in the lobby of our building. Only to find they had melted before we completed the elevator ride up to our apartment.

Saying that, our new apartment is located on the 24th floor facing the ocean and has such an amazing through breeze that we don’t use the air conditioning at all during our day at work. Plus, at night it’s much cooler. In the evenings walking into town is delightful. No jacket required.

The Walls

The first thing that strikes you wandering this city are the walls around the old town. Cartagena is one of the world’s best known fortified cities and the massive walls and turrets make for some great photo opportunities and an amazing place to watch the sunset. Watching the sun dip below the horizon over the ocean is one of the city residents’ favorite activities. For some bars to catch a sunset from the wall, don’t miss my post, Best Bars in Cartagena to Watch the Sunset.

However, we’ve also realized the walls are a royal pain in the ass! If you want to exit the old city by foot to get to our apartment building (very close on the other side), there is only a small tunnel on our side that closes at night (that’s me in it in the photo). If a taxi wants to exit from the grocery store to our place below is a view of the tortured route it has to take.

So the walls are beautiful, historic, but today sometimes rather impractical! Hard not to see the irony that they built this fortification in the 1600s to keep out the invasion of Brits like me. And today it’s still kind of working.

 

Our Taxi’s Route home (forgive the crude drawing).

Beyond Friendly

They say Colombians know how to enjoy life and our real first experience of this city has been searching for an apartment. We expected this to be challenging, but the reality is we felt like the whole city wanted to help us. From our first taxi driver, to a friend we made online in the expat forum on facebook who took us around apartments just to be helpful, to the person serving breakfast in our hotel who actually found us our place, EVERYONE was searching for an apartment that met Honey and my requirements (enough space for 2 separate offices).

 

As we wander, it’s hard to miss the smiles on the street. Although we look like gringos, we feel welcomed and safe.

We asked a few people what the impression of Americans (and Brits) is here, and the answer was refreshing. Somewhat paraphrased:

“We’re just so happy to have visitors from abroad coming again that we really want them to enjoy their time here”. That’s certainly been our impression so far, and the result is that we found a great place to live and work!  Here’s the view from my new favorite new reading spot.

A Few More Snapshots

I’m sure I’ll write in future posts about the money ($300 US dollars makes you a millionaire in Colombian pesos) and the language (very different to Mexican words and accent).

For now, let me leave you with a few more shots of this colorful and friendly Caribbean city, which is a unique juxtaposition of old and new. Think Miami Beach meets New Orleans meets city walls that are uniquely Cartagenan!

 

Oh right, the Boobies..

See, I knew you’d keep scrolling down (smile). I had heard that Columbia was one of the world’s plastic surgery capitals and yes there are a lot of ridiculously beautiful women here wearing very little clothes (especially in the tourist areas).

I’m afraid no photos on this one, so you’ll just have to believe me the outfits are rather similar to what you’d see at the Burning Man festival in terms of level of covering up body parts (or rather not). Seeing as I refuse to get all stalkerish and take photos you’ll have to put up with this google link if you want more.

Till next time!