Cartagena: Getsemani

It is M’s first full day in Cartagena with me. We have booked a cruise to the Rosario Islands. We could have traveled directly to an island to do a day of relaxing on the beach but from reviews it doesn’t seem like a relaxing option due to beach vendors constantly bothering you.

There are a couple different choices for a day cruise ranging from packed-like-sardines in a speedboat to a luxury yacht cruise. The speedboat option seems like it could be fun but we both agree we would prefer the more laid back (though more expensive) catamaran tour.

There is an early start of 8:00 for our tour. We leave early to ensure we arrive in time.

Morning walk to our boat tour

One we arrive we wait at the marina for quite a while.

Finally our boat arrives. It is a lovely sight to see.

After arrival we still wait to board. Eventually the staff announces that they are cancelling the cruise for the day due to strong winds at sea. We are disappointed.

Luckily we can reschedule in a couple days. There is already a line of people waiting for refunds to be processed or to book another day. They let us onto the boat to wait in comfort which is great because we get to use the very clean bathroom downstairs. M has a great idea of getting cheap morning beers from one of the vendors on the dock. It didn’t take much for her to talk me into one as well. We sip our beers while we wait our turn to rebook.

We have rebooked and the day is still early. We have a free day we did not plan for. We head from the marina area and decide to explore town a bit, stopping first in a nearby museum.

The museum we stop at is the Museo Naval del Caribe, the Museum of the Colombian Navy.

All the exhibits are in Spanish but we understand enough to get an idea of the history. The exhibits are heavy on the military and the sea. We had some playtime in a submarine for a bit.

Side Note: M and I combined have a pretty good grasp on Spanish. We seem to fill in each others gaps well. What she doesn’t remember I remember and vice-versa. It gives me a bit more confidence.

After the museum we decide to check out the funky neighborhood of Getsemani. Fortunately it is in walking distance so no taxi is necessary.

We pass through some more charming streets on the way and stop for arepas.

Narrow walkways

We stop at Quero Arepa for an arepa snack.

Sloth at Parque Del Centenario

We walk past Parque Del Centenario where it is said you can see monkeys but we instead find a sloth on a tree. He is snacking on some tree fruits. Some people are trying to feed him and pet him but we respectfully keep our distance.

Getsemani

We have arrived in Getsemani. The neighborhood of Getsemani is funky and colorful. We originally considered staying in his neighborhood but opted to be closer to the tourist sites. If I am ever to return I am definitely staying in Getsemani. I really like the vibe.

I see lots of street art in many different cities but it never seems to get old.

Flags hang from above, in this case flags from different countries.

We watch an artist at work.

Today is about walking, eating and drinking. We stop to try local fried foods at a hipster restaurant.

Cháchara restaurant
empanada sampler

We stop for food once again, this time to split a small pizza.

We end up down a narrow and colorful street shaded by colorful umbrellas.

We are almost out of Getsemani but not before we stop at a corner bar that sells sushi and beer. We order only beer.

Once back in the tourist area we climb the fortification walls to catch the sunset.

After dark I get to try the Russian themed bar near the apartment. We decided to test our luck and have a Moscow Mule at the KGB Bar. Back in the USSR!

Keeping the theme of Soviet area relics we head next to my happy place at Cuba 1940. We don’t stay for the band tonight but we will be back.

As we walk back to the apartment we peak into a service at a beautiful church.

Even though things did not go as planned our day ended up pretty great.

Tomorrow we head on a trip a little out of town to see the pink sea. Hopefully it is the perfect pink color.

Cartagena

It is my first full day in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. I have a couple days here alone before a friend comes to meet me. I’ll save the major sights for when she arrives, now is the time for me to enjoy the city leisurely.

Fortunately I wake up early enough to take advantage of the free buffet breakfast at the hotel. A friendly kitchen staff member greets me and asks how I would like my eggs. I enjoy coffee and the buffet of fresh fruit along with my eggs.

Against better judgement I have been eating a good amount of fresh fruit in Colombia but it isn’t until my visit to Cartagena that it has an effect on me. The bacteria in Cartagena is different than other parts of Colombia. I have some mild stomach discomfort here (the water quality has something to do with its lower elevation).

After breakfast I wander around to explore and stop to order a fun cocktail and a snack at Lobo de Mar.

I am once again in another town where the buildings are painted in vivid colors. It is a beautiful sight to see.

I grab a beer and rest in the courtyard of my hotel to escape the heat and book some tours.

my hotel

The next day or so is about the same; I take things easy.

I see on a map the home of Gabriel García Márquez (the famous Colombian author) but I cannot find it. While I really like the novel Love in the Time of Cholera, I had a annoying experience reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. Many praise the novel but I find it impossible to follow. There are so many characters introduced in different timelines and they all seem to have similar names. I’ve tried to read it three times and still have not been able to complete it. I am unable to locate the house.

I did see this boutique hotel in his honor…..the map shows that this hotel is right next door to the house. If it is there I did not see it.

Gabriel García Márquez on the wall

There is also a fortification around the city “Murallas De Cartagena”. One can walk along the walls as I did a few times during my visit.

More city photos

Botero statue

One plaza has a bunch of sculptures by Edgardo Carmona, a local sculptor.

Street Arepa

I soon find one of my favorite places to have a drink in town – Cuba 1940. I watch live music here a couple days later. (Cartagena really makes me want to party, lol).

While people watching I’ve seen Captain America, Iron Man, Deadpool, Spiderman, Edward Scissorhands and a large-bellied man dancing shirtless in a hula skirt. Being Friday night people must be out for birthday celebrations or stag nights. Cartagena is a fun city.

Later on I treat myself to a nice meal at Agua De Leon restaurant. The restaurant is busy but they are able to seat me at the bar. I still have a view of the live band playing up front.

Ceviche
Mac n cheese de langosta

The next day …

I have a travel partner again! My friend M has arrived. I’ve checked out of my hotel and transferred my belongings to the apartment where we will spend the next couple days. Unfortunately when we arrive they want all cash payment. We are both confused because we thought we had prepaid. Additionally the booking had no specification about paying in cash. We don’t have that much cash on hand so we ask if we can pay later after we are able to withdrawal more money; hopefully we have high ATM limits. After we gather the funds we have a really hard time finding a person to pay. Our days are similar, we return after sightseeing and we still not know who/how to pay. It makes us a little irritated and anxious. Eventually we learn that there is an office that is not often occupied. One day we find a person in the “office”. They seem ready to leave but we make sure that we pay for our stay and get a receipt. Whew! Glad that drama is over! Luckily our next hotel is prepaid by credit card.

Area outside the hotel

Once we drop our bags off we hit the ground running. We first head out for a beer at the pub around the corner.

We then walk around town a bit. We end up catching the tail end of a wedding. It is fun to see local wedding traditons.

Finally we share a Colombian version of a charcuterie platter. We have an early morning cruise scheduled tomorrow so no late night for us.

New Year in Sydney

Sydney Opera House

It is new year’s day in Sydney Australia. We get a late start today because we were up late. Luckily I am not hungover from last night’s celebrations.

After visiting both Melbourne and Sydney I decide Melbourne is more my style but I think I would like Sydney more if I didn’t visit in the middle of their darn summer! It is quite warm here – as is most of my travels lately. However it is nice to be with family though. It is also nice to travel with someone who is compatible with my travel style right now. Prior to my sabbatical I would take 2 week or shorter trips where I would book every moment moment possible with stuff to do. I cannot do that type of travel on this trip or I will burn out. It helps to travel with someone who has already been to Sydney and doesn’t have an urge to see everything that can be seen.

We didn’t just sit around during our visit though: We crossed off a bucket list item by booking tickets for show at the Sydney Opera house on New Years Day. We witnessed great performers singing opera hits.

What an experience!

Bondi to Coogee

Easily accessible by train and bus we took the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk. It is a beautiful and warm day and the views of the coast are great.

Along our walk we see Sydney ocean pools some of which were constructed in the late 1800’s. They are a very interesting concept. I enjoy looking at them and the different rock formations along the coast.

Are you my friend?

Still in Sydney for a couple more days. I’ll talk more about my visit in one more post!

Arriving in Sydney

I have just arrived in Sydney Australia where I am going to spend about a week. For this visit I will be with family. My cousin and his partner live in Sydney and I am meeting up with them and my aunt who will be joining me from the USA. I’ve been away from family & friends so long so it is nice to break up my solo travel with some family time.

My aunt has arrived before me and secured our shared hotel room. I travel from the airport to our hotel by using public transportation instead of uber or taxi to save some money. There is a train from the airport but I must do a switch at one of the stations. The travel isn’t too bad except it is a little confusing finding my next train with the construction at Central station – I find myself walking back and forth a couple times to find the correct platform. I do finally find my train and arrive to my destination station at Kings Cross in the Potts Point neighborhood. The map shows a short walk to my hotel but 75% of it is completely uphill. Not so much fun with my heavy backpack on a warm day.

Potts point seems like a safe area. Many things are in walking distance and there are some nice cafes nearby. Most importantly we can walk to my cousin’s place from Potts point if we desire.

My first day in Sydney is low key. I get to see my cousin’s apartment in the city. It is in a great location with some good views.

The next morning I wake up and read the news before I start getting ready to walk around town with my aunt and cousin. While I am checking the news I come across an article on the Australian fires, an activity that is normal for me during the last couple weeks. The fires have been quite terrible but in the latest news I read about a fire tornado. A truck has flipped over and a volunteer firefighter from Victoria has died. Shocking as that news is to read it is even more shocking when I realize I recognize the name of the firefighter. A year and a half earlier I traveled to Peru on a tour with him and his wife. During that trip they were celebrating their honeymoon and now they were expecting their first child. I am heartbroken to read the news. Unfortunately I had not kept in touch with the couple directly but we had a Facebook group that was created to facilitate the sharing of group photos. I take some time to pause and reach out to some other tour members to let them know what I had learned. These fires are horrible and are really taking their toll on the country. It leaves me conflicted because I am now in Sydney and today is new years eve. Sydney is known for their fireworks displays. Despite the horrible fire conditions the fireworks are going on as planned. I would not blame Sydney if they cancelled them. A cancelled firework display after I have traveled this far would be disappointing but understandable. The government decides the activity seems low risk since Sydney is sort of protected by the city. The show goes on I guess…

Once we meet up with my cousin we wander around the city a bit today.

We walk across the Sydney harbor bridge. I notice the setup for the fireworks show. The bridge will close later in preparation for the fireworks display.

View of brutalism building . People say it’s ugly but I sort of like it.

We stop at a historic pub for a pint. There is supposed to be a trap door. We have fun looking for it.

Walking through the Royal Botanical Gardens.

My aunt and I head back to our hotel to clean up and grab some snacks and drinks for the evening celebration.

Once at my cousin’s we snack and enjoy the view, patiently waiting for midnight.

We head to the roof and soon the fireworks start.

What a fun once in a lifetime (maybe) experience!

My aunt and I walk back to our hotel since there is no way we’ll be able to pay for surge prices on uber. Luckily there are lots of people out late so it is pretty safe.

Good night!

Last days of Melbourne

As I said before I am loving my time in Melbourne. Keeping in with the theme I am keeping my visit casual and at times lazy. I need the downtime during travel but it always comes with guilt that I didn’t see and do all the things I could have during my stay.

I spend some time wandering around the neighborhood I am staying in.

My apartment building

I once again walk by the large church of St Patrick’s Cathedral.

I walk by the building below and admire the metal terraces. I would have loved to see the inside.

Tasma Terrace

The Old Treasury Building

I also visit the museum in The Old Treasury Building.

City then and now

I view an informative exhibit of aborigines during the gold rush.

I enjoyed the exbibit of Wayward women of Victoria. The exhibit features some women from the turn of the century 1900 who didn’t fit in the moral standards of the time: some are criminals, some are just trying to survive.

Koorie Heritage Trust

Later I walk over to the aboriginal museum Koorie Heritage Trust. It is a small museum but highlights some of the aboriginal history in Victoria.

Melbourne has a replica of the fearless girl statue!

The new Star Wars movie has just be released at the theaters. I decide to head to the nearby theater for a viewing. They sell craft cocktails at the theatre concession.

After the movie I wander around some more local neighborhoods. This time I wander through Fitzroy which is nearby my apartment. It has the same feel as my Collingwood but doesn’t contain as much new construction.

I see housing created out of what seems like shipping crates.

More fun row homes.

And more street art.

I stop at a couple more breweries as time allows.

The first brewery is Fixation Brewing Co. I sip my beer and watch the large dog at the table next to me continually tangle himself with the leash around the chairs.

Molly Rose Brewing is a small brewery where I sneak in one glass before closing.

At some point I end up in a grocery store where I educate myself about the difference between pasta sauce (tomato sauce) and tomato sauce (ketup).

I head back and pack up. The next day I am heading to Sydney. I am taking the skybus to the airport once more but I arrive early for my ride so I wander around the train station for a bit before I catch my flight.

Soon I am on my plane with a nice bottle of wine. See you in Sydney!