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.

A Wedding Tasting

Two good friends of mine are getting married in less than two weeks. I am very excited about the wedding. The wedding is local but we are choosing to do a stay-cation at a local resort and spend the weekend hanging out. Many of these friends I have known for many many years. It should prove to be a fun weekend. As part of the wedding preparation my friend had a wedding menu tasting at the resort and she invited me along for the fun.

For the tasting we met with the coordinator and she took us back to a tasting room in the kitchen to meet the kitchen manager, the sous chef, and all the other chefs responsible for the different dishes.
They carefully explained each part of the menu. We learned how the dishes were prepared. For this wedding they have to cater to vegetarians/vegans, provide choices for those with gluten intolerance, and accommodate many food allergies. The menu was customized to accommodate these needs as well as provide dishes for discriminating tastes. It is a very well thought out menu.

Prior to the food tasting we were provided with some bubbly and bread and butter.

The bread was good but the butter was where it was at. The butter had a story!! The chef met a lady in Maine who made her own butter from the cows on her farm. The grass is irrigated with the salty air from the ocean. The cows graze on the grass and the end result is this salty tasty butter. The chef liked it so much that now she provides butter for all the hotels. Her farm has grown considerably as a result. I love food with a story.

We started by tasting the hors d’oeuvres that will be passed around during cocktail hour. We got to try all in the list but were tasked to narrow it down to our four favorites.

On our first pass we tried the Edamame Hummus on a plantain crisp, the grilled vegetable bruschetta, and the chicken salad Gougere.

All of the preceding group was good but the hummus was the standout. Such simple ingredients but so much flavor. I would love to steal this hummus recipe.

For the second group of appetizers we sampled the braised beef over polenta, bacon wrapped date, corn fritter, and a chicken arepa.

Of the second group I loved the bacon wrapped date and the braised beef over polenta. Blue cheese was used in both those appetizers. While I am not a blue cheese fan I found it palatable in these flavorful appetizers. The huckleberry jam that accompanied the bacon date is made in house.  (I was pleased to find out later that they sent us home with samples of both the butter and the jam!!!)
The corn fritter was good but I couldn’t see myself eating more than one of them and I always find the “arepa” breads to be too filling as well.  I did enjoy the chicken on the arepa.

Next we got small samples of all four salads on the menu. I love salads, especially when they are made of lettuces other than iceberg and romaine. I can tell I will be chowing down on these salads at the wedding.

Finally we move on to the main dishes. I am so full already but I muster up the space for these risottos…

and pad thai ….

and this chicken taco and rice ….

Finally we move on to the finale. We got to sample 4 different cakes.
The first two were gluten free. I am not a cake person but I might be a fan of gluten free cakes. I prefer my cakes more dense than spongy so these were perfect. My favorite was the yellow cake with lemon curd, limoncello, and raspberries. I might be able to eat a couple pieces of that wedding night!! I am glad my friend chose it as one of her two choices.

During the tasting they spoke to us about the farm on site and how it is used to provide ingredients for many of the dishes in the hotel. I really get excited about farm to table so this was up my alley.
Finally they talked about the new brewery and restaurant that was being constructed currently. Not only is beer brewed on site but the hops are grown on the farm!! I am excited about checking that out soon.

The wedding will be at the JW Marriot Grande Lakes in Orlando. If you are looking for a venue for your upcoming wedding, the JW Marriot would be a great choice. The food is magnificent and they will take care of you.

New Orleans Wedding

New Orleans is a wonderful city. I used to get my fix almost yearly when I would visit for Jazz Fest. Now it seems hard to fit in a Jazz Fest trip with all my other travel plans. My last visits have been limited to visiting my friend who lives close by the city and to attend a New Orleans wedding.

After a romantic proposal in the city, my friends S1 and S2 decided to get married there. It was a dream of S2 to get married in the beautiful Saint Louis Cathedral. Luckily there were both Catholic and able to do so.

We started the trip with some fun on the town. We hung out on Bourbon Street. Somehow I always seem to end up there even though those bars are not my favorite and I really want to make it down to Frenchman Street someday.
The night is started at Pat O’Briens and hurricanes must be had with good friends.

We then headed down to a couple dance clubs. One of which a couple in the group got to ride a mechanical bull (sorry no good pictures of this). The other was with this dude who hit on everything and would not leave anyone alone.

We got to do some of the normal tourist things on this trip. A walk around the French quarter exposed many talented street musicians.

We were also there close to the superbowl the year New Orleans Saints made it for the first time. There was a wonderful street parade to commemorate it. I have pictures from that in a separate post.

The main event was the wedding at Saint Louis Cathedral. The ceremony was beautiful. It was charming to have an old school Catholic priest to tell them that good Catholics should have many children.

The surprise for all the quests to participate in a Second Line immediately following the ceremony.

It was a cold January day so the second line was cut short and brought indoors to continue the party.

Following the second line party, we continued into the ballroom in the Bourbon Orleans Hotel to finish the reception.

So much fun the reception was that I forgot to take some good pictures. But trust me it was a blast.

The next day we once more visited our new favorite breakfast place The Old Coffee Pot.

Of course I do not make a trip to New Orleans without partaking in a bloody mary. This beautiful one was from Stanley Restaurant in Jackson square. New Orleans is one of the few places that utilizes the green bean as part of the bloody mary. Garnishes really make the mary.

Some other sightseeing goodies….

Also on the trip Carlos and I did a voodoo and cemetery tour, but I will save that for another post later.

Love New Orleans!!!