Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas Cruise
Columbia, Bonaire, Curacao and Aruba
March 10th – 17th, 2013

March 11th

Cartagena, Colombia

We arrive and sit waiting for the paperwork to be completed. For some reason the ships in dock – ours and the Coral Princess are having challenges with the security people this trip. It was a short wait then off we went to explore some of the old walled city of Cartagena. They have a shuttle service from the ship to the port shop but we walked the short distance. Before entering the shop there are wonderful gardens to look at, filled with parrots and flamingos. I could not remember the flamingos looking as pink as they did this time…just beautiful against the colours of the plant material. Once outside the shop we found a cab to take us to the old clock, the usual meeting point where it is easy to get a cab going back to the ship. The ship sails tonight at 9 so we had plenty of time. Walking around the quaint cobblestone streets you cannot help but look up – up at the balconies laden with bougainvillea in all shades. The streets are narrow and sidewalks can some times be filled with people walking or tables set for people wanting to have a drink or meal. Each doorway brings with it a surprise…perhaps a restaurant hidden in the center with sunlight beaming down on the umbrellas, or a person standing at a counter which is really the entrance to a posh B & B, or shops full of cotton and linen, jewelry and accessories. There are some pretty cool shops opening on these streets, lots of boutique hotels and wonderful little cafes to sit and enjoy lunch at. We got hot and tired and decided it was time to slip into one of these cafes for a local beer. Then we saw the list of ceviches and decided to try one. Wippy is the name of the café owned by a friendly family and quite small really. It has some very unusual ceviches. The one we ordered was called Acapulco. The shrimp and corvina are marinated in lemon, orange, honey, olive oil, black olives, capers, diced tomatoes, oregano, coriander, salt and pepper. Served with crackers it was the perfect light lunch. Off we set again to explore, refreshed and happy…I love the colours of this city, the architecture, the people quietly hawking their products on the streets. Round each corner you find such variety….and so many door knockers!! I was in heaven as I sure didn’t remember this many before, nor the size of them…they were huge! I started taking photos of them a few years ago and here was a treasure trove. Colour coordinated painted walls and bougainvillea…it took my breath away. We found a flower market too. It was the first time we had ever seen one…full of fresh and artificial flowers…took a couple bunches of the fresh ones back to the ship with us.

Our dinner this evening would be at one of the new restaurants called Giovanni’s. We arrived and were seated next to the window. Our bread plate was filled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then topped off with freshly grated parmesan cheese. A minute later warm fresh bread, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside was brought to us in a basket…then we taste. Wow, the balsamic vinegar is just so different, thick and sweet. It tastes so good with the oil and cheese. Tom has found his wine too, Aussieres Rouge and it tastes wonderful. A great beginning to our meal. We both order the scallops in a hazelnut crust, tender and sweet. Then for our main Tom has gnocchi in a mix of cheeses including bleu and he loves it. I order ravioli stuffed with Maryland crab and sweetcorn and served with a crabmeat sauce. It was delicious. The service was perfect, the food was perfect and we wondered why it was not a packed restaurant…it should have been. This is a must for anyone. After a desert each which we didn’t need it was back to our room to be greeted by the first of our towel friends, the elephant.

Founded in 1533, Cartagena de Indias is full of beauty and history. Gold and emeralds flowed through the port and when this proved to be a bit of a problem the city built a massive wall around the city, and a chain of forts guarded the harbor. San Felipe de Barajas, the fortress of fortresses, still stands and even kept the daunting fleet of England at bay. Today this city is a photographers dream and a shoppers delight. There is a very large sculpture by Fernando Botero of Gordita laying in the Plaza Santa Domingo by the Santo Domingo Church. It is not hard to miss…

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