Posted by: Debra Kolkka | April 15, 2013

Guest post from super-cool Colombia

My son Brando moved to Greenport, NY in September last year to commence work at a winery and his gorgeous girlfriend, Liz, stayed in Melbourne, Australia to finish up her job before joining him earlier this year.

After four and half months apart they wanted to go somewhere warm to catch up before diving into the depths of a New York winter.

With year-round gorgeous weather, stunning beaches stretching hundreds of kilometres and just a five hour flight from NYC, CartagenaColombia fitted the bill perfectly.

They offered to write a guest post on their three weeks in Cartagena and beyond…meet Brando and Liz.


We reasoned that if Cartagena is muse-enough for the world’s literary master of magical realism Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, surely it would have a decent amount to offer two Aussie travellers looking to escape a NY winter.

Cartagena de Indias has been a base for Márquez throughout his literary career and, like the heady hold Fermina had over Florentino in the Cartagena-inspired “Love in The Time of Cholera”, this city will have you falling obsessively in love within moments of touching down. Well, it did us anyway.


With average year round temperatures of 27.7 degrees, a prime position on the Carribean Coast and one of the most well-preserved colonial old town’s in Latin America, there’s a lot to fall for.

Central to the UNESCO-listed city’s aesthetic are the inescapable bright colours. Royal purple bougainvillea hang over white-washed walls, contrast against pastel painted doors and pop against the postcard-perfect blue skies.

Have a look at some of the vibrant facades that make up the historical districts of El Centro and San Diego:

















And just to ensure the colour spectrum is elevated another echelon, the door of every building seems to be painted yet another contrasting colour…

And every second door has a quirky door knocker crafted as either a lizard, a sun, a lions head or some other cute form like this one here:


Whilst Cartagena comprises several areas including the high-rise dense Miami-like Bocagrande, the highlight for us was unquestionably the old town. Fortified by thick walls or Las Murallas that were built in the late sixteenth century to protect the city from pirates and storms alike.

Cartagena is a rambling space of pristinely preserved colonial churches, bustling cobble-stoned plazas, crumbling mansions  and tiny shops selling everything from coconuts, to antique treasures, jewel coloured woven baskets, dirt-cheap havaiianas and some of the world’s finest emeralds. Whether peering out to sea from the fort-like Las Murallas or down into a beautifully lit up plaza, there really is no such thing as a dull corner in this city.


Plaza De Sandiego


One of many horse drawn carts that ply the streets


View from Las Murrallas back into El Centro


Atop Las Murallas, there is a bar serving cold cervezas and icy mojitos and seating so you can let a few hours slip by gazing out to sea


The old cannons silhouetted as the sun sets


And a band complete with drummers, guitarists and saxophonists added to the entertainment


As we headed back into town we noticed the square had started filling up with people and street food vendors.


And the bars in the old town with people.


And a few hours later, when the bars couldn’t contain the people anymore, they just spilled out onto the street and continued to party on. We LOVE this city!

There is an understated cool in Cartagena from the street art, to the mini library on wheels, to the men playing chess in the streets or the kids baseball, and the toucan that landed on our table whilst having coffee at Hotel Santa Clara the city’s most exclusive hotel (note the Botero sculpture behind the toucan).

Even the garbo’s walk the streets in style…


And a close up look at our friend the toucan because he is so gorgeous


Speaking of friends, we met a few new ones in this welcoming city.

But some particularly helped make our trip extra amazing!

Wine guru Mileth. Donald, the best mojito-maker in the city, was very impressed with Brando’s dreadlocks and Gloria, who made us the most delicious breakfasts every day.

Marco, all round legend and owner of Casa Marco Polo, where we stayed in Cartagena. And fellow Aussie but now Cartagena resident Kristy Ellis. Kristy runs a little boutique tour company that can help you plug into the best this vibrant city has to offer so if you feel inspired to get travelling you can contact Kristy at Cartagena Connections

Well that was fun, our first ever blog post! Our follow up post will talk a bit about the food of Colombia and the amazing places we ventured to outside of Cartagena like Tayrona National Park and La Guajira peninsula.

Thank you Brando and Liz for a fun trip to Cartagena…I want to go!  I can’t wait to see part 2.


  1. A wonderful tribute to a special part of the world – makes me want to see it for myself!

  2. Gorgeous photos–the colors leap off the screen. Great shots of doors in the montage, too. The contrast between the saturated building paint and the woodwork and hardware is spectacular. Pretty enticing . . .

    • It certainly makes me want to go there…soon.

  3. What a scrumptious post! A wonderful time together and vivid memories. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What a great place – and a lovely idea for a post. Door lover’s heaven too!

    • There is something wonderful about old doors.

  5. How fabulous to hear from Brando and Liz! Thank you for taking us on holidays with you! What a vibrant, gorgeous city! 🙂

    • Cartagena looks like a great place to visit. Thanks Brando and Liz for taking us along.

  6. What a beautiful and colorful place.

    • It looks like an amazing place to visit…I want to go!

  7. A rainbow of bright colors and invigorating memories.
    Thank you very much for sharing.

    • I had no idea Cartagena would be so lovely. I’m so glad Brando and Liz took us along with them.

  8. So awesome I’m switching — goodbye Deb !

    • You’re terrible Richard.

  9. Your pictures and descriptions have confirmed what I always thought – Cartagena is THE place to visit!

    • When are you going Francis?

  10. Incredible colours!

    • The colours make everything look happy and alive.

  11. Hi Brando and Liz, so lovely to see your faces in some of the pictures. What an appealing place Cartagena is, so vibrant, friendly and colourful! I’ve never heard of Cartagena, so, you’ve well and truly put the town on the map. I particularly love the bold colours of the houses along the streets and the rambling bouganvillea tumbling from the pretty balconies. Thank you for sharing with us. Will look forward to the next segment. Continue to enjoy your travels.

    • I had heard of Cartagena but knew nothing about it, what a lovely surprise.

  12. I don’t know anything about Colombia. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful vacation in Cartagena with us. Sheesh what colors! And I love the architecture.
    Very nice to meet you too!

    • It is a beautiful place and seems friendly too.

  13. A handsome couple and a beautiful, colorful city. Great combination = great post! Congratulations!

    • I hope they will do more posts for me. There was a recent trip to San Sebastian that needs to be covered.

  14. Stunning! I can see you had a lot of fun – great food and special evenings!

    • Cartagena looks like a fun place to visit.

  15. I love the colours. The photos are outstanding. Great post

    • The cloures of the buildings are amazing.

  16. This post makes me want to go there! I love the colourful buildings 😀

    • It makes me want to go to Cartagena too!

  17. I didn’t know much about Cartagena, so thank Brando and Liz for sharing the beauty and fun.

    • I can’t wait to see Part 2.

  18. looks a gorgeous and colourful place to visit… must add it to my bucket list!

    • Cartagena looks like a lot of fun.

      • Love this post! I want to go. Thank you!

  19. So many colours! You can definitely see the Caribbean influence!!

    • It looks so bright, happy and colourful.

  20. Gorgeous, gorgeous photos! Is that Toucan for real???
    We almost included Cartagena in our South America itinerary two years ago, but cancelled last minute for lack of time. This post makes me regret that decision very much. Thank you Liz & Brando 🙂

    • It looks too beautiful to be real…he looks as though he has been painted there.

  21. Hi everyone, this is Liz of Liz and Brando : ) Thanks for your lovely feedback on our blog post. Honestly, Cartagena is one of the coolest cities I’ve been to and I’ve been to a fair few. If anyone lives stateside JetBlue runs really well priced flights and direct from NY (or Miami)… our return ticket cost $400 each! Thanks again for your kind words!!

  22. Wow, what place and that Toucan is quite extraordinary – he seems to think he’s photogenic too. Can’t wait to hear about the food.

    • Cartagena sounds like a place I want to go to…if only for the toucans.

  23. What a colourful place – love the doors- love the travel notes -and particularly enjoyed meeting Liz. Brando has his Mum’s passion for travel and places exotic and obviously Liz shares this passion. Best wishes to both of you. Hurry along with Part 2 . Thanks

  24. So vibrant and full of colour, looks like such a happy place 🙂

    • It certainly looks like a fun place to go.

  25. […] from stunning Cartagena which we covered in our last post (click here to see the first post on Cartagena) we travelled north to two other major destinations; the iconic […]

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