Our second day in Colombia was full of history! In the morning we walked around, ate gelato, and accidentally left Old Town in our stroll (oops!). We also met some awesome new friends- students, well on their way to becoming English teachers in Colombia, who spoke beautiful English! They helped us order our lunch, and we enjoyed a wonderful chat!
We then caught a cab and headed for the Dorado Hotel to enjoy a bus tour to some of the historical sites that Cartagena has to offer!
The tour proved more interesting than we anticipated! The booking agent sat us right up on the tall front seat of the open aired bus, beside the driver and tour guide. We found out promptly that most Colombian tourists are Central and South Americans, so we turned out to be the only two English speaking tourists present! For the first 15 minutes or so we were busy driving down the streets of Cartagena, taking in the architecture and doing our best to pick out words from the rapid Spanish that the guide was communicating in! Colombian Spanish is, of course, different from Mexican Spanish in accent, which makes it difficult for us to pick out words. We were surprised at how few people speak English here. We were cracking up and deciding that it was going to be a very interesting four-hour tour, when the guide turned to us and spoke in beautiful English, giving us the short version of that he had been telling the other guests.
Our first stop was at the Old Shoes, which are simply a huge pair of shoes, which the city built in honor of a man named Carlos Lopez. From what we could gather, Lopez wrote a poem about how Cartagena is better than old shoes, or something of that nature, that became famous. Upon doing further research, we understood that he actually wrote that Cartagena was like old shoes, comfortable and well worn. This of course makes far more sense.
Our next destination was the gorgeous Santa Cruz Monastery atop the 500 foot high La Popa Hill. Mom was able to get on a donkey there (scavenge complete!), as we made our way from the bus to the monastery. What a spectacular building! Founded in 1607, it still houses priests in the upstairs area! The downstairs is open to tourists and holds beautiful plants, spectacular architecture, and an incredible view from the outdoor area! It also boasts the Virgin of Candelaria painting, which the locals traditionally petitioned to for deliverance from disease. And pirates. The alter within the chapel is gold plated and spectacular!
After we savored this historic area, we moved on to another mind-blowing piece of history known as the Castillo de San Felipe. Our guide pulled us aside and explained that the fortress was first constructed because invaders would have to take that hill to get to the city (as they did in 1544, 1560 and in 1586, when they sacked the city). They built it in stages under different leaders, and contains a multitude of steps and passageways through the walls, where the defenders would hide and shank the enemy as they came through. Commissioned in 1603, they broke ground in 1657 and expanded in 1762. It took 245 tons of gold to complete the construction.
We returned to Old Town after our adventure, freshened up, and had a sundowner at the Café del Mar on the wall. After a fabulous dinner of shrimp scampi (another scavenge), we headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. The next day we were to head back to the USA, specifically Miami, and the end of our adventure with the 2015 Global Scavenger Hunt.