Atardecer is a word that I quickly learnt when I moved to Cartagena. The definition in Spanish could be: "Llegar la última hora de la tarde, cuando disminuye la luz del sol." Twilight, nightfall, dusk, whatever you want to call it, in Cartagena atardacer is the best part of the day. The temperature gets more bearable, and you can finally truly enjoy being outside. After a day of work or tourist touring in the heat, it is time to cool down. And what could be better than to sip a cold beer, a glass of wine or a tasty cocktail, on a terrace in the early evening breeze? Well, nothing really. These are my favorite atardecer-spots, go try out and share your experience in the comments.
Women traveling alone seems to be the hot topic in the travel world. At 25, a recent Uni graduate and ready to start a career, I announced that I was about to leave for Latin America. I wanted to do something completely different, and had decided to travel in Cuba and then volunteer with a non-profit organization in Colombia. An independent Scandinavian girl, living in international, gender-equal and open-minded Europe, I still got more than enough of rolling eyes and perplexed (read: annoying) questions: “Shouldn’t you be settling down and doing something serious?” “Alone, don’t you have a boyfriend or friends to travel with?” and “To Colombia! That’s way too dangerous for a girl!”
Sure, I could have found a job and started a responsible adult life, but I didn't. Also, I like a lot traveling with my friends, don't get me wrong, but this time I wanted to really challenge myself and experience it on my own. And it was great. However, to truly understand how it is to choose a different path, and despite a general disapproval become a vibrant, cosmopolite woman traveler, I would like you to meet my friend Aida. She is a not-so-typical 30-something Bolivian, with a big heart and big dreams. Embark the adventure and discover what she has to share with other solo woman travelers, and those who aspire to be like us.
That is one thing that I really can't understand. Last year when I lived in Cartagena, many people were enthusing about Tierra Bomba, how great it is as a relaxed Sunday beach destination, and how much easier it is to get there than to Playa Blanca. All this is true, I know it now. I think I just liked Playa Blanca so much (I still do though), and when I didn't want to go far I contented myself with city beaches in Bocagrande, Marbella and La Boquilla (but they are not as nice). For some reason I didn't try out Tierra Bomba until this year on my holidays in Cartagena. But once I did, it was hard to bring me back to the mainland.
That is the small and idyllic fishermen's village Rincon del Mar, perfectly located on a white-sand beach and next to the sublime San Bernando islands, one of Colombia's treasures. In the department of Sucre, a short bus and moto-taxi ride south from the magical city of Cartagena, awaits Rincon and the staff of hostel Mamallena, who will welcome you with open arms to stay with them for a couple of relaxing days (or longer if you feel so...). Wake up with the sun rising over the Caribbean Sea. Take a day-trip to a nearby island. Go kayaking, snorkelling or paddle-boarding in the turquoise water. Spend a lazy afternoon tanning and reading a book in a hammock. Be sportive and go horseback riding around the town with a local guide. Admire the sunset on the terrace with your new Mamallena friends. Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach, and fill your stomach with delicious and affordable shrimps, lobster and coconut rice. And then, just have a good night of sleep. Sounds tempting? It does, I know.
These past 5 months back in Paris have gone in a blur. After two relaxing weeks of holidays, wandering around in sunny Paris and reuniting with my friends and family, I started a new job and was forced to readapt to a 9 to 5-schedule and to a life full of responsibilities. Those careless days traveling around the Caribbean coast of Colombia were soon far behind. In many ways life in Paris is great. For starters, I am lucky to have a job that I like and an apartment that I love (none of these is a given here), and amazing friends to spend time with. I appreciate the everyday luxury of hot showers, real supermarkets, cleanliness and absence of mosquitos, as well as the possibility to walk around in (almost) any neighborhood without worries.
We don’t have a sea or beaches here but les quais de Seine are always as beautiful to stroll on. Yet to speak of the endless narrow cobble stone streets, parks and beautiful buildings, small cute boutiques one after another. The old city of Cartagena is a lot like a miniature Paris, and maybe that is why I liked it so much there. Moreover, being back I’ve noticed how much I enjoy the Parisian lifestyle and being a bon vivant. Going out, not only on weekends but on any day of the week, discovering the overwhelming choice of restaurants, bars and (roof top) terraces. Drinking wine and eating terrible amounts of bread and cheese. In the beginning I just let myself be free. I had missed it so much and I told myself that it was ok to enjoy the end of the summer and to go out almost every evening. Now I’m trying to control myself at bit more but sometimes I just don't care, I hear somebody even said that a glass of wine per day is good for health. This is the part of Paris that I love. There are so many different neighborhoods, so many different things to do, so many lovely places to see. In no amount of time could I ever get bored of Paris. I know this is the city where I am supposed to live.
Salsa, Reggeaton, Champeta, Bachata... Thanks to D's zumba classes, traveling to Cali, and going out in Bazurto Social Club, I have done a lot of dancing these past 5 months. I had already started very well with Dance Hall in Jamaica (thanks J and Kingston dancers for teaching me!) and some Salsa in Cuba and it was great to be able to dance more in Colombia and make it part of my weekly program. Dance Hall music I will leave to J but here comes a list of songs that I heard all the time in Colombia, and that will always remind me of not only dancing but in general about my happy times spent there. When the autumn comes and its cold, dark and rainy, turn on these latino rhythms and melodies and I'll promise they will get you in a better mood.
This is what Lonely Planet writes as an introduction about Cartagena: "Cartagena de Indias is the undisputed queen of the Caribbean coast, a fairy-tale city of romance, legends and superbly preserved beauty lying within an impressive 13km of centuries-old colonial stone walls. Cartagena's old town is a Unesco World Heritage site – a maze of cobbled alleys, balconies covered in bougainvillea, and massive churches that cast their shadows across plazas." - in short: a perfect place to live.
I hate goodbyes. And I'm not going to wallow in the sadness that I feel about leaving, I'm sure most of you know how it is and can relate to my pain, there is no need to write chapters about that. It seems unreal that my time in Cartagena and Colombia has come to an end, I'm confused, I don't even realise it yet. I've been traveling around so much lately that in a way it feels like this is just another little trip. Even if I have more luggage than usually, got into a minor ESTA confusion at the check in desk (S wanted me to stay here and was planning on tying me up to a hammock so that I would not be able to leave, well I almost had to stay because they didn't find my ESTA and wouldn't let me board the plane), and for the first time went to the "Salidas internacionales" side of Cartagena airport, I still don't really get it. But here I am, on the plane on my way to Miami. With my surfing teacher F we used to lay on our surfboards in the sea by La Boquilla beach and watch planes take off and fly over us. Today I could see La Boquilla beach from the plane window and I really can't believe it: I'm leaving Colombia.
I'm back in Cartagena and very very happy about it. Even better, S is back as well, and my Cali friends A, S and E came to visit. Perfection. I'm going traveling again starting from tomorrow, thus these have been my almost last days in Cartagena. That is of course why time runs and days just pass by. I don't sleep enough because I'm somewhere all the time and before I notice it is already past midnight. But I'm really making the most of the time I can spend with my friends in this beautiful city. Too soon it will be over and even if I'm a little bit excited about returning to Paris, leaving also feels impossible. But let's not think about that yet, but just enjoy. Here are some pictures from these past days.
I am on holidays now, and it feels great even if I already miss work, La Boquilla and the La Vecina kids. Time really flies by, I have only one month left in Colombia and I intend to make the most of it. Only one month left by the Caribbean Sea also means that I just have to spend as much time as possible on the beach and in the waves. Thus, on Friday we decided with my friend K to hop on a bus and go explore a nearby town called Manzanillo del Mar, where our friend A lives. Manzanillo is a very small town and there is not much to do - other than spend time at the beach. But that worked perfectly for us. Then on Saturday I finally made the trip I had planned for a long time, I stayed one night at the beautiful beach of Playa Blanca, a 1-hour bus ride outside Cartagena. For some reason I had slept really bad the whole week and really needed to take a rest. Also, the last days at work were emotionally very hard and I really wanted to get out from Cartagena, be alone, clear my head and stop crying about having to leave La Vecina and my little loved ones. Sunbathing, sea breeze, crystal-clear water and walks along the beach did the job: I slept well and didn't think of anything. Now I have regained some energy and am ready to travel to Medellin tomorrow!
Time flies by and on Thursday it was time for me to say goodbye to Fundación La Vecina, the most adorable kids, and the whole community I have grown to love and think of as a family. My 4-month Experteering mission was everything I hoped for, and more. I got to know a whole new world in La Boquilla, discover the Education field, participate in and manage many interesting projects and challenge myself as a teacher. Working with Colombians was an other experience, in good and bad. Mostly, however, I remember everyone I collaborated with being extremely friendly and welcoming.
A few weeks ago I wrote a story for Moving Worlds, the organisation through which I found this project with La Vecina in Cartagena. It got a bit shorten in the end but I still think it sums up quite well my thoughts about these past months, you can take a look at my post on their blog here. Thanks guys for inviting me to join your team as a guest blogger!
I'm Emilia, Finnish-Parisian, a recent Master's graduate. I'm currently traveling around the Caribbean and on a volunteering mission in Colombia. I'm passionate about writing, music and different kinds of sports. I can't wait to discover new places and cultures - and share my adventures with you!