As the sun dips low as we finally get the courage to step outside; our destination the outer wall built to protect against pirates that overlooks the city. Grabbing a couple of ice cold Aguilas, we find a secluded seat as the sun prepares to dive beneath the horizon. No clouds hinder our view, and the beer soothes my parched throat, cooling me and giving me welcome chills in the oppressive heat. We talk little to conserve energy while I luxuriate in the warm palette of colors dancing across my skin, the moist tropical air carries the last rays of sunlight to whisper their farewell and once they have gone, we too depart.
The cobblestone streets are bathed with an amber glow, the light cascading from antique street lights like liquid gold. There is no goal in mind as I bask in the beauty of the colonial lines of the cities architecture. Exploring the depths of the old town, there are buskers, whores, fruit carts and horse carriages decorating nearly every corner; each promising fulfillment to some desire. Archaic vines cascade magenta and tangerine flowers from balconies overhead while music tiptoes from the open windows and leaps with wild abandon into the streets below. Laughter tinkering from around every corner leads us through the streets, its' source never to be found.
We shared beers while waiting for the night to deepen, one turning into two before deciding it was time to depart.
We shared beers while waiting for the night to deepen, one turning into two before deciding it was time to depart. Our first destination was Demente, a hidden gem tucked off the Plaza de Trinidad in the Getsemani district. Nestled in a formerly abandoned brick building, the remnants of its disrepair were incorporated into the design. As a drizzle threatened us through the open rooftop, we sipped elegant Gin and tonics featuring a flavor from home; fever tree tonic. I was delighted by the rocking chair seating and soon found myself bobbing to the upbeat rhythms the bartender had chosen that evening.
It was here we met Rainbow, a British expat running a tourism website called this is Cartagena . He was friends of our friends, and I couldn't wait to see where he recommended we go next. Tapas came and went while the roof was closed as a threat of rain turned into the real deal. While the vibe within was dark and mysterious, our view of the plaza featured lively music and dancing a sharp contrast to the muted interior.
Deciding it was time to move on, Rainbow steered us to the next stop, El Baron. Stepping inside, I was immediately transported to San Francisco. Hip bartenders with slicked parted hair wearing vests and bow ties stirred cocktails behind a bar decorated with live herbs and a variety of tinctures. Practically featuring only standing room in a space the size of a large hallway, we lucked out by snagging the only available barstools as another party left.
We were recommended to try a cocktail called School Fees (a joke between the bartender and Rainbow) inspired by the exorbitant cost of school for children here that causes parents to drink. People continued to pack into the small space as we nibbled on a cheese and charcuterie plate that disappeared as quickly as the rain that had threatened us earlier.
El Baron has a posh vibe, with most of its patrons dressed up, it seemed to be a see and be seen kind of place where almost everyone knows one another. I introduced my friends to Negronis a staple in my cocktail repertoire and something they had never tried before. It was apparent they were a success as one, two and then rounds of the three ruby colored drinks disappeared. The claustrophobia overwhelmed us as hot bodies pushed and pressed against us. Feeling smashed against the bar like a beetle, I was desperate to leave and disappear back into the freedom of the darkness outside.
As Amelia approached, I dropped a sandal behind her deciding to scare her right as she peeked over the ledge into the pit below.
Amelia had promised me toucans in the courtyard and boy did she deliver. He was snoozing peacefully as we attempted to refrain from waking him. With his giant beak tucked under his delicate wing, it was all I could do to refrain from snatching him up and spiriting him away. Deciding we better move on, we ducked into an old chapel adjacent to the courtyard and I discovered this property once was a monastery.
Goofing around in the cavernous space, we delighted in the echoes before discovering a crypt tucked into the corner. As Amelia approached, I dropped to within a foot behind her deciding to scare her right as she peeked over the ledge into the pit below. Her shrieks satisfyingly resounded through the empty space as we giggled like schoolgirls in our silly mood. Discovering confessionals we affected accents and heretically gave and heard confessions for one another each taking turns kneeling on the hard wooden bench provided for the sinners.
Leaving the chapel, we found cools pools to dip our feet in, waterfalls bathed in a red glow and balconies to be explored that looked over the walls of the old city. Realizing we must have been gone for quite some time, we scurried back lest the boys be waiting for too long and arrived just in time to sip our cocktails before the last of the ice had melted.
The night soon ended as it had began, meandering the streets somewhat aimlessly as we headed in the direction of our home for the night, a hostel. The hour was late and street streets still vibrating energetically with the fervor of a wild beast, but it as time to say goodnight and prepare for the next day.