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Colombia: Cartagena New Years
31 Dec 2013

We came back to Cartagena for new years! It took many days of debating between Cali, Medellin, and Cartagena, but Cartagena eventually won out with its ocean-front allure and highly-respected party atmosphere. We’re glad we made this decision.

Cartagena has been gaining a lot of momentum with international travellers lately. Some say a visit from Barack Obama last year spurred a lot of interest, but I think the real draw is the party scene. There are plenty of mega upscale hotels and apartments for rent for epic weekend-long brawls. New Years Eve was no exception.

The streets were packed with tourists and locals alike on New Years Eve day and you could practically take a bite out of the anticipation for the festivities to come.

We started our night by meeting up with a group of friends at an Indian restaurant for what turned out to be a surprisingly good dinner. After that we walked through the old city of Cartagena and marvelled at the various street parties that were going on. Some intersections were completely blocked off with cloth-covered tables and stages set up for live salsa music.

Close to midnight we still hadn’t found a good place to view the fireworks. The wall was mostly blocked off due to block parties and we weren’t really convinced that the clock tower plaza would be super fun. Some of our friends offered to see if we could get onto the roof of their hotel, so we walked up to the front door only to be told that there was a private party and we wouldn’t be allowed access.

We persisted, however, and asked if we could go up just to see the fireworks. The staff relented, but told us we had to wait outside while they went to ask.

11:56.

11:57.

11:58.

Holy shit let’s go to the plaza we’re not going to make it.

11:59.

The staff appeared, we were good to go! We leaped up the stairs as we heard explosions already going off all around us and emerged onto a rooftop smack in the centre of the city’s fireworks shows. In every direction we saw massive displays of fireworks blossoming in multitudes of colours. We popped our bottle of champagne and toasted to an amazing start of 2014, salsa’d to the private party’s music we were crashing, and hugged and cheered all around us (even some random Colombian families who were confused but elated to see us).

We then spent the rest of the night exploring Cartagena’s night life, dancing and drinking and dancing the night away, ending in watching a beautiful sunrise over the Cartagena docks with Jambox playing tunes to start the year.

Happy New Year!

Arrival

Dec 31, 2013

from Cali, Colombia

Departure

Jan 04, 2014

to Quito, Ecuador

Weather (Celcius)

Elevation (m)

Flying from Cali to Cartagena

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 09:49

Heading back to Cartagena for New Years! Flying Avianca.

TimeLocation
8:05AMWoke up.
9:01AMGrabbed a cab.
9:25AMAt the airport.
9:52AMChecked in and waiting at the airport.
11:04AMBoarding.
12:47PMLanded!

Alfiz Hotel Boutique

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 14:17

Gran Costeño

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 15:55

Slow service but tasty casados. No plantain on the side. 8000 COP.

Ganesha

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 22:32

With only two days before arriving in Cartagena we were still trying to figure out our new years dinner plans. We had heard that many of the restaurants were already booked up but managed to get a reservation at Oh La La!

New Years Eve day our plans changed. Oh La La! was going to cost over $100 USD per person and this was over budget for many in our group. So at about 6pm we thew caution to the wind and canceled our reservation. Thankfully some people in our group found an Indian restaurant where we’d have an entire room to ourselves (10 people). I was skeptical.

When we arrived at Ganesh we met the rest of our group and proceeded to order some appetizers and drinks. We had brought our own alcohol to spike the lemonades so we were doing pretty well by the time our appetizers arrived.

The food turned out to be really good. There are a number of reviews on tripadvisor harping on the authenticity of the cuisine but given that we’re in Colombia it’s a tough thing to critique. Ravi, the owner, imports many of his spices from India anyway which surely puts Ganesh near the top of the list for authentic Indian cuisine in Colombia.

Throughout the meal Ravi made sure that we had everything we wanted and repeatedly checked in on us to ensure that we were enjoying our food. The entire experience as a result made us feel welcome and we learned a bunch about Cartagena’s restaurant industry.

New Years Parties

Tuesday, December 31, 2013 23:31

As the sun came down in Cartagena the street vendors rolled up their wares and the restaurants rolled out their table cloths. All over the old town, people organized open-air dinners with music, dancing, and white cloth tables. This one in particular was in one of the plazas with plenty of cute Christmas lights decorating the foliage.

Happy New Years!

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 00:06

Tabetai

Wednesday, January 01, 2014 18:55

First dinner of the new year!

Mila Pasteleria

Thursday, January 02, 2014 16:29

Pastry and breakfast shop. Had a milkshake and creme brulet that were both pretty delicious.

Gelateria Paradiso

Thursday, January 02, 2014 17:24

Cafe del Mar

Thursday, January 02, 2014 18:05

My review on tripadvisor:

We stumbled upon this cafe after watching the sun set over the ocean from Cartagena’s walls and were immediately infatuated by its location overlooking the ocean. They have an open terrace with plenty of tables and lounging spots and chill beach music playing over the sound system. We ordered some drinks and grabbed a padded bench table close to the ocean side.

The drinks we ordered sullied the experience. Bad enough to take this place significantly down from a perfect rating because the view isn’t any different than elsewhere on the wall.

We ordered a Cafe del Mar (champagne with Blue Curaçao), a Pina Colada, and a glass of wine. It took about 15 minutes to get our drinks and all of the drinks were a struggle to finish. The Cafe del Mar and Pina Colada were both unnecessarily sweet and the glass of wine did not taste good at all. At close to $10 a drink you’re clearly paying for the view and not the taste.

We left a bit disappointed overall but might come back some day just to have a place to sit and watch the sun set.

Parachute Plane

Thursday, January 02, 2014 17:57

This guy was riding a motor and scooting above the old town of Cartagena.

Cafe de la Trinidad

Friday, January 03, 2014 01:13

This little cafe sits unassumingly to the side of the plaza in Getsemani with only a few tables and chairs set out to watch the nightly antics. We wanted a drink one night while hanging out here and stepped in to look at the menu. It turned out they also had food so we came back for dinner.

Holy crap is their food good. Everything we ordered was delicious and reasonably priced. I had the lasagna, apple pizza, and salad, each of which completely surprised me with both their presentation and flavor.

Definitely not the cheapest food we’ve found in Cartagena, but for the price this place was one of the best meals we had in town.

Restaurante Coroncoro

Friday, January 03, 2014 14:43

Not very good almuerzos. Dirty dishes. Came here because of Lonely Planet and yet again have been led astray. We’re increasingly not trusting any of the reviews in our South America book.

Flying from Cartagena to Quito

Saturday, January 04, 2014 06:19

On our way to Quito! We got stuck with a crazy flight path today and will be making two stops on the way.

TimeLocation
5:40AMWoke up.
6:20AMReady to catch a cab to the airport.
6:29AMIn a cab.
6:44AMAt the airport.
7:18AMChecked in after having issues with our exit tickets (didn’t have the ticket no.).
8:25AMBoarding the plane.
8:45AMTake off! On our way to Bogota.
9:50AMLanded in Bogota.
11:40AMBoarded a bus to the plane.
12:00PMBoarded.
12:27PMWheee! Off to Cali.
1:01PMTouchdown in Cali.
1:20PMWaiting for bags.
1:52PMBags are connecting through it seems. Grabbing lunch now before we check in for our Quito flight.
2:36PMWaiting in line to check in.
3:20PMThrough customs after having a pat down, a metal scan, and our bags searched all after being asked by three different guards where we were going.
5:12PMBoarding to Quito!
5:30PMTake off!
6:24PMLanded in Quito.
6:43PMAt customs.
7:08PMThrough and grabbing a cab.
7:12PMIn a cab.
8:29PMArrived at Community Hostel.

Arrival

Dec 31, 2013

from Cali, Colombia

Departure

Jan 04, 2014

to Quito, Ecuador