letter from South America – Cartagena


The weather is warm and the air is thick.  Feels like a Caribbean paradise to me, but I am actually in Colombia.  As they say, there are two sides to every story and the city of Cartagena embraces both its Caribbean side and its South American core. I can’t wait to dive in and see what there is all over this glorious city. Happy that this trip is only a short flight from the southern part of the United States but  as I landed, it was easy to see that it was a world apart. And thank goodness for that.  It’s the reason we travel, explore and look forward to every new adventure.

 This northern, coastal city of Colombia is teaming with history, culture, vibrance, charm and hospitality. It’s easy to relax and unwind here.  Safety is not an issue.  As a solo traveler, I feel quite safe day and night, strolling the cobble-stoned streets of the ancient walled-city.  What would anywhere else be considered a cacophony of color is what first grabs your attention and draws you down each street from one fabulous shop to the next.  From a cevicheria or La Cevicheria (a must on your trip here) As the sun sets, I was drawn to climb the wall, which is allowed up until dark,  and overlook the Caribbean Sea to behold the site we often take for granted… another fabled sunset, but this time from Cartagena.

 As I turn to make my way back I preparation for the evening, the painted walls of the buildings and homes that contour these winding roads, fade into subliminal tranquility just as naturally as they brought the same streets to life during the bright sunlight of the afternoon. There’s a nurturing warmth, not only in the air but in the glow of dimly lit buildings that delineate my path back to the hotel. Cartagena has all the tourist trappings, emeralds and pre-Colombian jewelry, but never in overdose as it is balanced by hand painted art and hand-woven hats and bracelets, the offerings are diverse, eye-catching and often times too good to pass up.  Packing with this in mind will serve you well.  Many a tourist wind up in the dilemma of having to wear multiple hats stacked one upon the other, to avoid extra baggage charges.  Don’t be that guy! Plan a-head!

From bustling city life, just outside the walled city, to a step back in time, inside the walls, old melds with new and transition is easy. Today, I set out to find the cheeky bits, no pun intended. They are only a boat-ride away.   With several island to choose from, I selected Rosario Island, or as known locally — Islas del Rosario.  Say it with flourish, it’s Spanish, you can do it. This little treasure is only one of the several island escapes just off the coast of this South American country.  

Here is where you’ll find those silky blue waters and soft white sand that the region is famous for.  Sure, there are beaches just steps from the walled city, but if you seek that “Caribbean look” then you’ll see why many visitors to Cartagena seek after these islands and I am definitely not the exception.  I need to make Colombia a part of my annual vacation schedule, yes, that’s a thing, people have all sorts of schedules, I simply choose to name one of them my vacation schedule.

 You should make ne and put Cartagena firmly at the top of that newly minted list.  I have to get back to the hotel and shower before heading for an evening out, bar-hopping and popping back in to what has become one of my favorite dinner spots.  I’m not giving that secret away…you’ll have to search the pages to see what I may or may not repeat a few times in this issue.  If you guess it, send me a tweet or post a picture of yourself to our instagram @SwankyRetreats.  I’ll be sure to make a comment on that post!

Te veo pronto,



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