For our day stop in Cartagena, Colombia we decided not to take any official tour that day. Last minute we opted for a smaller tour with the onboard shopping coordinator. The cost was cheap, only $15 per person roundtrip, payable to the driver before returning.
To leave the cruise ship port we were walked through a small zoo area. We didn’t have time to look at the animals, we were told, but we were promised sufficient time at the end of the tour to see the animals. Being an animal lover, passing by the animals and not stopping was a little hard, but I had shopping ahead of me, so that was okay.
We were handed complimentary bottles of water. The weather in November was very humid and hot. It reminded me of Florida weather.
We were quickly loaded into three buses. We were told there would 2 stops. All 3 buses were going to the same 2 stops, but we would rotate around the destinations. Our first stop was a building that had a small museum on the second floor with samples of emeralds from around the world, how the emeralds are minded, and towards the back, there were some workers hand polishing the stones in their factory.
See the green pieces in this huge rock? They’re natural Colombian emeralds!!!
The lower part of this building was a store where you could buy, yes, you guessed it, emeralds. I bought some small earrings. I knew what I wanted so once I saw them, it was a done deal.
Next, we went to what the call Old Cartajena. It’s the historic and older part of town. The buildings are beautiful! You can see the European influence in their structures.
We were told that it was safe to walk the streets in town, but we were closely watched by a group of security guards that were hired by the shopping expert. It makes you wonder.
We were supposed to be at a jewelry store, but since I had already bought the emeralds I wanted, I ventured out into the square to see what I would see. I stumbled across a vendor selling arepas. As a small child, I lived in New Jersey where my mom had a Colombian friend who made arepas for me. I immediately jumped at the chance. Eating street is always a risk, but I thought it was worth it.
What’s an arepa? It’s fried dough that has cheese inside. I’m holding a half eaten one in the picture below. It’s served for breakfast or as a snack. It’s kind of like the Colombian version of a grilled cheese sandwich.
The tour turned out to be very disorganized. One person told us to meet up at the bus. Another told us to wait in front of the jewelry store and another that we wouldn’t leave until 30 minutes later than we did. We wasted a lot of time trying to not get left behind and trying to find out where we actually had to meet our group.
Once back on the bus we headed back to the port where we were free to explore the small animal zoo and of course, buy souvenirs on our ways back to the ship. We were told there was a sloth somewhere up on a tree, but we never saw it. We did see monkeys, anteaters, toucans, and macaws. I even got a chance to hand feed one of the toucans.
I wished I had more time in Cartajena. Until next time.