As much as I was happy to spend my days lounging around on the beach, I actually spent the majority of my time in Cartagena wandering idly through the old town. I don’t believe I’ve yet to establish a favorite city in South America from an aesthetic standpoint, but I would say that the old town, which lies in stark contrast to the Bocagrande neighborhood, puts Cartagena on top for me.
As one walks up Avenida Venezuela or perhaps by taking the more colorful side road Media Luna, the Plaza de la Paz slowly comes into view with old city walls and a lemon-orange colored clock tower that welcomes further investigation in this section of the town. After accepting the proposition, the plaza opens up into a row of buildings that speak more of the Spanish colonial influence rather than that of the indigenous populations. The artesan and food vendors are scattered about as well to cater to the needs of the wanderlust tourist and as I stepped through, I felt like I was transported back to the time I spent in Sevilla and Valencia last year with the warm colors reminding me of many a breezy Mediterranean night.
The old city walls envelop this wayward grid of colorful buildings as if protecting it from the encroaching development of Bocagrande in the west as opposed to being vestiges of the defense system meant to protect the city from pirates and other opportunists in its infancy in the 16thcentury. The sound of horses’ hooves pattering against the pavement is more pervasive than that of frenzied drivers honking their horns. Walking around during midday when the temperature is searing and most residents and travelers alike are cooling down at the beach or seeking shelter in air-conditioned rooms, there’s almost no sound at all on the streets. I could only enjoy the silence while battling the oppressive heat for a half hour, but in that half hour I blissfully snapped photo after photo with both my camera and mind’s eye to save for later.