Dioramas for Days

Today there was thankfully no morning music to wake us up.  We instead were able to sleep in a bit more before getting up and heading back into Old Town to find some breakfast.  The town was till very empty with most of the shops closed and we decided we liked Cartagena better this way, rather than overrun with tourists like it is in the afternoons.  We found a nice patio cafe and each had a passion fruit juice and a fried egg arepa.

After breakfast we headed over to the Inquisition Museum where it was surprisingly free to enter.  We fought against the tour groups and made our way through the museum.  We had intended to get audio guides to add some context but the office had been closed (maybe because it’s Sunday?) and so we made do with poorly translated signs and what we overheard from the tour groups.  It was not a very elaborate museum, and while nicely decorated, it did not contain a whole lot of information about the Inquisition.  Afterwards we headed upstairs to another section about the history of Cartagena, this time exclusively in Spanish, though it did feature some very nice and elaborate dioramas showing how various buildings were constructed.  We quickly made our way through again, not getting a whole lot out of it, and then stopped to listen to a student string band that had begun playing in the courtyard for a little while.  They were quite good but between each song their teacher would lecture the crowd for a good ten minutes about we have no idea what before going into the next two minute song.  The music to talking ratio was not to our liking so we left and headed back into the city.

Very intricate dioramas showing how the buildings were constructed.
Very intricate dioramas showing how the buildings were constructed.
The music teacher during one of his long lectures between songs.
The music teacher during one of his long lectures between songs.

We next headed over to the naval museum to learn more of the history of Cartagena and how it became a critical hub of colonial Spanish shipping.  We paid our entry fee and walked in only to learn that this time there were not even poorly translated signs.  We tried reading some Spanish here and there but quickly grew tired of it and instead just looked at the tens of dioramas that this museum also had depicting forts and the various defensive structures of Cartagena.  Upstairs we found a museum dedicated to Colombia’s navy and while it looked like it featured some very fun exhibits, it was a bit disorienting with a cacophony of ship based sounds resonating from every display.

Having exhausted our tolerance for museums, we set off to get some lunch at the place we had tried for dinner last night.  We were able to find two seats without a reservation and ordered some recommendations from our waiter off of the chalkboard menu.  Lynn ordered pan seared sea bass with coconut rice and fried plantains and I got something called Posta Cartagenera which seems to be overcooked pork with a sweet dark sauce over it.  Both were a bit disappointing and we were glad we had ended up at the other restaurant for dinner last night.

After lunch we walked along the beach to the tip of the peninsula that Cartagena is on.  This area is where most Colombians go to vacation and where the fancy high rise hotels and condos are located.  During the whole walk a very strong wind whipped sand off the beach and into our faces and covered us in a nice dusting of it. The beach also didn’t look very nice and the sand, though very fine (all the better to coat us with) was an ugly grey mixture of sand, dirt, and trash.  There were little popup bars every quarter mile or so and we did enjoy the tarps for rent that seemed much sturdier in the strong wind than umbrellas would have been.  Once we reached the tip we decided we didn’t really like it here and headed back into the old town.  We took a different road back, removed from the wind and sand of the beach, and enjoyed it a lot more.  Along this road we found all the patio restaurants we had been expecting.  Clearly they were well aware of the wind on the beachfront street and located themselves well away from it.

The dirty beach at the tip of the Boca Grande.
The dirty beach at the tip of the Boca Grande.
The buildings looked a lot like Florida again.
The buildings looked a lot like Florida again.

Back in the colorful old town we headed towards a restobar (that’s one of our new favorite words) on top of the old city wall and pulled up a high table with views of the sunset.  We had some cuba libres and mojitos while we watched some kite surfers getting massive air as the sun set behind them.

Lynn enjoying the sunset and the brisk Caribbean breeze.
Lynn enjoying the sunset and the brisk Caribbean breeze.
Kite surfing into the sunset. These were by far the most impressive kite surfers we have ever seen.
Kite surfing into the sunset. These were by far the most impressive kite surfers we have ever seen.

Around 7.00 we were starting to get hungry and headed over to La Cevicheria because we have both decided you can never have too much ceviche.  There was a bit of a wait and settled down on a street curb across the street and watched the goings on of the patio diners.  Our favorite was a table of four people where all through dinner one was on a Facetime call, one was on his phone, one on her iPad, and the fourth girl looking very bored off into the distance because she has the rudest three friends on the planet.

When it was our turn, we sat down just in time to watch another very impressive break dancing show hold up traffic in the street right in front of us.  The things these people can do, and on cobblestone streets no less, is truly impressive and slightly painful looking.

Lynn waiting on the curb to be called for our table. There was a steady stream of taxis and horse drawn carriages who were all very good about not hitting us.
Lynn waiting on the curb to be called for our table. There was a steady stream of taxis and horse drawn carriages who were all very good about not hitting us.
A table of awful dinner friends. Not pictured: girl on her iPad who was in the bathroom.
A table of awful dinner friends. Not pictured: girl on her iPad who is blocked by the very bored one.

Fully entertained, we ordered a ceviche and a seafood, mozzarella thing in tomato sauce.  Both were kind of disappointing, especially from a restaurant famous for its ceviche.  Anthony Bourdain even visited here (which they are very proud to tell you about).  Our top ceviches, we decided, have all been from Peruvian restaurants so if you’re ever in South America those are the places to go.

After dinner we were exhausted from a long day of walking around town and headed home to bed.

La Cevicheria. Very lovely exterior lighting. Mediocre food.
La Cevicheria. Very lovely exterior lighting. Mediocre food.
Despite there being a ceviche named after me, we did not order it.
Despite there being a ceviche named after me, we did not order it.

Daily Walking Mileage : 12.4 miles

Fun Facts:

  • In addition to the dinner table of cell phone addicts we also saw the world’s saddest bachelorette party.   There were seven of them, none of whom we ever saw talk to each other, and at all times at least 4 were on their phones.  The others would be staring off into space until they would also pull out their phones.  One even was just listening to music with headphones for a while.
  • To help protect the city, Cartagena built an elaborate series of underwater walls too shallow for boats to sail over.  As invading ships tried to attack they would get stuck on these underwater traps and be sitting ducks for the city’s cannon.  Of course, we learned this through some lovely dioramas.
  • Assassins Creed: Black Flag did an excellent job of recreating Spanish colonial forts.  Everywhere we go in this city it feels like you are in the game.

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