by Javier Arredondo, Travesias
It's no secret that Cartagena has been attracting a glamorous jet-setting crowd for quite some time. But it is mostly the live music scene and the fun you can have here –the people watching helps too - that makes it such an attractive destination. Of course, the sophisticated hotel and restaurant scene with its wonderful food and converted colonial spaces never ceases to surprise and makes the whole experience truly unique.
The live music scene is some of the best you can find. Keep an eye for the opening of Gaira, Guillermo Vives’ live-music restaurant-club that is opening his Cartagena outpost near the Plaza de San Francisco. I have no question that this will become the hotspot for years to come and I can´t wait to listen to the next Shakira.
The plan in Cartagena is quite simple, bar hop and salsa your way through restaurants, bars, squares and even on the ramparts. Take note: in Cartagena it gets more fun after sunset, so get plenty of sleep whenever or wherever you can. Locals and those in the know always make some time for a siesta.
Hotels and private homes in Cartagena share magnificent architecture and a true sense of place that you slowly discover as you walk on the mostly pedestrianized casco antiguo. It is almost a sport to peek through the grand wooden doors of those magnificent homes and look into lush courtyards. One of the best examples of a good architectural restoration is Casa Pestagua, an 11 room boutique hotel that epitomizes the city's particular style. There is a very special feeling of peace and even a sense of history when you sleep in those cool rooms with surprisingly high and - if you are lucky - frescoed ceilings. Casa Pestagua is one of the privileged properties that use original colonial furniture that once belonged to the 17th century house in some of its rooms. This historical setting is ideal to get spoiled in by the impeccable service at the spa or when you eat your meals in the lush, columned courtyard.
Another grand option is to stay at the Charleston Santa Teresa, a former convent that has also been impeccably adapted to a contemporary hotel. Its bar on the square- literally- is one of Cartagena’s favourite places for large and sumptuous parties. Make sure you go to the rooftop to admire the rooftops, cupolas and bell towers that dot the city. With so much to do and so many places to choose from the best is to get advice from an informed and stylish local.
This is where you need to meet Ricardo Hernández, founder and owner of Singular. Ricardo can help you chose whether a boutique or a grand hotel is good for you or perhaps one of the many gorgeous private homes that are available for rent when you know the right people. Singular can also help you charter a boat to visit Baru and the Islas del Rosario where you can spend the day and have a local lunch of grilled fish accompanied by an amazing arroz con coco y patacones (coconut rice with fried banana).
One word of advice, try to stay longer and discover more of Colombia. It is truly exciting to see the transformation of one of Latin America's most overlooked countries.