Since most of the excursions offered by Princess were some version of seeing the same stuff in town (with a lot of shopping at a mall in most of them) we decided to go out on our own. That way we could see what we wanted for whatever length of time we so decided. The cruise forums said it was easy to hire a cab at the dock, which is what we did.
After a bit of spirited negotiation we found a driver who was willing to listen to what WE wanted, rather than telling us where he would take us. What made the negotiations even more interesting was in this Latin American country, men aren't used to listening to women. And I wasn't about to hire someone who wasn't going to listen to me - after all, I was the one who had researched what to do! Himself? He stood back and watched the show!
We ended up with Alphose, who was great. He got us to places ahead of the tour bus crowds and showed us things missed by those on the large tours.
** Entering the harbor at Cartagena **
Our first stop was Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas - a huge fortress built by the Spanish in the mid-1600s, with some additions in the mid-1700s. It has all sorts of cool tunnels that are a genius of architecture in how they can echo back sound or hid soldiers or allow view of attackers yet not allow them to see you.
** The Fortress walls **
** Another view **
** Coming out of one of the tunnels **
** Inside the fortress **
We spent a lot of time here, as it was so interesting. Once you left the fortress, there were many vendors selling either souvenirs or a photo op. What sort of photo opportunities? Let's see... there were the ladies of African descent who walked around in bright clothing with large bowls of fruit or baked goods balanced on their heads. Or the man with his pet sloth Maria, who you could hold for a picture.
** The tour buses catch up with us! **
** And here comes the thundering herd! **
** The vendors are ready! **
** Photo op time **
** Himself and Maria **
Then we headed to the highest point in the city, Convento de la Popa, at 500 feet. There was a great very of the city from there. And the convent was really quite lovely. One thing I found amusing was that all the signs telling you about the convent were written only in Spanish. But there was one sign that was in Spanish AND English... one asking for donations! Uh-huh!
** View from La Popa **
** Inside the convent **
** The alter in the chapel **
After that we headed thru the fortress walls to see the downtown area. The streets are narrow, and the buildings colorful. Many had beautiful balconies. Short distances from each other were squares (parks) where the locals gathered to visit (and vendors set up carts of things for sale - there was no lack of shopping in Cartagena!). Our day was finished with a late lunch at a local restaurant recommended by Alphose.
** The walls around the city **