Darling, if you have never been properly introduced to Cartagena, Colombia let me tell you about the city we got married in that we had never visited!
First, while we never intended to post this, I’m sharing the home-VHS-tape-esq video we texted to our friends and family to invite them to save the date for our destination adventure.
I shared in my “why we eloped” post that I always dreamed of being a winter bride, and never considered a destination wedding. This video gives a very brief peak into our initial wedding plans, why they changed, and how in one day we fell in love with a place we’d never heard of. (aka we condense a month of wedding planning into a few sentences!)
(In hindsight, the fears around privacy feel a little extreme. I've always been very private, and continue to honor that for anyone who also puts themselves out there publicly. In addition, some privacy issues happening at the time had me on guard. Plus a video from a colleague entitled "Biggest Regret About My Wedding" which was that she'd publicly shared too many details, leading to her wedding website being hacked, logistical nightmares, panic attacks. And similar stories around other weddings. So we felt if it was an area we could be cautious in to avoid any anxiety, better safe that sorry.)
What we adore most about Cartagena is the blend of vintage and modern. The cobble stone streets and stunning architecture make you feel as though you’re in Europe, while the colorful buildings and tropical foliage feel like Havana.
The heart of the city is the Old Town, set apart inside a stone wall with the sea on the other side. Hotels are almost exclusively former mansions turned into boutique dreams.
Most windows face the interior courtyard, and massive front doors guests don’t have a key to, manned by a concierge 24/7, give an exclusive and intimate vibe we’ve never experienced elsewhere. Once inside almost every hotel or grand home you’ll find available for rent has a pool to keep cool in the heat of the day, and breathtaking views from the roof, often with another small rooftop pool.
It’s not uncommon to find a restaurant with trees growing in the center, and no roof where you eat under the stars. Flowers cascading over every balcony have me clutching my heart at every turn. Bougainvillea, my favorite flower, combined with palm leaves -- my creative director soul just couldn’t be more in love.
Around any corner you may find dancers or musicians. One time we followed a massive parade of performers through the city, seemingly for no reason other than joy (it took us forever to find one of them with a business card so we could see about hiring them).
Palenques, local women dress in colorful attire to sell fruit, are seen on many corners alongside hand-made artisans spread out along the sidewalk selling all manner of accessories and toys. The Palenques came from the first village of African slaves in the Americas to win their independence. They had run away and were so resourceful, including carrying their local produce into Cartagena to sell, they were declared free in 1691. (You'll see these beautiful women show up in the next few posts!)
Most everyone speaks English, making it incredibly easy to navigate if your Spanish is rusty (his) or non existent (hers). On our first exploratory trip, having previously spent $14 on a margarita in Manhattan the night before, we calculated a beer was about $2.50. Thus it can be incredibly affordable on a budget, or feel like a luxurious escape for what one would consider mid-range in a popular American spot. Plus, we had multiple well-traveled friends declare they had some of the best meals of their life while in town.
Having visited cities such as Rio de Janeiro previously where websites and locals alike warn of how dangerous theft is, Cartagena feels incredibly safe. And the people are so joyful! They absolutely LOVE a wedding as you will soon see!
February is high season for weddings, as according to our planner they’re one of the only places in the world you can guarantee sunshine and zero rain that time of year. And with nonstop flights from New York all three of our trips there were a tropical dream.
A short boat ride away are multiple tiny islands with super cheap to more chic accommodations for a day on the water, or stays overnight. We personally can’t wait to go back for an anniversary.
In short, our beloved Cece* as we call it, is one part romantic Audrey Hepburn, one part sexy James Bond, and one part joyful us. In the next post I’ll share the itinerary for our weekend and links to save for your own travels....