During our trip to Colombia, we spent a few days in Cartagena. Overall, it was probably my least favorite stop–despite the beautiful old city and the great nighttime fun in the Getsemani neighborhood we were staying in, it was a bit of a beachy/touristy town. The heat didn’t help, either; when we stopped to get sunscreen, and I was having trouble applying it because it was just mixing with sweat, that should’ve been a sign to stay in the air conditioning at the hotel.
So, in this heat, it probably wasn’t the best idea to taking a walking tour of the city, but my love of food won out and we signed up for Cartagena Connections’ walking street food tour. There was a mixup with our booking for whatever reason, and our guide Catalina had a hair appointment booked for that time, so we decided to wait at KGB, a communist Russia themed bar near the square we were supposed to meet, and had a few bottles of Poker beer to fight the heat and wait it out.
Because of the scheduling snafu, it seemed that for the tour we were being rushed through all the stops. I don’t know if this was just Catalina’s style, but we still had a full and informative tour, stopping for many different foods we wouldn’t have normally stopped for, and learning more about local dishes aside from just arepas.
That said, however, the best thing was had was probably an arepa; a big, fluffy, white arepa unlike any we had tried in our time in Colombia. Most of the arepas we’d had were dense, these were almost like fried mashed potatoes. We still talk about how good these were. Another revelation from the tour was a quick stop at a fruit vendor, where we got fresh slices of mango sprinkled with salt. I try to tell everyone who will listen about this: salted mango was an eye-opener. Sweet and salty always makes a great combo, and this blew my mind.
We also stopped at various street vendors (as it was a street food tour), with one sticking out amongst the rest: a woman frying up various empanadas with a variety of sauces to try with them. They were all delicious, and very appreciated–the cart was found in an area we probably would not have wandered into, and we probably would’ve walked right by the cart had we been on our own. We also stopped in a shop for a plate of chicarrones, which was also delicious and also in a place we never would have gone on our own.
Near the end, I could tell LeeAnne was getting full when I had to eat more and more of what we were being served, and combined with the heat, we were definitely slowing down. We happened to be walking about a block or so from our hotel, so we decided to call it quits on the tour (we were the only two).
Despite cutting it short, and despite the miscommunications at the beginning, I would definitely recommend the tour if you’re in Cartagena. If you can stand the heat, you’ll learn more about the food, get to try a ton of stuff you wouldn’t have otherwise, and you’ll also get some insight into the history of the city. It was a solid replacement for our Thanksgiving dinner, and that is not something I would say lightly.