Cartagena

Cartagena Travel Guide

Be still my heart.

Colombia was just named Lonely Planet’s 2nd best travel destination for 2017 and with good reason: the sheer variety of landscapes, cultures and welcoming people make it a dream travel destination.  When I met my Colombian friend Christian Cardona in Portugal this past year, he convinced me that travelling to Colombia had to be next on my list because it was the “gem of South America.”

He was not wrong.  I have fallen in love with this country again, and again, and again as I explored it the last two weeks.  Around every corner is a surprise waiting to delight you and in Cartagena this is especially true.

 Cartagena is incredibly special: it’s a place of vibrant color, late nights of dancing, romance and seafood.  It is everything I want in a vacation destination and it is clearly the backbone of Colombia’s tourist economy.  Cartagena is unbelievably charming, affordable, and engaging.  We easily spent five days in this city and never tired of wandering it’s streets.  

The humidity is off the charts in Cartagena so be prepared to drink lots of limeade and wonder why you even took a shower.  Be prepared to be wet, sweaty and hot the entire week: dance close to someone and embrace it.

Here’s some of my favorite images from our travels there and my personal mini Cartagena travel guide for navigating this beautiful city.

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STAY: You will want to stay within the city walls for it’s charming historical winding streets.  Pops of bright color, inventive door knockers and churches around every corner are steeped in old world colonialism.  There are tiny amazing restaurants tucked into every corner with incredible seafood.  We ate octopus every single day.  There are beautiful studio apartments that you get all to yourself on Airbnb for $80-160 a night in the area.  We really enjoyed our stay at Luis and Monica’s Old Town apartment.  It was a perfect and incredibly convenient location to explore from.

If you aren’t interested in the straight tourist experience, then stay in the nearby barrio of Getsemani, the burgeoning, borderline hip neighborhood that’s an equal mix of locals and ex-pats.  While the richest originally lived in the northwest corner of the walled city, this is smaller and poorer section of the original city, which now features more modest architecture but an electrifying atmosphere.  Most of the best bars and dance clubs can be found in this hood and it’s starting to fill up with hostels, airbnb options and boutique hotels such as Casa Lola.

EAT:  The most memorable places we discovered in Cartagena were intimate and featured long lists of seafood every way.  Restaurants in Cartagena open late (expect to eat after 7 PM every night), or confusingly, sometimes not at all, and reservations are usually needed, especially with large groups.

  • El Boliche chefs Oscar Colmenares and Viviana Díaz dish out incredible ceviche that honours and partners with the local fishermen.  Each meal starts with a bowl of homemade soup, a tradition in Colombia.  This place is incredibly intimate and only seats 25 – swing by and make a reservation in order to make sure you get a table.
  • La Perla is dim, stylish and comfortable.  Beat the humidity of the streets of Cartagena by stepping into this cool oasis that serves up Peruvian style ceviche and is best known for their tiraditos, thin strips of fresh tuna or sea bass.  The staff is incredibly gracious and attentive and willing to pass around the pisco sours and their wine list was one of the better ones we encountered and was filled with dry whites, reds and roses to accompany any meal.
  • One of my other favorite meals was at Carmen.  Although this restaraunt seats many in multiple different rooms or with the option of al fresco on the patio, the experience feels intimate because everyone is split up.  Our waiter did an excellent job of choosing wines and helping recommend dishes for the night.  The highlight of our meal was certainly the pez negro, a thick strip of barracuda seared in black olive oil and accompanied by raviolis filled with seafood and ricotta.  Reservations recommended.
  • Restaurante Donjuan is collected and cool.  Dishing out Basque style delights in an exquisite setting, the menu boasts a dizzying array of starters and shareable plates.  If you can’t get a table here, try it’s sister restaurant next door, Maria.

DRINK:

  • Alquimico is a new addition to Cartagena but clearly a welcome one.  Reasembling a Manhatten speakeasy, the swanky cocktail focused joint is in a two story dimly lit building and features custom cocktails prepared with local Colombian fruits.
  • Demente is a trendy, hip new staple to the Getsemani barrio and features Colombian craft beers from Bogota Beer Company and 3 Cordilleras, brilliant cocktails and a cool outdoor patio with long communal picnic tables perfect for the large group that failed to make reservations for dinner inside the walled city.  It’s clearly the place for ex-pats and tourists to be seen.
  • Cafe Havana is the local Cuban hotspot packed to the brim for those looking to salsa almost every night after 11 pM.
  • Alma Restaurante is located in the Casa San Augustin, now a boutique hotel that retains the beauty of Cartagena’s colonial architecture with it’s original frescoes and centuries-old wood-beamed ceilings.  The outdoor patio is shaded and perfect for an afternoon snack and a glass of wine.  Their list is extensive and features a fantastic selection of Spanish, Portuguese and South American vineyards.

EXPLORE:

  • Get lost over and over and over again in the streets of the walled city and Getsemani.  The vibrant colors, cascading flowers, overhanging balconies, street performers and artisanal shops supply days of endless entertainment.
  • Get your extra tourist on: Volcàn de Lodo el Totumo” is a strange 15m high volcano mound about a half hour outside of town.  Legend says that the volcano once was active but a local priest, seeing it as the work of the devil, sprinkled it with holy water and the lava miraculously turned to mud.  The mud is silky, at moments gritty, and so dense that you float effortlessly and confusingly on top.  For a mere few dollars you can pay one person to let you climb up into the mud bath, then you can pay another person to give you a questionable “massage,” and then another to carry your shoes around, and then some women to aggressively strip you down in the river afterwards and make sure your orifices are clean.  It’s preposterous and worth the $10 you spent laughing.  Don’t book a tour to do so – simply hire a car for the day to drive you out here and for double the fun, have him take you to the mangroves afterwards where you can arrange for a 30 minute kayak tour through the narrow water channels of the mangroves.
  • Hire your own personal photographer: Flytographer offers two options for photographers in Cartagena.  I love hiring my own personal photographer while on vacation – photos make exceptional souvenirs and I can’t imagine a more romantic or colorful place than Cartagena to be photographed.  I am one of Flytographer’s Lake Tahoe photographers and have utilized their services for my own personal shoots in both Bangkok, Thailand and Porto, Portugal.
  • If you visit during early November, chances are you’ll be here for Cartagena’s Independence Day celebrations when a lively atmosphere takes over the city.  Carnaval de Cartagena starts on Friday with a three hour parade started on one side of the walled city that snakes it’s way through the town.  Bands of teenagers roam the streets with disposable canisters of foam, ready and willing to offload it’s contents into the hair, heads and backs of any likely suspect.  No one is spared.  The weekend’s festivities also include Colombia’s Beauty Pageant where they elect Miss Colombia for the year.
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Live at Lakeview: Week 6 Wrap-Up

Live at Lakeview: Week 6

One Track Mind from Truckee opens at Live at Lakeview.

Correction: In last week’s wrap-up, we mistakenly confused this week’s opener, One Track Mind, with a band of the same name from Massachusetts.  The One Track Mind that played last week is from Truckee.  My apologies to the band.

I have to say, I’m fairly happy that One Track Mind from Massachusetts wasn’t the opener last week.  I couldn’t figure out why we’d booked a heavy metal cover band to open for a latin fusion band.  Turns out, we didn’t.  One Track Mind from Truckee is a rock-n-roll cover band that covers some of my favorites (like the White Stripes) along with other gems.  They focus on blues, rock, reggae and punk and they were an awesome time!  The front woman has great stage presence and the entire set was not only fun to photograph but fun to listen to.

One Track Mind.

40 Watt Hype closed out the night with their special blend of hip-hop, R&B, and latin fusion.  On the more Latin inspired tunes, Live at Lakeview had a salsa dancer out in the crowd leading the charge and my boyfriend and I were thrilled to show of some of the moves we learned in LTCC’s ballroom dance class!

40 Watt Hype had the crowd doing the rhumba!

This week’s opener is The Weekenders, a bluesy rock’n’roll band from Salt Lake City that also embraces fuzz, groove and soul.  They’ll be followed by rock band Congress, who will return to Live at Lakeview for the second year in a row. Originally from Virginia, Congress now calls Denver, CO home and I’m sure that we can expect just as awesome of a show as they gave us last summer, with a slew of original music peppered with classic rock covers.

Come out to Live at Lakeview to enjoy free music every Thursday with friends here in Tahoe South!

Check out free music here in Tahoe South every Thursday from 4:30-8:30 PM at Lakeview Commons from June 20th-August 29th.  Please ride your bike and utilize the free bike valet or find plenty of parking at the SLT Parks and Recreation Department on Rufus Allen Blvd.  The proceeds of all sales of alcohol from the beer garden support the series and I encourage you to either imbibe in the garden or make a donation in one of the donation boxes around the Commons Area on the night you attend.  As always, Live at Lakeview is a free community event.  Please be aware of the following city ordinances in Lakeview Commons Park: no dogs, no outside alcohol and no smoking.

Can’t make the event?  Never fear!  Thanks to the support of Tahoe Production House and Stage It Live Video Cast, you can watch the live stream from home every Thursday night!  For more information on how to watch the live stream of the weekly Live at Lakeview Events, head to the official website.

You can see all the photos from weeks 1-6 at Live at Lakeview via this link.  You can find my weekly wrap ups, photos and previews of the next concert all summer long here and on Tahoe South.

Tahoe South, Tahoe Sunset,

What you missed in this summer’s Live at Lakeview Series:

Week 1: 4 Piece Puzzle and Jelly Bread

Week 2: Tracorum and American Jubilee

Week 3: Naive Melodies and Ashley Kepler

Week 4: Lonesome Locomotive and Achilles Wheel

Week 5: Vokab Company Gets Rained Out

Week 6: One Track Mind and 40 Watt Hype

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Live at Lakeview: Week 2 Wrap-Up

“Good music, good vibes, good times!”

Live at Lakeview: Week 2 opened up with Tracorum, a self described Rock’n’Soul/Rhythm’n’Blues band from San Francisco, California.  I loved their blend of rock and the south:  they had a little bit a of a New Orleans feel to them in certain songs.

American Jubilee was the headliner for week 2 at Lakeview Commons.  They are an Americana band that features rearranged traditional Americana music and originals that draw inspiration from that same vein by blending various American roots styles, including country, roots-rock, bluegrass and blues.  This past Thursday their unique brand of Americana had a large crowd amassed on the sand swaying to the jams.

American Jubilee is headed up by Brian Lesh and some of the members are also featured in the Terrapin Family Band, the house band for TXR (Terrapin Crossroads) in San Rafeal.  Brian and his brother Grahame, who fronts the Terrapin Family Band, are sons of legendary Grateful Dead bass player Phil Lesh.

Live at Lakeview takes a break this week for 4th of July celebrations but returns on July 11th with Native Melodies, a live Talking Heads cover band.

As always, Live at Lakeview is a free community event.  Check out free music here in Tahoe South every Thursday from 4:30-8:30 PM at Lakeview Commons from June 20th-August 29th.  Please ride your bike and utilize the free bike valet or find plenty of parking at the SLT Parks and Recreation Department on Rufus Allen Blvd.  The proceeds of all sales of alcohol from the beer garden support the series and I encourage you to either imbibe in the garden or make a donation in one of the donation boxes around the Commons Area on the night you attend.

You can see all the photos from weeks 1 and 2 at Live at Lakeview via this link.  You can find my weekly wrap ups, photos and previews of the next concert all summer long here and on Tahoe South.

What you missed in this summer’s Live at Lakeview Series:

Week 1: 4 Piece Puzzle and Jelly Bread

One Wilshire, Los Angeles, Visit LA, Travel Photography, Reno Tahoe Photographer

LA Rendezvous

Every few years, my best mate Haley and I start missing each other and plan a little weekend get away to travel together and catch up.  We call them our “Rendezvous'”.  It just so happens that this year, Haley is marrying a wonderful man and she asked me to travel down to LA for a little rendezvous to celebrate her birthday and take engagement photos of them.

I hadn’t been to LA in years and had a blast drinking “rosé all day” with Haley, her fiance, and Anne, whose been staying in So Cal these past few weeks.  We had our toes done, drank wine while watching the sun go down at a gorgeous house in Palos Verdes, caught up with other old friends, and did a lot of daytime drinking, my favorite vacation activity.

My photos of Haley and Dave’s engagement session are still to come, but in the meantime, you can check out their sneak peak.  You can check out all the photos from my weekend in LA via this link.

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Dancing on the rooftop at the Standard Hotel.

If you want to visit Los Angeles, here are my recommendations.  In general, I like to stay away from LA and Hollywood and hide out in the coastal towns of Venice and Santa Monica, where you can totally do without a car. 

STAY:  This studio rental on Airbnb for two exudes beachy-ness from it’s pores: clean, comforting, and colorful!  Better yet, the stay includes the use of two cruisers, perfect for avoiding the LA traffic and cruising around Venice, Santa Monica, and the Malibu boardwalk.

EAT:

  • Gjelina is the type of place I could eat at three times in one day and not be tired of spending time there.  It’s overwhelmingly comfortable, yet sophisticated and the food is amazing.  The pizzas all sound so delicious it’s hard to choose and the salads are inventive.  It’s best to go as a group and order plates to share.  Word of warning: trust the chef because there is a very strict no substitutions or changes policy and they mean it, even if you’re a celebrity.
Gjelina, Venice Beach Restaraunts, Food Photoraphy, Travel Photoraphy, Visit Los Angeles, Visit LA

Gjelina’s food is to die for. Just don’t ask to be treated special because you aren’t.

  • Intelligentsia may take their coffee a bit too seriously: the employees are pretentious and over-the-top hipsters but damn, that is a serious latte.  Don’t tell them I said that though, it might go to their heads.

DRINK:

  • It’s a shame that The Tasting Kitchen seems unable to bring the wow factor to their dishes in the same way that their atmosphere and bar does.  Reviews on Yelp for their food are hit and miss, which is exactly how my friends described their menu.  Regardless, skip the overpriced food fare and cozy up to the bar for some killer cocktails or our favorite, a bottle of rosé.
Engagement Sessions, Reno Tahoe Engagement Photographer, Tahoe Portrait Photographer, Tasting Kitchen, Venice Beach,

The Tasting Kitchen’s ambiance is personal, rich in texture, with clean lines with an interesting twist that brings outside, inside.

  • Oscar’s in Venice has a killer happy hour and amazing food and apps to boot.  Sit outside on the deck to take in the SoCal sunshine.
  • Act like you’re richer and cooler than you are and take the rail line to downtown LA and drink on the rooftop by the pool at The Standard Hotel.  There are often DJ’s on the decks on weekends.  With panaramic views of Los Angeles and the mountains beyond, there’s no better way to spend a sunny afternoon than here.  Also, don’t forget your swimsuit: the pool is heated.
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Champagne on the rooftop of The Standard, downtown LA.

  • Areal may not have the most amazing food around but it does have a gorgeous outdoor patio and more importantly, bottomless mimosas with the purchase of a brunch entree on weekends.  Don’t get me wrong: our food was solid and tasty, just not overwhelmingly memorable.  The experience however, was.
bottomless mimosas, brunch at Areal, Areal Restarant, Areal Venice, Los Angeles Travel, Reno Tahoe Photographer

The over-the-top Belgian Waffles at Areal in Venice.

PLAY:

  • The beach and boardwalk shouldn’t even have to be mentioned!
  • Get a glimpse of Hollywood without having to deal with Hollywood and tour Sony Studios in Culver City.  Afterwards, head over to downtown to wander and eat.  Culver City is so quaint and adorable it almost feels like you’re not in Los Angeles.

GET CULTURED:

  • Bergamot Station in Santa Monica was originally a trolley stop, built in 1875 for the Red Line Trolley, which ran from LA to the Santa Monica Pier.  Today, it features art galleries, museums and cafes.

Winter Beach Party

My oh my it’s been a busy weekend.  I’m still not done editing photos from Texasfest.  On top of that, I just spent all weekend taking photos with my friend and Volcom wearing shredder Tim Roberts and my b.f.forever and inventer of partial acronyms Megs.  After a morning hike and photo session with those two, I spent the afternoon taking photos of the Kirkwood SheJumps! Get the Girls Out afternoon.  In short, I’m a little back logged but I do have these for you and it involves the most hysterical and ridiculous photobooth yet: Winter Beach Party.

Winter Beach Party, Dad's LPs

My wonderful backdrop mastermind (my mother) was unable to find something appropriately beach-y so I decided to use a green screen and put in a beach backdrop.  I figured that it would be a solid test of my limited Photoshop skills.  It was a total success minus a few Photo-shopping mishaps (there are definitely some photos with missing hair and sides of heads and feet here and there).   I didn’t spend a ton of time making them perfect because frankly, it took awhile.  If someone wanted to hire me to do a green screen photobooth for an event, I’d definitely charge upwards of $2,000.  There are 132 photos in the set and they took me 12 hours to half-ass edit.   By comparison, the 500+ photos in the Masquerade Ball photobooth took me less than 3 hours.  The ones where all the people in the photo were within the confines of the green screen were super easy (30 seconds, max).  Anytime the alligator, Corona bottle or people bled into the room and were outside the green, the photo took significantly longer to edit.

Regardless, the booth was amazing.  These are a few of my favorites from the night, but you can see them all here.

Nature Walks

I nanny one day a week. In the afternoons we take nature walks. It takes about a half hour to go one quarter mile. I don’t mind. What else are we going to do? I have patience and he gets to play with all the bugs, dirt and sticks he wants. He’s an inquisitive kid.

2nd Annual Angora Lakes Tri

Participants in the 2nd Annual Angora Lakes Tri

Last weekend was the 2nd Annual Angora Lakes Tri. The first one was held on the same weekend last year and we all had so much fun we couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s an unsanctioned, unofficial race with no fees, no bells and whistles, run on one or more volunteers with a bit of an unorthodox course: you ride your bike from the beach to Angora Lake, run from the parking lot of the lake to the lake, swim across the lake, jump off the 20 food cliff and then head back to the start line in reverse.

Angora Lakes Tri Course Map

Last year, I was the first one up the hill climb on the bike and sort of assumed that whoever led the race at this point would always win. We had more contestants this year (11 instead of 4!) and I had a formidable opponent. Adrienne is a killer bike rider and she was probably about 5-6 minutes ahead of me on the bike leg and already in the lake swimming by the time I arrived.

I was sure Adrienne had this race in the bag! I was SO wrong. In a normal triathlon, where the swimming comes first, cycling second and running last, a fast swim leg hardly ever wins the race. In our unorthodox race, my swimming abilities really gave me the advantage. I was across the lake and back before Adrienne even reached the cliff. I then sprinted back down to the last transition area to hop on my bike. I knew that if I could get enough distance on the downhill on the bike, that MAYBE she would get stuck behind a car and I would win the race.

Coming into the last transition area. Thanks Will for being our awesome volunteer and a photographer!

I ended up winning for the 2nd year in a row at a time of 1:15.45, only two minutes faster than last year! It might have actually been considerably faster I had I not crashed on my first bike leg. That’s right – our unsanctioned race is so extreme that I crashed and continued to race.

You can read Meghan’s account of the day over at her blog. Thanks so much to all our amazing volunteers: PK, Boyfriend, Gretchen and Will! Also, big thanks to the Angora Lakes employee who somehow knew what we were doing and was high-fiving and cheering us on!

Forrest Day at Live at Lakeview

South Lake Tahoe’s Live at Lakeview continues to bring fun, sun and music to our summer shores. This week’s band was Forrest Day, a Bay-area band that considers itself to be a “melting pot” of genres.

As always, you can check out all the photos from this summer’s concert series here

Congress at Live at Lakeview

The first Thursday in August, Live at Lakeview hosted rock band Congress. Originally from Virginia, Congress now calls Denver, CO home. They played a slew of original music peppered with classic rock covers. Once again, no complaints here about free music!

You can see all the photos from all of the summer concerts here.