Going to Colombia; The Power of Taking Vacation

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I just came back from a vacation in Colombia. It was fantastic. I went with my business partner Cheryl Williams. I visited my family and traveled along different cities in the Caribbean, northern part of Colombia.

As entrepreneurs, we need time to rest, re-charge our batteries, trigger creativity, and think about the future of our lives/careers.

We left Montreal at about 6:00 am. It was – 5c. Our neighbor neighbor took us to the airport.

Leaving Montreal to Cartagena, in Air Transat
Leaving Montreal to Cartagena, in Air Transat

After a six hours we arrived in Cartagena.

Map of northern Colobia
We travelled to Cartagena, Barranquilla, Santa Marta, and a very small town called Minca.

The airplane ticket, round trip was only $700. Obviously we traveled in economy class, but also, at this time of the year, after people has done their holiday traveling, the airplane tickets, and hotels are less expensive. This is another advantage of being self employed and being able to determine the best time of traveling for you, which is not necessarily when every body else is traveling.

Cartagena is one of the most touristic cities in Colombia, it’s the place where the Spaniards build a castle and a fortified city. If you are from Montreal, it’s equivalent to the Old Port.

We stayed in a neighborhood called Getsemani, which is full activities at time but specially at night, it comes alive.

Getsemani neighborhood in Cartagena
Houses are very colorful

If you look closely, the streets are very clean. This was impressive. The cleanness at all times of day and night.

Clean streets in Cartagena, in the tourist  center of the city
Clean and colorful streets
Clean and colorful streets in Cartagena, Colombia
Clean and colorful streets

Another thing that was remarkable was that there were not pan-handlers asking for spare change. Colombia is a much poorer country than Canada, yet somehow, the poor are taken care off.

Yes, there are a lot of people selling fruits and other tourism souvenirs, but not asking for spare change.

Fruit seller in the streets of Cartagena
Buying a mango from street seller

In Canada, many of the tropical fruits we eat, are shipped green and they ripen on the trip or after the customer buys them. In Colombia, the fruit is collected from the trees when it’s ripped already and ready to eat. The taste is much richer.

Eating a ripe papaya in Colombia
Cheryl eating a fresh Papaya

My friend Cheryl is vegan, and finding vegan restaurants was not always easy, but we did and we enjoyed them very much.

Vegan restaurant in Colombia
There were many flavors in vegan food that I have never experienced before
Vegan salad
A vegan salad with huge avocados, about three times bigger than the regular avocados we eat in Canada

Another luxury was to be able to drink fresh coconut water from the coconut. There are sellers everywhere, who cut the coconut with their machete and open it in front of you so that you can drink that fresh water.

In Cartagena, the most popular attraction is “Ciudad Amurallada” which means Walled City and it’s the part of the city that’s protected by the castle’s walls.

La torre del reloj, Cartagena.
The main entrance to the Walled City
The wall is as thick as a two lane street. Here I am standing next to one of the entrances.

After a couple of days in Cartagena we headed to Barranquilla. There is a minivan service called Berlitur. Don’t visit the website… the information hasn’t been updated for years, so if you are a tourist looking for information you will not get the right information and no one ever answers the phone; just know that there is new van leaving every 30 minutes.

There is a van leaving every 30 minutes and they travel between Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta.

There was not much to see or to do in Barranquilla, but that’s where my family lives, so I spent my days there mostly eating and drinking with my family.

Eating and drinking with my family

If you go to Barranquilla, a popular place to visit is called “El Malecon” which is a wide boardwalk with the River Magdalena, and restaurants and bistros on the other side.

Another nice place is a small town called Puerto Colombia, about 30 minutes drive south of Barranquilla. It’s developing quite fast and it has a mixture of the rural life with the new modern attractions creeping in. The main attraction is a light house called “La Ventana de Sueños” (or The Window of Dreams), which is the biggest lighthouse in Colombia which commemorates all the immigrants who came to Colombia to build it.

La Ventana de Sueños
Visiting a friend’s apartment in Puerto Colombia

After that, we went to Santa Marta, but there is no much to do in Santa Marta either. The attractions are on the little towns and villages around Santa Marta.

The next stop was Taganga. If you see a postcard or the photo below, you will think that it’s a little corner of paradise and in fact it’s beautiful. But the truth is that it’s an over commercialized beach. It’s too crowded. There are hundreds of tourists and locals sitting in rented chairs, with speakers blasting loud music. It’s definitely not a place to bring your book and relax while getting a suntan.

Taganaga, close to Santa Marta, Colombia
Taganga. We were blessed with clear skies the whole time
Tanganga, Colombia, with Alain Guillot and Cheryl Williams on the foreground.
Tanganga from a distance, it looks great.
Taganga, We arrived at Playa Grande

The beach “Playa Grade” (big beach) was nice but it fell short of our expectations. As you can see below, it was just too crowded.

Crowded beach with loud music

The next stage of our trip was the best. We went to Minca.  Minca is a tiny off-the-beaten-path mountain town.

People can only get to the most beautiful parts of the mountain by 4X4 car. This is where the child in me was revived, when our 4X4 Toyota was climbing this rough terrain full of rock, and brooks.

Going up to Minca in a 4X4 jeep

As soon as we got to the top we found a coffee shop that sold vegan cappuccinos.

Cheryl and my cousins, drinking coffee

We continued climbing the mountain but taking a break from time to time.

Eventually we arrived to a series of fantastic waterfalls where people just jump into the water to refresh themselves and to enjoy the closer contact with nature.

Eventually we came back to a hotel with a great terrasse and colorful hammocks.

And that was more or less the end of my vacation. I went back to Barranquilla to spend some more time with my family, then I went back to Cartagena, where I sample more street food and finally got on a plane back to Canada.

Last day in Colombia. I found a Colombian flag and expressed my gratitude for such beautiful memory.

Overall, I think we all should take at least one vacation per year. It will put markers into your life, as the year I went to this country and the year I went to this other county. You will feel energized and motivated and you will be more productive in whatever you do.



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