Sunday, December 5, 2010

Days 6: In My Mind I'm Going to Cartagena

If you don't get why this is a funny embed...wither go see "80s, decade of bad movies" on whatever wiki floats your boat or get you to a Netflix queue right quick.

When we left Bogota we were heading to Cartagena. And it was slightly more comical than a Kathleen Turner bus ride. We headed to the coast by way of Barranquilla because it was cheaper to do it that way than fly directly into Cartagena. And because everyone in Bogota swore was an hour or hour and a half drive.

Always start with a healthy breakfast. Unfortunately, we didn't start quite that way. I had calentao at Frisby, a sort of McKentucky Fried Empanada King. But not nearly as good as Tudor's. Calentao is traditionally the leftover rice and beans from yesterday's lunch with arepas, a fried egg, and a couple types of meat including chicharrones. I would be fine with that. This little scrimpy piece of bacon was an affront to pigs everywhere. But the rice and beans were decent and the arepas were actually pretty tasty. This was a not-totally-sucking fast food at the airport breakfast. But it could have been so much better.

It could have been better because the empanada guys were not on the streets at 6am when we were getting into our van from the hotel. So we decided to grub at the airport. We needed to get there a good hour and half before our 8am flight...or what we thought was our 8am flight. It was not our 8am flight. The airline staff kept walking by and pulling people out of the big line to get them queued in front of the ticket agents for their individual flights. We kept asking about Barranquilla and they kept telling us to wait. They finally pulled out their sheet and told us the 6am had already flown and the 10am wouldn't board for a while... Show this lady the e-mail confirmation that shows we have an 8am...oh...really?...that 8am was the option we looked at on the other airline but didn't actually buy? we are on that 10am flight?...yeah...ummm...let's go get some breakfast (WHICH COULD HAVE BEEN EMPANADAS FROM THE TRUNK OF A CAR)...

I have to admit that as early as that morning (once caffienated) we were able to start talking about how this was going to be a funny hah-hah part of the trip very quickly.

But in the total spirit of 'just not being with it' we chose Frisby and had meals like that calentao above and then checked in at the airline and headed upstairs to board and saw the 3,592 other food options that we could have taken before going through security.

Live. Learn. Try new culture's fast food.

 At least we were able to find inner peace once we got on the plane...

Our plan of course was to hire a private driver at Barranquilla to take us the 90 minute jaunt to Cartagena. But instead, because the airport is locked down by the licensed cabs, and because there are no large public cabs in all of bag didn't make the 'room in the trunk' cut and was strapped to the top of a very small car into which our driver stuffed four 'Mericans and their luggage.

For the 2 1/2 hour long ride to Cartagena.


Fortunately we had some nice chats, a few yogurt-covered blueberries and trail mix, and the countryside to keep us occupied.

And then DrChillyD saw an anteater. And the one conversation we had with our driver occured. Because someone knew just enough Spanish to ask if you could eat anteaters.

Dude must have been the Grand High Poohbah of Anteater BBQ University or something. He didn't just answer us, he damn bear blinked, opened his mouth, and turned his the same time! Of course you can eat them. They are delicious. Of course they are very good with cheese.


Anteater. With cheese.

Since we didn't go to Peru and I wasn't going to get to eat any guinea pigs (which I gotta say are high on my list to try), I was going to see about a traditional coastal Colombian spot that might feed me anteater. I failed...

But once you get here having seen the Caribbean coastline jog in and out of view around the bends on the toll road linking the two cities; you're less tense about the ride or the seach for anteater fricasee and more 'bueno.'

We started talking about happy hour. Every time I contemplated the 'fruity rum cocktail' Karl would start and say "Did you say FREE rum cocktails?" And I'd have to clarify that I did not have some magic guidebook that got me free drinks in Cartagena.

But I kinda wish I did because when we finally did get rum cocktails they were GOOD and free would have made them even BETTER.

That's a view of Boca Grande from the eastern edges of downtown Cartagena. Boca Grande is a spit of land that juts out from the city and houses a huge collection of hotels, beach ware stores, and empanada stands along the beach.

We chose our hotel location well...
It was a block and a half from this place.

Where we could get this every day if we wanted...and most of us wanted. The ceviche was tart with citrus and screaming with garlic and onions. A small was enough, and several mediums were ordered. This was a ubiquitous site on Boca Grande with dozens of beack shacks and even more men with beicycle or push carts wandering up and down the beacc trying to sell to you.

Our first night we tried the ceviche and then headed to a shack on the beach called Bony for beers and more grub. There I tried the national liquor, aquardiente. It's an anise flavored liquor (think Sambucca) that's served shot-style and chilled. Good stuff actually, and a nice way to end a long day of planes and automobiles.

In addition to our beers and shots, we discovered there were arepas con huevo. Karl investigated further. To the arepa and huevo they added carne (that's beef y'all) and queso. I also ordered one of these pockets of goodness (though I must admit a personal preference for the empananda with the crisp shell over the doughier cousins or the arepas).

Sharing is caring. And we cared a lot on this trip.

Arepa. Stuffed. Fried. Pre-Eaten. The corn meal tasty treat that keeps on giving.

Did some reading when we got back to the hotel and realized that Bony is kinda a big deal with the locals. Former national boxing champ is the owner. Good thing we didn't pick a fight.

That was the end of a fair day in wrath, cabs, and ceviche on the Caribbean. The next day was Thanksgiving and a search for spuds that ended in bloody beef and pork chop nirvana with a German guy, a story about a Thanksgiving dinner in Rome circa 1997, and a cake-stealing American witch to whom karma will shortly deliver a swift kick in the face.

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