CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA 4th August

Some places you come to surprise you beyond your dreams and for us Cartagena was one of those places.

We arrived early with a 7 am docking and had a 2 o’clock departure so we were pleased to be able to get off just after 7 am with our 8 other tour mates for a private tour with a wonderful local guide and driver.

First we walked along the port to meet our guide for the day and walked through this amazing bird and monkey park.

No one had mentioned it so it was a glorious surprise and we just loved it. 

This little fella along with all the others were super friendly, non aggressive, gentle and didn’t steal anything from anyone, but were happy to eat out of your hand and as you can see James made a friend here. 

Luckily we had been a bit naughty and had a couple of muffins from off the ship to feed them with.

Some of the birds were just as friendly and inquisitive. 

At the end of our day we stopped here again for a longer time and it was just delightful. In this same area they had a walk through Emerald mine reconstruction and it was all free. 








Our trip through the streets and up the mountain to Popa Monastery took us past some of the shantytown homes as well as the more affluent old homes as well. The Monastery is 400 years old, simple in its decoration apart from its altar.

It had amazing views over the city, the old part and the new part with all its skyscrapers and reflective glass sides.

They have this lovely tradition where if you come and pray for the return to health or something special and it works you get a little trinket made of that body part or whatever it was you wished for and it is displayed in cabinets in the church. 
Like a lot of Spanish inspired buildings the Monastery has a beautiful middle courtyard with the buildings all positioned around it. And like most of these courtyards there are lovely trees and gardens planted. A little cool oasis in a hot and sticky climate.






Our guide was fantastic and had so much information without trying to overload you.

Her husband comes from Pittsburg USA and is an artist, she gave us all a poster of Cartagena’s bicentennial which he had designed. It’s a beautiful poster and will travel home safely with us as she had them in a poster roll case as well.
Next up we went and looked at the fortress which is inland a little from the sea as the city already had walls around it when it was built.

Cartagena had been attacked many times and held for ransom twice as well, including by Sir Frances Drake. 



We went into the old town and fell in love with it. 

What’s not to love about colourful buildings, lovely treed squares and amazing coffee.



The woman wearing the bright coloured dresses are descended from African slaves whom escaped and hid a little inland. They have their own language, culture and have begun to come into the city to have their photos taken with the tourists and sell some things at these little stalls.

There is no social handout here so everyone must do their best to survive.

We went past a lady selling home made lunches on the side of the road. We asked our guide what they would consist of and the price.

She told us that she would cook it at home and there would be rice with either chicken, pork or beef a salad, soup and a drink and it would cost around $3 US.
Below are just a few more of our time in Cartagena, we were really pleased at how much we enjoyed it. 

We had refuelling delays and our 2 pm sail away didn’t happen till just after 5 pm. 

It was sticky and hot and we lazed by the pool, along with quite a few others, before it was time to shower and we went to the 6:15 show of an New Zealand comic , then dinner followed by the 9:30 pm show of an incredible pianist and singer Adam Ahern. 

What a day/ night and tomorrow ” THE PANAMA CANAL ” woohoo. Life is great! 












KEY WEST, FLORIDA, U.S.A 1st AUGUST

We ended up having a late arrival into Key West which was a shame as we probably could have ticked off our to do and see list with an extra three hours. 

Still we enjoyed our time here even though it was sticky hot. 

We had to take shuttles into town as we were docked one of the three navy bases and we were not allowed to walk through the base.

Still the shuttle gave us a nice little talk going in so that was a bonus.

We headed into Mallory Square and decided that we would do the length of Duval st which runs from one side of the island to the other and has the main shopping and restaurants.



The nice part of this is that the shops are mostly in converted colonial style homes and are colourful and full of street appeal and character.



I’ve always wanted to go to the original Jimmy Buffets, Margaritaville, so was pleased to pop in and have a look.



We didn’t stop here for a meal or drink instead went to a nice courtyard bar with $4 margaritas and 3 for $6 tacos. It also had a great guitar/ singer and nice shady trees to add to the atmosphere.

It took us all our time to do both sides of the street, take a look at the so called beach area that wasn’t too flash.


The above photo is the most attractive part of the beach area, unfortunately this is what the water looked like in the below photo.


Totally unappealing.
We walked past Earnest Hemmingways home but didn’t go in, something to do next time.


KEY WEST, is a cute little place and we were glad we got to go and when we got back on ship we were relieved to have a swim and relax from the heat.

This was our last stop for the U.S.A as you would imagine as it is the southernmost point of the states. Our next stop Cartagena, Colombia. 

Below are a few extra photos from our day.






´╗┐CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA, U.S.A 30th JULY

What a contrast from our last port of call New York. You couldn’t find a more relaxed, pretty town and we soaked it up and felt very relaxed and comfortable here.We disembarked and were hitting the streets by 9 am. 

Charleston is a lovely flat walk place and we started dock side of Market st and went through the different pavilions that make up their actual market stores.

We all thoroughly enjoyed these as it wasn’t your usual cheap tat, but rather lots of lovely handmade and quality, jewellery, clothing, shoes,homewares, baked goods,paintings etc. 

James and I both bought watches that we have been looking to get the whole trip, lovely ones from Denmark and nice and flat with big faces for us oldies.

I got a new bag which again I’d been looking for, for a while. James spotted these things and we also both got new sunglasses and we tried some different flavoured biscuits which we would call scones. 

We headed down battery on the waterfront and stopped to do a tour of Calhoun mansion. What a hoot! Unfortunately not allowed to take photos inside as its full to the rafters of collectibles from the current owner. 

It is totally crammed in and it’s hard to believe that they actually live here with all this chaos collecting around them.

From stuffed animals ( some full size) clocks, tables, paintings, church altars, ivory chairs, rhino teeth chandelier, among many Tiffany ones, artifacts from around the world, there is not an inch to spare and to say they are hoarders would be more precise than collectors. It’s a shame really as there were some beautiful beautiful things but totally lost in such surroundings.

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We saw so many, many, many beautiful homes it feels like we spent most of the day ooohing and ahhing and peeking into people’s immaculate gardens.





Just before 4 pm we hopped on a mule carriage ride and had a great talk by the driver and when we finished that at about 1/4 past 5 we were ready for a beer.

We went to a bar closer to the ship and after there we walked to Verdue st and went up to the rooftop bar there, where they had a lovely singer and Michelle and I enjoyed a cocktail and a wine while James had a few Corona’s. 

There was a beautiful sunset to watch before we headed back to the ship and after 11 1/2 hours it was a happy crew that said goodbye to Charleston, with good memories of a wonderful day.

NEW YORK, U.S.A: 27th/ 28th July

A very early start to watch the sail into New York, past the Statue of Liberty and 

up through the Hudson River to our berth at pier 90 at Manhatten docks.

We joined quite a large number of fellow travellers on deck at 4 am, and watched the skyline slip past us and by 5 am we went back to bed which turned out to be a good idea as immigration proved to be a bit of a drawn out experience. 

We were due to dock at 6 am but the dock wasn’t ready for us and it was an hour later before we were tied up. Every one on board had to go off to do immigration so we had a schedule, first we had a time of 8:45 which got put back to 9:45 am, we had a group shuttle number but decided to go off as independent tourist and meet our hop on hop off outside the terminal once we got through immigration, this saved us almost an hour and a half of hanging around wasting time on board.

Our 48 hour pass for the hop on hop off bus turned out to be a really good deal as it included uptown, downtown, a night tour which included Brooklyn and the hop on hop off ferries as well. The real bonus was that we had VIP passes that meant you went to the front of the line at all stops which we used to our advantage a couple of times.

The first trip was downtown and lasted three hours by which time we were glad to get off and find a place to eat and stretch our legs. 





By the time we were ready to get the next bus for uptown we decided that we would get off near the museum ( the one used in the movie about a night in the museum ) and walk through Central Park. Good move as it turned out to be a nice reprieve from the crowds and hustle and bustle.




We walked back and it was time for the night tour. Although not dark when we left, dusk was on its way and as we drove through Brooklyn and back into the area around Times Square the city was lit up like fireworks night.

This was a great way to tick off a few more tourist spots and we felt we were slowly relaxing into the vibe which is New York. We also felt we had made good use of the day and looked forward to the next day where we planned to use the ferry to get to see a bit more of this massive city.




FRIDAY:

We knew the ferry didn’t start till 10 am so we had a more relaxing morning, sleep in, breakfast then off the ship around 9:15 am. It was not a long walk to pier 78 but knew a quite a few from the ship were going to use the ferries that day as well.
It was an all onboard by 4:30pm so we decided to let the day flow. We got off at World Trade centre and saw the new world trade building and the magnificent memorial to September 11 2001. 

Decided not to do the museum due to time restraints but were all very impressed by the two waterfall memorial.



From there we went to the new train station behind the memorial site which is shaped like a bird in flight. 


It is massive underground and has shops as well as the train station. This massive space was not full of people, had a very calm, relaxing feel and we just enjoyed being there. 



From here we took a walk to Century 21 a large store selling everything at a discount price. There seemed to be a lot of savvy shopping going on by those whom knew what they wanted.

We walked from there through the financial district seeing the Wall St bull and onto the pier to catch the ferry back to our stop. Again our VIP passes came in handy and we were able to make the ferry on time ( just) and enjoy the ride past Liberty island once again and back to pier 78. 

Turns out the captain on our ferry was the first responder when the plane went in the Hudson and rescued quite a large number of the folks involved.


With time till our departure we dropped at a bar on one of the piers and enjoyed a few buckets of beer and crisps.

Always good to relax with a drink in a city to let it wash over you and have a laugh at the sights we’ve seen over the last few days. 


Back on ship I had a quick shower to wash the day away and hit the deck for sail away. 

We have a new resident band who are great, as was the last one. 






Goodbye New York, you’re loud, brash, dirty, huge, entertaining and we enjoyed our time with you.