Panama Canal Cruise - Day 12 - Cartegna Colombia

Our last port of the cruise was Cartegna, Colombia. Again, neither Ted nor I had ever visited Colombia, so we were eager to see the country. From the ship's deck, it looked like a huge modern city. Our cruise director told us all those skyscrapers are condominiums.

We took a "City Highlights" tour, and spent several hot, steamy hours riding around in a bus with an overworked air conditioner, with tour guide Roberto Jr. (He gave each of us a tag with his name in case we got lost.) At the time we were in Cartegna, Kentucky and Salt Lake City were both having a huge snowstorm, but we were sweltering in the Colombian heat.

Our first visit was to the walled city of Cargetna, an old fortress that was incredibly fascinating. We learned about the defensible location, toured an intricate series of tunnels throughout the massive fortress, and enjoyed breathtaking views of the city.

After leaving the old city, we visited a shopping area located in an old jail. Ugh. Lots of touristy junk, and lots of natives trying to get us to buy it. Our tour guide was obviously getting a kick-back from one of the shops in that converted jail, and it was hard to leave there in order to visit some of the others.

Then we headed downtown and visited the cathedral. I have a thing for cathedrals, and this one was gorgeous. Built in the late 1500's and early 1600's, the walls were decorated with lovely friezes of the life of Christ, and a beautiful altar. While our group toured and looked at all the statues, I slipped into a pew and refreshed my spirit by communing with my Father in the same place where thousands have done so before.

After we left the cathedral, we fought off hundreds (or so it seemed) of local vendors trying to sell us everything from headbands to artwork as we made our way to The Cloister. Another church, this one is a monument to St. Peter Claver, who died in the mid 1600's, after saving literally thousands of slaves from the Colombian slave trade. It was really cool - St. Peter Claver's mummified body is still there!!! Do you know how cool it was to kneel with my face just inches from his, separated by the thin later of a glass coffin?

Before we went back to the ship we visited another shopping center, where our guide tried hard to get us to buy emeralds from one specific shop. We fought them off, and instead browsed the street vendors. I found a sweet little Colombian outfit for my grandson, and then we happened upon a shop with a treasure trove of charming Christmas ornaments. We bought gifts for our granddaughter, Macy, my niece, Tori, and my daughter, Christy -- and for our own Christmas tree. And we munched on chocolate covered espresso beans that set our brains buzzing!

When we got back to the ship, we were hot and sweaty, and our feet ached from all the walking. We saw some cool stuff in Cargetna and we're really glad we went. But to be honest, neither of us are eager to return.