A wedding in Colombia, June 2022

Star Travel Rating

5/5

Review type

Destination, Holiday

Location

Date of travel

June, 2022

Product name

Visit to Colombia for family wedding

Product country

Colombia

Product city

Cartegana, Baranquilla and Santa Marta

Travelled with

Couple

Reasons for trip

Callum's wedding

Trip to Colombia South America for Callum’s wedding 1-18th June 2022.

As our flight out was a 06:20 take off on Thursday 2nd June we opted for a night at the Sofitel, Terminal 5, Heathrow. This let us drop our bags off the day before and made for a less stressful start to the Thursday. We flew to with BA/Iberia to Madrid and thence onto Bogota, where we had a night at the Marriott. We had opted to fly business class; our tickets being mainly paid for by vouchers from flights we couldn’t take due to covid. It was definitely a good move. Access to comfy lounges at all the airports, quick access onto the flights and comfort on the planes made the journeys much less stressful experiences. We arrived at security shortly before 4am and had to wait for it to open at which it took about 30mins to process.

Neil’s metal work in his leg didn’t set the machines off (though’ a 1p in a hidden pocket did.) We made our way to the lounge , which didn’t open till 5, leaving just enough time for a quick breakfast before being first on board. The flight to Madrid was comfortable in club Europe but the onward flight to Bogata was even better and while I don’t think you could call any flight a pleasure it was certainly not a huge trial. I had booked the Hotel Marriott at Bogata airport because it operated its own shuttle service which ran as per instructions. The room was comfortable and breakfast was satisfactory before we headed back on the shuttle bus to the airport in the rain and flew onto Santa Marta, with Latam airways, on the Friday 3rd June. A definite budget airline, but we were only 1.5 hrs. onboard so not so bad.

A pre-booked taxi took us to our first Hotel, part of the Senda Group, Hotel Koguiwa by the Tayona National park on the coast just outside Santa Marta. We were very lucky with our room, well laid out with our own shaded outside seating area. It was part of the original owner’s house and we had use of a pool that served our tiny mini complex within the hotel: and because we were nearer the Watapuy hotel complex (a newer and even more boutique hotel) we used their central dining facilities. The food was amazing. The Chef was from Barcelona and told Neil just to choose anything from the menu and he would make sure it was gluten free so he did and we were not disappointed. Salads, risotto, pasta, burgers, fish dishes, and breakfast. Don’t think we ever managed a desert! We had 4 days before the rest of the wedding party arrived at Koguiwa and we made the most of the pool, the beautiful scenery, visits from monkeys, iguanas , geckos and lots of different birds. We did the short nature walk, quite a steep incline but manageable and lovely views. The weather was interesting, it was either glorious sunshine and baking hot, or bucketing with rain and baking hot. It never rained for more than an hour or so and dried up very quickly.

Wed 8th Jull and we all boarded a bus to Barranquilla, where Callum now lives and works at the University teaching English. On the drive into Branquilla we passed a number of flooded, run-down shanty communities, so perhaps it is no surprise that Colombia has just elected it’s first left-wing president. We stayed at El Prado, a well-established hotel with all luxuries. On the Thursday morning we went to at the local Registry Office for 8am to witness Callum and Martha complete the legalities of their wedding and toast them on the steps outside with champagne as the locals went about their daily business. Neil and I did a short walk in the local area that afternoon, while many of the others opted to go shopping. In the evening everyone piled into taxis with the rest of the party to go to the Gran Malecon, a collection of restaurants under one roof to cater for all appetites. We had a very pleasant evening, watching the river flow past, night fishermen and white egrets standing on the flotsam being washed down river after the rains.

The following morning we had another bus journey (Thank you Callum for sorting these) to get to Cartagena for the actual wedding. Our hotel for the first 3 nights was in the heart of the old town, the Casa India Catalina. A very old hotel and a little tired round the edges but it had a charm of its own and we enjoyed our stay there. The walled inner-city area of Cartagena is a visually arresting post-colonial area although walking through the narrow crowded humid streets can take it’s toll. The large number of street hawkers could be a trial but they were only trying to eke out a basic existence and they accepted the endless “no gracias” with good grace. The first night we were invited to pre-wedding cocktails at the Hotel Amarla( about half a block down from us and much more upmarket) and a chance to meet more of Martha’s family and their friends and view Cartagena roof tops by night, quite beautiful with an electrical storm lighting up the sky. The wedding wasn’t until 5pm on the Saturday so having first found out the wedding venue(15mins walk) we spent the rest of the day exploring Getsemani (the artistic quarter which was quaint and beautiful), having a dip in the hidden pool at our hotel and just relaxing ready for the real event.

Martha had done a superb job in organizing everything for the actual wedding ceremony. Shona,(Calum’s mum) didn’t realize that as mum she had a central role to play, walking him in and then tying his and Martha’s wrists together , with Marguerite(Martha’s mum) and signing the register. (Sorry Niall, Dads played no real part) The party that followed was excellent and capped at Midnight with the local “hora loco” group coming to bless the wedding and join in the celebrations. Martha’s dress was stunning, designed by her cousin and her white fascinator was her personal touch of England for the wedding. We left about 1:30 and apparently it all wound up about 2.

The next day we chilled and wandered the old town, walking all walls that could be accessed. We ate that night in an Argentinian Steak bar where the walls were totally covered with bottle tops and the steak was very tasty. On the 13th we met up with others from the wedding to go on a boat-trip out to the Rosario Islands. We saw Pablo Escobar’s summer palace and had a lovely fish lunch on one of the islands. Several swim slops with some snorkeling to see fish, not multitudes but pretty non-the-less. That evening we moved hotels to our final location, the Hotel InterContinental Cartagena out on the Bocagrande just outside the old Town. While this hotel should have been the highlight for us, unfortunately it let itself down with niggly housekeeping, all of which were addressed but caused unnecessary hassle. The Receptionist on our arrival recommended a local restaurant, 5minutes walk from the hotel. That was a real find and we had 3 delicious dinners there. First day we walked around the headland. The second day we walked back into the old town to retrieve Neil’s sunhat from Casa India, as we had left on the reception desk by mistake. On our second evening we headed back to the old town for a final dinner with Callum etal. Knowing It was about a 40 mins walk so we decided that would be fine, but about 20 mins in it began to drizzle, by 30 mins that had become a downpour and we arrived at the restaurant soaked to the skin. We got a taxi back to the hotel, rerouted due to localized flooding! We ate that night at the hotel, not venturing into the downpour again. By morning all the evidence of the last nights drenching and flooded roads had gone! So for our last day we just chilled and stayed by the pool, drying our still sopping clothes and shoes from the loungers.

We left our hotel on 17th July 8am in a taxi courtesy of the hotel by way of recompense for the poor housekeeping. Our flight with Latam Airways took us from Cartagena back to Bogata and was uneventful. We caught our Flight to Madrid , leaving Bogata at 17:15, with relative ease, using the Lounge at Bogata for a light lunch. The flight to Madrid itself was good, we didn’t sleep even though we were comfortable and landed in Madrid shortly after 9 am (early) We headed for the lounge , deciding our original plan to go into Madrid for the day was not practical. We were too tired and it was too hot, 40degrees being predicted for the day. So we decided to chill in the lounge till our flight to Heathrow at 19:00. About 15:00 I checked my emails. I had received an email at 13:30 form BA to say our flight to London was cancelled and offering us a flight at 19:30 to La Palma and then a connection to Gatwick arriving there at 23:30. We went to the Iberia Help desk and while queueing I tried to use the BA website to find an alternative but it wouldn’t let me alter on leg of a journey. So I rang their number and was connected in 3 rings1 I said I couldn’t accept the offer, they had one seat at 17:00 to Heathrow or it was 8am on 19th.. BA would pay all our expenses , just keep my receipts. We opted for that. We returned to the lounge to collect our thought and the Lady on the desk asked us what was wrong. We explained. She asked us to give her 10 mins, it was 15:40. So we got a drink and returned, “I definitely have one. I will know in 10 mins if I have two seats on the 17:00. “ We waited. 16:00 and yes she did. She printed out new boarding cards and then shooed us away as the plane was ready to start boarding. We had ended up getting back on an earlier flight! We then had the luggage nightmare of Heathrow. We sat waiting with a chap from Canada, He too had had a long stopover in Madrid and he had ventured into town. And yes it had been unbearably hot so he had returned early to the airport to face a 3hour queue to get back through security! I think someone was looking after us that day as our bags were the first off the plane and we were able to ring for our car and head home.

Sue

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