Saturday, May 2, 2015

Miami and Cartagena

Now to continue my description of our whirlwind weekend in the US!

Our impression of Tampa is one of highways and waterways
Having left a Thank-You card on Tom's kitchen counter, we packed up the car and hit the road.  Tom had graciously agreed to receive some packages for us, all rowing-related, so we had a few more items to fit than before, but it was not too difficult.  We stopped for brunch at a Cracker Barrel, which made me smile with reminiscences of 18-hour bus rides from Ithaca down to Gainesville, Georgia, for Spring training camp when I was in college.  I was excited to read the gravy-stained menu and to browse the old-timey toys and candies in the shop.  Maurizio, a.k.a. Frasier Crane, was unimpressed, but perhaps it was my fault for failing to recommend something involving biscuits and gravy.  The drive back to Miami was easy enough, especially because it was daylight this time.  I decided to call my parents, as I was in the same country for the weekend, and I spoke pleasantly to them for a good part of the drive.  Once more, we saw no alligators on Alligator Alley, which I suppose is good, though disappointing.

Juliana was such a sweetheart!
We finally arrived in the late-afternoon to Weston, where Maurizio’s cousin, Juliana, lived with her boyfriend, Carlos.  They, too, had received packages for us, and we were greeted by some big boxes in their living room. They served us some sushi as an appetiser before we went out to dinner at an Italian place, and we all ate way more than we should have.  By the time we got home, I was exhausted, and I went upstairs and passed out immediately.   Maurizio stayed up talking to them for a while, because he very rarely gets to see his pretty cousin, and because they had been so kind to us that he felt rude not spending more time with them.  We had a lovely little room with a very comfortable bed, but I am sure neither of us took much notice because of how tired we were!

We got up early the next morning in order to re-pack our bags, which was going to be a challenge!  See, those giant boxes that Juliana and Carlos had so kindly received on our behalf came from our friend Rob Englehardt in West Hatfield, MA, and contained about 34 pairs of boat shoes from the boats we are shipping to Colombia.  

Because of a ridiculous regulation, it is illegal to import used shoes to Colombia (it might damage the local shoe industry), and even though we explained many, many times to the importation office that these shoes were a part of the boat and were useless for any other purpose, they told us we could not send the boats with shoes attached.  So, both Maurizio and I had packed an extra suitcase inside of a larger one, and we now went about the process of filling them with shoes. It was more difficult than you might think, as they all had footplates and screws attached to them, and it was a fun game of Tetris trying to make them all fit.  We had also planned to stop at a nearby mall to buy me some trainers (still can’t find shoes in my size here in Colombia) and him some sunglasses (I got some too), which would also have to be squeezed in.  All of this accomplished, and a fond farewell said to our gracious hosts, we made our way back to the rental car place and returned our car with only a little hassle.  Finally, we made it to the airport pretty much just in time for our flight, which went first to Cartagena de Indias, and then to Bogotá.

Hey, buddy! Wanna buy some used shoes? Cheap!

We had, ostensibly, a 6-hour layover in Cartagena, so we had planned to visit the home of Maurizio’s mom’s cousin, Soledad, and to take a little walk around the Old City.  We arrived in good time, but we were stopped at the airport because of our bags full of shoes, which probably looked very suspicious on the x-ray machine.  We had to open the bags and explain that we were coaches of a rowing team which had just come from a competition, and that we were transporting equipment.  When he saw the old, battered, smelly shoes with footplates attached, the security guard was happily convinced that we were not damaging the Colombian shoe industry in any way, so he cleared our bags to go on the next flight.

Lots of these in Cartagena!
We  left the airport and took a taxi along the coastline, where people were cooling themselves in the water and fishing for their dinner, and arrived at our destination, a large door in a quiet street full of balconies and vines.  My first impression of Cartagena was one of decaying quaintness, with lots of pretty carvings and mouldings that had clearly seen better days.  We chatted for a bit with Soledad's husband, Joaquin, and her grandson, Alejandro, a very energetic child who eagerly showed me his favourite toys, including a rubber snake which he whipped around gleefully.  His mother, Elena, served us juice made of tomate de arbol, a little orange fruit that looks like a large cherry tomato but is a bit sweeter.

Up on the windy wall, looking back at the city streets
Then we took a long walk, first into the Old City, then along the fort wall that faces the ocean.  It was hot, but very windy, and the sun was setting as we came upon the house of Alejandro Obregón, one of Maurizio’s favourite painters.  We also stopped to take a photo next to the famous Botero statue of a reclining woman.  We wandered into a Paleteria and tasted the ice cream popsicles they sell, which were quite refreshing, and we enjoyed them while watching some local dancers put on a little show. We walked around the outer streets for a while and stumbled upon a caravan of MGs from Australia which had traveled all over the world (as was made evident by the stickers covering them), and then finally made our way into a seafood restaurant for dinner.  We ordered some fancy ceviche, or fish stews, but I had to send mine back once because they put cilantro in it even after I requested none.  The replacement was yummy, though!

Hanging out with a Botero
Well-traveled MGs
Pretty cars!
We returned to get our bags and say goodbye to the family, and then went back to the airport, where we discovered that our flight was delayed.  A lot.  We had timed it so that we would arrive home around 11 pm, and I could still get some sleep before teaching the next day, but now we were told the flight would not even leave until nearly midnight.  This was unwelcome news, and we kicked ourselves for not checking earlier, as we might at least have stayed longer in the city.  Instead, we napped on a bench with the other disgruntled passengers for a couple of hours, waking only when we heard our names called over the loudspeaker.  We got back to Bogota around 1 a.m. and then we slept as much as we could because we had to get up at 5 so I could get to work.

Thus ended our US adventure...but we were looking forward to the Colombian one scheduled for the following week!

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