It’s been almost a week, but I want to mention the royal wedding. Yeah, that thing that happened last Saturday. I got up early to watch it with my aunt and cousin. I watched because I love weddings in general. My brother is a wedding videographer, so if you love weddings, you can watch his video clips of weddings to your heart’s content.
Mostly I watched because Windsor (technically the adjacent town, Eton) was where I lived for a month last summer, so it was fun to catch glimpses of the places I had frequented. My friend Sam, whose house I took care of, was on the Long Walk with his wife and kid with their picnic and blanket, waving flags as the carriage drove by. He WhatsApp’d me a slew of photos.
This is one of the little thrills of traveling or living somewhere else—to be able to point to the TV and say, “I was there!”
Out on the street in Cartagena for our two-hour walking tour, our guide Nora talked loudly to be heard over the street noise as the three of us navigated the crowded sidewalks. Lynn and I gave each other the side eye as we passed certain shops.
These were dress shops.
Nora caught our raised eyebrows and smiled conspiratorially. “Yes, our ladies like very expressive dresses.” Unlike Nora—who had short cropped hair and was dressed like a tomboy. “Let us go to the sea barrier,” she suggested. “It’s less crowded there.”
We passed the house of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. He’s dead now, and Nora wasn’t sure if the house was occupied by his widow or what, but it was still cool to see it. I had read Chronicle of a Death Foretold before leaving for Colombia and its setting was a rural version of Cartagena, with a very mixed racial and Caribbean vibe.
Across the street was a concert and wedding venue that looking like a wedding cake itself.
Nora continuously read and sent texts as she walked and talked. She had moved to Cartagena to live with her boyfriend, a musician. He was 60—more than 20 years older than her. Would we like to meet him?
That was a bit unexpected on a guided tour, but of course we said yes.
She talked about how the rents were so much higher in Cartagena than where she had moved from—because of tourists and Air BnB driving up prices. “My brother has also moved here now,” she continued. “He is in a bar right now with my boyfriend and I will take you to meet them.”
Um, okay? I don’t mean to imply that I was suspicious or worried about this, but it was a little strange. Did she just want to hang out with them?
We passed a lovely old wreck of a colonial house for sale.
She led us along the breakwater and explained how Cartagena had been founded by runaway women slaves. It was a really interesting bit of history I’d never heard, but unfortunately half of the story was lost to the roar of the wind and waves.
We re-entered the city through the thick walls and stood in a plaza. “This was the black market. It’s where that term originated. Here’s where slaves were auctioned off.”
I had never thought about this before. A pall of sadness descended over me.
But Nora kept us moving as night fell. She led us through a food hall selling every kind of pickled, dried, and candied nut, fruit, meat, and …
… ants—I bought a packet for my son the chef.
This place was twice as loud. We shouted “Hello!” to Nora’s boyfriend and brother. I’m sure this was the place to see and be seen, but we declined the invitation to stay and join this couple on the dance floor.