If it hadn´t been for the noise pollution of twelve hours of high-volume, non-stop Spanish music playing in the neighborhood of my Taganga hostel all night and all day this weekend, I might now be swaying in a hammock under the palms on the beach in Tayrona National Park, but I´m glad I came on to Cartagena yesterday. It took six hours to make the switch, riding a minibus from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., but I arrived in this most-famous port city just after dark and was so happy that I had found a very genteel and quiet landing spot.
My Taganga hostel hosts at Casa de Filipe were very understanding about my noise-allergy and they suggested Lucia´s home in the Old Town of Cartagena, even phoning her to make reservations. The minibus ($27) deposited me at a large wooden door along the walled street, which opened immediately when Ingress, the maid, heard the knock. Entering created that breathless moment when one takes in unexpected loveliness waiting to surround you: a floral tile floor, antique furniture, high ceilings, soft lighting, warm comfort…all flowing into a center garden filled with lush green plants in big terra cotta pots. So old-world. So New Orleans French Quarter. So hushed and quiet. My room with its double bed and ensuite bathroom costs $47 per night and doesn´t have air-conditioning or TV, but I don´t really like either of those ameneties very much. Upstairs balcony rooms come equipped with those for a few dollars more.
Included in the room cost is the most gargantuan breakfast possibility on the planet. This morning I could have eaten myself into a stupor, but stuck to the huge tropical fruit plate with seven varieties of peeled and quartered delights; a homemade bread basket with fresh berry preserves and raw honey; coffee and hot chocolate. I was also offered bacon and eggs, pancakes, or cereal. This was served graciously at linen-covered tables set with magnificent china, on the strip of tiled, roofed, walkway around the edge of the magnificent garden. Birds sang in the banana trees.
If you ever get to Cartagena, Colombia, email Lucia Spragge Buelvas at [email protected] and this could be yours for as long as you want to vacation here.
A postscript on the sound barrage in Taganga: I came to see that this is institutionalized noise pollution, apparently highly-valued by the residents. First, passing the offending house in front of our hostel gates, I could see that this was no boombox. In front of the door were two enormous stacked speakers creating percussion in the air. I finally walked out of their range, only to hear the same song belting out from a business further down the hill. Again, identical wooden speakers were standing just outside the open front door, blaring the broadcast to their coverage area. I wouldn´t be surprised if another blast station existed down by the beach, too far to be served by these monstrous ear polluters. Then, from the bus, I saw a house in downtown Santa Marta which also served the same function and sported identical stacked speakers. A toothless man came dancing out the door, singing the words. This is the way they enjoy the weekend, obviously.
I wonder if there is a lot of early-onset deafness in these parts?