Traveling to Cartagena and Visiting Hotel Caribe

Friday, September 29, 2017
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
We had a very pleasant day of travel Thursday.  It was still long, but without the normal challenges we often face. Having been transferred and moved this summer, we are now traveling out of the U.S. via a different airport.  The last six years it has been from Charlotte Douglas. Our neighbor, Brian, has been very helpful in getting settled into our new home. We have greatly appreciated his help, but unfortunately he will be moving at the end of October.  He volunteered to take us to the airport this trip, so that made this first trip to the Pensacola airport very easy.  The Pensacola airport is a small regional airport, so we were checked in and through security in no time at all.  Their TSA Pre-check worked perfectly here, no hassles! We then had two hours to pass before boarding our first flight. We might not have to leave home quite so early for our next flight out.
We “camped out” in a restaurant until lunch was being served.  We ate lunch and then it was time to go to our gate. We flew to Houston where we checked into a United Airlines lounge--we had free passes.   We ate their salad buffet, and had a couple cups of cappuccino.  We then went to our gate and arrived just as they were starting to board.  This was the first international flight (3 1/2 hours) that we have had that had no food on it.  The only thing we were served was a soft drink and a small package of pretzels.  So, that is why when we are traveling, we always take advantage of eating when we can.  We never know when we may not have food, be stuck on an airplane for extra time, or be delayed somewhere.
We arrived in Panama City, Panama, and it was crazy.  The airport is laid out weird.  We’ve been here before, but normally avoid Panama if possible. The men's restroom is nowhere near the women's restroom.  There was an escalator to go up to the food court, but we never found the escalator or other steps to go down.  We used the up one to go back down when it wasn't moving.  You had to be careful going down, before someone stepped on the first rung to go up, otherwise you had to virtually run to get down. We were going to have a light snack at the restaurant and we had a bit of a sticker shock.  A small bowl of beef stew was $18.75.  We looked at other options in the food court and they were equally expensive or food that Scott could not eat--bread, pizza, and rice.  We went back to the original restaurant, and we opted for the chicken wings and shared a salad.
Our flight from Panama City to Cartagena was on Copa Airlines and was only 45 minutes.  On this flight, they offered us a small turkey and cheese sandwich and a choice of adult or soft beverages. United Airlines could learn from their example.
We arrived in Cartagena and then waited for our luggage.  Two of our bags arrived, and then our one bag which we brought that contained things to give away at the Feast was the very last bag to come on the conveyor belt.  At least they all came.  That was a relief.
We arrived at the Regatta.  A new receptionist was on duty, which can be and was a challenge.  I had made a reservation for a specific room which works well for us, and it was confirmed.   The receptionist wanted to give us a room on a different floor.  After some discussion, we were given one on the floor that works well for us (near the meeting hall).  We thought it might be alright, but in the middle of the night the air conditioner stopped working and we woke up.  We turned it down as far as it would go, but that did not give us any more cold air.  We slept fitfully the rest of the night…a hammock in the ocean air would have been cooler.
At 8 AM, Friday morning, Katherine (the new events coordinator), called me to see how I was doing.  She apologized with a “million apologies” for the inconvenience and she would get us in our assigned room today.  We like to avoid these hassles, but they seem to go with the territory.  Especially with tonight starting the Day of Atonement, we like to be well-settled in our room beforehand.
We ate breakfast.  Of course, we were greeted by all our old friends in the kitchen and the reception.  We decided to hang out in the restaurant as it was air conditioned and our room was not.   We got caught up on the essential emails from yesterday and limited Wi-Fi. They allowed us to work there even though it was closed then until lunch.
At 11:30 AM, we had an appointment with Esther, who used to be the Event coordinator at the Regatta, but has a new job as an events coordinator at the Hotel Caribe.  Hotel Caribe is the largest hotel in Cartagena and is only about four blocks away.  We met her with hugs in the very elegant lobby. She took us on a tour of the hotel.  She had invited us to see her new hotel as a possible hotel for us to use in the future for the Feast of Tabernacles. Scott and I are always looking for better options to accommodate the brethren from Colombia and yet offer inviting options for transferees in.
We saw rooms in the original part of the hotel which is 80 years old and still in the colonial style.  These rooms were very nice!  We also saw rooms in the two more modern sections of the hotel.  These were also very nice; some of them were on a more moderate scale.   We viewed the multiple salons (meeting rooms) of which there are nine.  We looked at the beautiful gardens, mini-golf area, children’s play area, the spa area which includes Jacuzzi, Turkish spa, sauna and massage area, and Esther pointed out the on- site deer (we saw a family of three), the Guacamaya (parrots), and the sloths up in the tree. Then Esther took us to her office and introduced us to her co-workers and her boss, Gloria.  Gloria joined us and we went to the restaurant to eat.  We passed the semi-Olympic sized pool which looked very inviting. 
For lunch we had the buffet which included a salad bar of many choices.  One was a fish tart.  I inquired about the type of fish used in the tart.  The kitchen manager was quite interested in why I wanted to know what type of fish was used, and why I would only eat fish with fins and scales.  When I said I could eat tuna because it had fins and scales and he said that “tuna did not have scales;” I did not pursue the conversation further as it would be a much longer conversation than I had time for at the moment.
Also on the main buffet was roast beef and baked fish, cheesy broccoli, Peruvian potatoes (mashed potatoes mixed with ground beef and made into balls and fried), and also a few other things that we could not eat.  On the dessert buffet there was fruit and three desserts, one which was a tiny cream puff filled with arequipe and covered with chocolate. 
This hotel has six restaurants.  The main one is inside and air conditioned. This is where we ate.  After lunch, Esther took us across the street to the restaurant they have that is on the beach.  It is open from 11-5 PM and has typical food—baby beef, hamburgers, and seafood.  It is fenced off from the beach so you can eat or spend time in the sunbathing area unmolested by beach vendors.
After several hours of discussion we said our good byes and returned to the hotel.  We were able to move into our new room which was ready.  It was right next door, so that was quick and easy.  It is a room we’ve had several times before. We got everything unpacked and settled.   Then we went to the store to pick up a few things for the room—some snacks and some drinks to have in the room in the evening, and for guests who come visit during the Feast. 
The kitchen informed us that they did not have a buffet that evening because there were no groups or events happening at the hotel.  We could either have the menu del dia or order off the menu.  We chose to order off the menu for our pre-Atonement meal.  We had the Baby Beef, patacon, and salad.  It was about half the size of what we normally get, but we figured that must be the portion they give for the “meal included price.”  We were not over full, but it was sufficient.  We had a cup of coffee and then began our fast.
We relaxed in our rocking chairs in our room and enjoyed the lights of the city.  Soon, before 9 PM, we were tired from a busy day of travel on Thursday, not sleeping well that night, and the busy day on Friday.  We turned in for the night.


Judy Averill

Yes, this is a good start. Look forward to more Feast info. We are getting ready to go to the Feast hopefully on Wednesday. Have a great Feast!. Hugs Judy.


So happy to see your blog and you arrived safely. May you have a blessed and inspiring feast! Enjoy. We send our Love! Hugs...