Finishing Up in Cartagena and Returning Home

Monday, October 16, 2017
Cartagena, Bolivar, Colombia
Friday, we wake up, but we don’t immediately get out of bed.  There is nowhere we have to be and nothing that needs to be done immediately this morning.  A few minutes of lying in bed to welcome the day is nice.  We do go to breakfast soon afterward.  We have an appointment at 10 AM with Katherine to go over our bill for the group stay at the hotel.  I give her all the corrections to arrival and departure times that we have had.  We have had many this year due to the Avianca Airlines strike, multiple changing flight times, and businesses that have made getting off for the Feast difficult.  She does not question any of my changes.  That is one of many blessings.  She trusts me to be honest with the details.
She returns to her office to make the corrections, and we return to the room to catch up on a lot of e-mail. She sends me back a corrected bill, and I notice one other error.  I send it back, and she resends it just before lunch.  We eat lunch, and during lunch, we notice a lot of people checking in.  The lobby is full of bags and people. It is going to be busy this four day weekend (Columbus Day is being celebrated on Monday).  We check with the front desk and we each agree to pay the bill later in the day when fewer people are checking in.
We change into our walking clothes and walk on the sidewalks for 45 minutes.  It’s the normal hot and steamy afternoon air. We are harassed by vendors on the first half and then we veer off onto some more residential streets.  No vendors are here!  We will have to remember this for next time.  We return to the hotel hot and sweaty.  We change into our swimsuits and go out to the beach. It is sunny.  We find about a dozen sand dollars on the sea floor. They feel like rough stones in the sand.  Scott and I take turns picking them up with our feet, and the other person then grabs it as you put your feet together above the water as you lean back. We look at them for injuries or uniqueness, and then toss them back into the water to live for another day.
We return to the hotel after about 45 minutes and shower and change.   We go down to the reception and pay the group bill.  It goes smoothly.  We just have our personal bill to pay when we check out on Monday. We also leave envelopes of “tips” for each restaurant worker.  We use the funds raised from the Auction during the Feast to pay the tip.
To make the Sabbath special, we decide to eat at Marzola’s in the Old City.  Almost immediately we notice that our waiter seems to be “out of it.”  I say simple things like what I want to order and how I want it done.  He doesn’t understand and I have to repeat it twice.  Scott tries, to no avail; he acts like Scott is speaking Russian or something, and gives him weird looks…we know how to say these words, and we can’t figure out what is the problem.  Finally we finish our meal.  Our waiter never returned to check on us, or ask if we need anything. When we wanted to pay the bill, he was nowhere around. Another waitress comes over and we tell her we are very disappointed and we do not want to pay the tip that is on the bill.  We explain our displeasure, and she agrees.  We have not refused to tip someone in a very long time.
We walk to Mila Vargus for coffee and cheesecake for me.  Scott thinks it was a fluke, and this will be better. The restaurant is packed but we find a table near the entrance to the restaurant.  An “Oriental” looking man is at a table next to us is talking very loud on his phone using the speaker phone about 6 inches from his mouth.  Finally a table opens up a across the way, and we move over there.  We finish up rather quickly and walk several blocks until we find a taxi.  Our night out was not as pleasant as we had hoped, but the diversion from the hotel food was a welcome change.
Sabbath morning, the restaurant is literally filled with people.  We hang out in the room, watch people on the beach from our room, listen to a couple sermons, and rest.  The Feast has been very busy, so we appreciate this down time.  We walk to a nearby restaurant for lunch; I have a chicken burrito.  We stop and get an iced latte at Juan Valdez and return to the room and connect with the Hickory, NC congregation for church services.  Chris Rowland was visiting there, and he video connected us with his phone. Thanks Chris!
I wanted pizza for dinner, but since we had pizza at the hotel only a little over week ago, the pizza man has since quit.  No pizza at the hotel now.  We walk to a nearby restaurant that advertises pizza. It has great atmosphere.  I love the unique lights on the ceiling. The pizza comes and it is lame.  There is only a skimming of cheese and very few vegetables on it. We won’t go back to that restaurant for pizza, and they also don’t get a very good review on TripAdvisor from Scott.  You have to have great food if you want people to return.
Sunday, I spend time reading and Scott has some computer work to do.  Neither one of us is interested in going to the beach as it is packed.  We do take a walk though.  One of the restaurant employees asks us why we don’t go wandering around the city. We tell him that we are enjoying doing “nothing” for a change.
After lunch, we are going to go to Juan Valdez for coffee.  Scott decides that he wants to buy Juan Valdez for all the restaurant workers.  We ask them what they like.  Jhonatan, who is just getting off, goes with us to help carry the beverages.  We buy 8 drinks.  We made their day!  They are always so friendly and helpful to us, it is just one small way that we can thank and treat them.
For dinner, we go to Hot Restaurant again.  It has over 100 selections of food to have.  We are so tired of Colombian food.  Even though the Mexican food at this restaurant has a distinct Colombia feel, it is different than the usual hotel food.  We have a little left over after dinner to take home with us for breakfast tomorrow (Monday).
We pay our bill at the reception Sunday night so that there are no surprises when we check out at 4:45 AM on Monday morning.
We go to bed early, and I sleep well.  We are up at 4 AM on Monday.  Our flight goes well from Cartagena to Panama.  When we get to Panama, I am selected for Special Screen.  I got on the dreaded SSSS list.  We have Global Entry and we are supposed to be able to avoid these things.  Scott got selected last trip, and now I did.  They tested everything for drugs.  They even took my empty water bottle.  I am going to have to call Global Entry and find out what we need to do to clear our name from this selection in the future. It’s a very real hassle, and Scott thinks it’s somewhat invasive into one’s privacy.
On our flight from Panama to Houston, we were flying along fine, and all of a sudden, in the middle of the flight, we had turbulence.  Scott had a cup with ice and a lime wedge along with a closed can of sparkling water on the tray beside him. The huge bump and following turbulence caused everything to jump up and land on the floor.  We have flown a lot, but we have never had turbulence such as this before.
My boarding pass from Houston to Pensacola also did not have Pre-Check on it, which we are supposed to get with Global Entry, so I have to go through the regular security check lane which takes quite a bit longer.  We finally get through and find the Centurion Lounge.  The very friendly receptionist tells us that we could make the earlier flight to Pensacola and that it has plenty of room. 
We make a call to Brian to see if he can come early to pick us up in Pensacola.  He is happy to hear from us, but he has plans and cannot come early. We decided to spend the time in the lounge instead of the time in the Pensacola airport.  They have excellent food and beverage here; excellent Wi-Fi; it is quiet.  Next time we will know that we can make the earlier flight, and we can perhaps plan on it. Each trip is different and you never know until you have done it.
We hang out in the lounge and eat, have cappuccinos, and work on e-mail.  We see many people come and go as we are there so long.  Finally, it is time for us to leave.  We find our way to the airport light rail train.  We travel from terminal D to terminal C to terminal B where we walk all the way to gate 87.  It is at the very end.  Just as we arrive, they announce that our flight has had a gate change.  Now, we have to walk all the way back to the train, travel back to terminal C, and then walk to gate 34—not quite at the end of the terminal.  It is a good thing that we did not plan to arrive at the very last minute.  We also got in extra steps, which are needed when traveling as one tends to sit too much.
The gate attended announced that our plane had a maintenance issue, so we would be slightly delayed.  A required strobe light on the wing is burned out.  Fortunately, the delay is only 20 minutes.  We did not want to have to end up spending the night in Houston.  We board the plane.  We are served beverages on this very short flight—less than an hour.  I doze a little as it has been a long day.
We arrive in Pensacola and we suspect that the pilot is new.  There is no wind, but the plane sure bounced around and it seemed like he had a hard time keeping it level on our approach to Pensacola.  We hit the tarmac with a definite bump, and then we were down.  Safely.  Brian met us with a cheerful smile, and all our luggage arrived.  Hurray!  Successful trip.  We drove home.  I unpacked my toothbrush and went to bed.

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Comments

Ailsa
2017-10-18

Glad you are safely home! Thank you for sharing your adventures with us! Hugs.

Judy Averill
2017-10-25

Thanks, Gayle, for your travel news. Hugs. Glad you are home safe and keep up the excellent work!

2017-11-23