Calle del las maravillas no 30-60
The first hotel we stayed at on our trip to South America turned out to be one of our favorites. Following the Lonely Planet’s guide to Colombia, we had hoped to stay at the Casa Viena. But they do not reserve and although they indicated they would probably have a room, they did not. Fortunately, Hotel Villa Colonial is a short two blocks away and totally delightful. Family operated (and what a family!), they welcome us as if we were long lost relatives, offering us much needed tea the moment we arrived.
Our first room was very comfortable but not as light as we wanted; we had our eye on a corner room with balcony that we were able to move into the very next day. Yes, it was more expensive than the hostel; we paid $27 / day but very much worth it. By staying at the hostel Casa Viena, we knew we would meet other travelers and catch up with Colombia travel gossip but … not to worry. Villa Colonial guests gathered in the comfortable lobby where they shared stories, checked email, and chatted with the friendly and helpful owners and their children. Plus, we were close to Gato Negro café, a definite plus.
In Getsemane, a district of Cartagena loved by many, we were surrounded by Colonial buildings which made it easy for us to settle into the city. That location, close to the historic old town with the museums and colonial landmarks, is well known for its well-priced cafes and shops. It is easy to get a cappuccino and a Western breakfast as well as a Colombian dinner of arroz con pollo (chieken and rice) Yes, there you will probably encounter hookers and a few drunks once night falls, but you will also get the opportunity to chat with shop owners, local residents, and plenty of budget travelers everywhere you go. We met travelers from countries ranging from Germany to Chile and heard travel stories we probably would not have gotten if staying in the nearby five-star hotel.
Close to the city wall and the water, the Hotel Villa Colonial is an older building and we enjoyed the ornate architectural details of our room, its spacious and irregular shape, as well as the comfortable bed and the bright designs, often sea blue, on the linens that were changed daily. Laundry? No problem. Leave it at the desk and it is returned carefully washed and folded. Directions? Not only did they often draw a map for us, the first thing they gave us was the hotel card with a map on the back, just in case we got turned around among the small winding streets. (We did; map came in handy.)
Bit of warning: It is warm in Cartagena and the humidity and temperature often match. In order to adjust to it, we did not want air conditioning but rather a ceiling fan to keep the air moving. It is not that one perspires more in the heat, it is simply that the air does not absorb that perspiration because it is already saturated! One more thing: the showers in many hotels and hostels consist of a pipe coming out of the wall and there is no hot water. Not that you care at that temperature!
We headed out of Cartagena for a few days, then came back and had reserved the same room for another five days.
Marta, one of the owners, is learning English and is willing to practice. She helped me with my Spanish which I appreciated very much. Highly recommended for the budget traveler.