Back now from our recent trip to Colombia, I’ve already shared details of our experience in Bogota — a vibrant if still complicated gem of a city. That we loved Bogota so much was a bit of a surprise to us, given that Cartagena is much more my speed when it comes to my typical vacation preferences. It’s got that Caribbean heat and humidity, plus beaches and islands. It’s charming, lively, and picturesque beyond words. So rather than droning on too much, I want to simply show you scenes from our three days in Cartagena through snapshots. I hope they both gesture at the city’s beauty and culture, as well as suggest a reasonably paced sample itinerary for would-be visitors. And off we go!
On our connecting flights into Colombia earlier this month, we encountered a horrible person. This is not unusual on a plane, but the encounter was so pronounced that it left a prolonged bad taste that colored the beginning of our trip.
We were flying into Cartagena, where we began our Colombian adventure. The guy on the plane, an American, had long ago fallen in love with the city and had visited there 78 times, he said (but who’s counting?) — and had bought property and established some kind of nonprofit. He was in love with Cartagena, obviously, and told us we’d love it.
Then when we told him we were heading to Bogota as our next stop, he said this, actually out loud and not in his head: “You’re going to absolutely hate it. First of all, you’ll probably get kidnapped. And then of course, you’ll be sick from the altitude, which would ruin your whole trip even if you weren’t kidnapped. Also it’s freezing. I wish you had my email address so you could tell me afterward how much you hated it and I was right.”
Legit, this monologue happened. At one point I told him, “OK, stop talking now.” Neighboring passengers rolled eyes. It got awkward.
Much as we wanted to, we found that we couldn’t immediately brush it off. While in Cartagena, David and I asked several people (Colombians) how we might expect to find Bogota when we got there. And, frankly, we were not comforted by their answers. Many people underscored the danger of assault and also the altitude and weather challenges.
So several days later, by the time we took off from Cartagena on our way to Bogota, and someone sitting next to me on the plane made the sign of the cross, I felt a sense of dread.
But spoiler: In the end? We absolutely loved Bogota. Maybe even more than we did Cartagena, though that city is more of the seaside Caribbean vibe that is typically more my vacation speed. Here are all the reasons Bogota ranks high on our list of experiences:
If you, like us, are devouring the new Netflix series Narcos, Colombia may not be super-high on your list of travel destinations. But the country now is far from what it was in those drug cartel-controlled years. And it is courting tourists to come check out its warmth and culture and natural beauty.
I got the idea to visit Colombia when we were in Tulum earlier in the summer with a big group of friends celebrating a wedding. On the day following the nuptials, several of us took a hungover walk from the beach to shop for souvenirs (for instance, the shirt Jordan wore to his travel-theme first-birthday party, and the one Maya wore in this fierce smizing pic — werk). On that slow saunter, a friend who had recently returned from a super-fun vacation in Colombia during which she danced the nights away with her husband (romantico!) told us we had to go and we’d love it.
I am excitable and impressionable when it comes to holiday ideas. And I also love certain serendipities that make a visit to a place seem fated, like an enthusiastic convo about one place while in another fabulous place amid warm and wonderful people.
Plus, I won’t lie: Wherever there is a new Four Seasons hotel opening, that’s where I want to be. So the chips fell into place, the grandparents got on board to babysit, and we booked some flights. Woo!
Because I don’t eat meat, I’m frequently limited when I travel. When I visit many other countries or cities, I don’t expect to eat the regional delicacy — and I’m respectfully OK with that. But on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to eat very, very well in places I didn’t expect that would be possible.
One such place was Austin, where I assumed I’d find a city overflowing with pulled pork and steak or whatever kind of barbecue meat eaters eat. (#Clueless.) Such was not the case. I found plenty of barbecue, of course — but that included a vegetarian barbecue sandwich I’d gladly pick as my sole desert-island food. It also included a huge selection of light and health-minded fare, including an impeccable peach salad and melon soup, just right for the 100-degree heat. And of course, it included some pretty epic dessert (which I approached in totally unrestrained fashion because vacation.)
So if you’re a vegetarian in Austin, or going to Austin, I present for your consideration a few of my favorite things in town:
But I just came back from a perfect weekend getaway with the hubs — less than 48 hours — in which I somehow managed to feel like I had both soaked up a ton of local culture, and also scored some much-needed rest and rejuvenation. And despite the shortness of the trip, I didn’t come home feeling any FOMO.
Our weekender was in Austin, Texas. And although neither hubby nor I had ever before been there, we found it a perfectly paced town where there is plenty to do and see, but not an air of pressure that you must see everything on a list or else you have somehow blown a major opportunity. (I hate that feeling.)
In fact, before we left on this trip, I solicited some advice from travel blogger friends, as well as a pal who lived in Austin during graduate school. Here’s what the latter said about it in an email: “The good thing about Austin is that you can just soak up the vibe and not feel like you have to do any one, or 10, particular things. If you have some good food, margaritas, and hear a little music, then you’ve gotten a good slice of the city.”
And, after my visit, I found that description of the Southern city just exactly right: Austin is a place where you can find what your particular personality seeks — food, music, sun, culture, shopping, whatever — and come home enriched and restored. I loved that.
It also helped that we were so well located when we visited, thanks to our gracious host hotel, the W Austin. It’s right downtown in the Second Street District (literally right next door to the famous Austin City Limits music venue), and allowed us to walk (even in 100-degree heat) or take a few-dollar Uber ride easily around town to see a ton of great stuff without much effort or advanced planning.
Just back from Tulum for the first time since 2008, I have been reflecting on the ways in which the little city on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula has changed — that much-discussed evolution of Tulum from sleepy beach town to New York trend-story fodder.
That reflection led me to plumb the endless depths of the Internet for my now-defunct blog from back then, in which I described that first trip to the region. What I found was 1) such novice blogging I’m actually embarrassed, and more importantly 2) actually a pretty great template for a Yucatán Peninsula road trip that can be replicated in just five days of travel, and on a budget.
Because of that old post’s legit travelogue value, I’ve decided to repost it here (with some edits for clarity and comparison, and to minimize the meandering writing). A swiftly moving five-day outline on a reasonable budget, with a healthily balanced itinerary including relaxation, adventure, and culture, it can be a source of trip-planning inspiration for would-be Yucatán Peninsula road trip goers — or just fodder for wanderlust daydreams!
Without further ado…
In my last post, I talked in detail about our glorious experience at the St. Regis Punta Mita, one of the luxe resorts in the gated Punta Mita enclave, where a vacationer could easily wile away endless hours at the sprawling pools and beach.
When is a vacation more than a vacation?
I’m going to tell you straight up. It’s when you have seven-month-old twins, and you’re getting on a plane for a getaway without them for the first time since they were born. It’s when you watched with major FOMO other people’s travels on Instagram during the summer your babies were born and you were post-op and in the weeds with two newborns and in love with the new cuties, but also in WTF-is-going-on mode. It’s when you’ve never in your entire life needed or deserved another vacation as badly.
Those were the circumstances behind our trip to Punta Mita, Mexico, such that I was literally skipping through LAX on the way out of town. Of course, we were going to miss our sweet babes madly, but they would be safely in the care of four deeply doting grandparents.
So on this trip, we were off to the St. Regis Punta Mita, a getaway planned for pure luxury — no camping, no remote locations, no crazy string of planes, trains, and automobiles this time for obvious reasons. Just the most luxurious beach-and-pool vacation we have taken since our honeymoon in French Polynesia. Just sheer luxury romantic travel this time, thank you very much.