I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and his show No Reservations, so when I arrived in Cartagena I knew I wanted to visit one of the places he ate on his Colombia episode, a little spot in the Ciudad Amurallada (walled city) called La Cevicheria.
The place is tucked away on Calle Stuart, and I think I walked past it twice while looking for it. In my defense, it was a little early in the morning for lunch and no one was seated at the outdoor tables yet. But eventually I realized the little restaurant was in fact my destination, so I took a chair at the little sidewalk dining area under one of the umbrellas.
This joint is definitely aimed at tourists and the food and drinks are quite expensive. There was even a photo of Anthony Bourdain on the back of the menu! I ended up ordering the Ceviche Douglas, which consisted of shrimp in a mango sauce. It was very good, but maybe not quite so extraordinary as to merit the price tag.
I have fond memories of this meal for another reason, though. Just as I was finishing, a girl sat down at the table next to mine and when I heard her order in English I just had to turn and ask her where she was from. Though Cartagena is definitely a touristy city, I’ve noticed most of the travelers here seem to be from other Latin American countries or Europe, and English isn’t very widely spoken. It turned out she was from Toronto and we ended up chatting and hitting it off, hanging out and exploring Cartagena together for 2 more days before parting ways (I headed to Barranquilla, she went on to Taganga).
In those two days, I was so inspired by my new friend’s stories of traveling on her own (she had been through most of Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe over the course of two years) that I finally started to open up and actually enjoy traveling after the ball of nervous energy I had been my first couple days of the trip. We ended up being a great team when haggling for a fast boat to Isla Baru, since she didn’t speak Spanish but had loads of experience. So I translated while she did the dirty work, and later she shared her travel tips and experiences while I taught her some introductory Spanish.
We got along so well that I was tempted to travel with her to Taganga when she decided to leave, but I also knew there were other things I wanted to do first. We decided to have one last dinner together at a great German-run restaurant called El Bistro, where she gave me a very sweet pep talk about how the great part of traveling alone is that you can go wherever you want when you want and don’t have to adapt to anyone’s schedule. I got the hint. I think it would have been really easy for me to follow her around for my whole trip, since she’s so experienced and confident, but I wanted to travel solo for a reason and she knew that. Yes, it’s scarier to take each big travel step alone, but I know that makes it ultimately more rewarding. I just needed a kick in the pants.
So two days later, I took the public bus to the terminal and boarded a coach to Baranquilla all alone.