Tamara Elliott is a Canadian journalist and the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy advice about destinations around the world. She’s always on the lookout for a great beach, and when she’s not off exploring exotic locales enjoys spending time at home with her husband and their two bulldogs. Please enjoy this week-in-the-life of Tamara and her husband in Ecuador and Colombia.
1pm– My husband and I arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador, after a flight from the Galapagos Islands where we spent a week as guests on a press trip. We’re sad to leave the incredible islands, but excited to see Colombia which is where we’re heading tomorrow. We check into Hotel Oro Verde which is lovely, and the big rooms are a nice change from the smaller one we had on the boat.
2pm– Our friend Larissa from Changes in Longitude has been raving all week about this pork sandwich she tried, so now that we’re all back in Guayaquil she guides us back to the hole-in-the-wall place she found. I’m impressed at her bravery, as I never would have eaten anything from a restaurant that looked so suspect. We each get a sandwich and some Cokes, then dig in. Hey, not bad! And as a bonus, none of us get sick from it!
6:30pm– We convene with our cruise group in the hotel lounge, sipping sangria as we chat about the incredible week we had. We meet the hotel’s management and the owner of Ecoventura which hosted us in the Galapagos, and they couldn’t be more charming. As a bonus, we’re treated to an incredible five course meal—with wine pairings to boot! We don’t make a late night of it though, as many of us have to be up early to catch our flights.
4:15am– We arrive at the Guayaquil airport bright and early, and after seeing the check-in queue are happy we’re holding first class tickets, as we get to skip the line. After grabbing a cappuccino in the lounge, we board our flight to Cartagena, Colombia.
11:30am– After checking in at our beach-front hotel, we hit the rooftop pool. Gotta love 36 degree weather!
6pm– I’m in love with this city. The entire place feels like a resort! We pick up water and snacks at a local grocery store (which I always recommend for the cheaper prices and because it’s fun to explore foreign grocery stores – editor’s note: I agree!) then set off to find a place to have dinner.
9pm– Back in our hotel room, I hear loud music from the street below and peek out the window. A group of musicians and salsa dancers are in the middle of the street performing! I told you I love this place!
9am– Since the only time I wake up early is on vacation, we end up being the only people in Cartagena’s centro historico, a stunning part of town surrounded by old stone walls. Apparently Colombians like to sleep in, as no one else is out and about for almost another hour. It’s fun to explore while the streets are so quiet.
12pm– After hunting down a Juan Valdez café (Colombia’s way-better version of Starbucks) we fuel up on caffeine and head out into the adjoining plaza. That’s where we discover patacon, which is like a plantain-wrapped taco, is freaking delicious, and costs about $1.50. We feel like we won the lottery.
5pm– My husband figures Colombia is the perfect spot to learn how to salsa, so we find a dance studio in the old town. For the next hour and a half, the patient instructor Willy teaches us those famous moves, along with how to merengue. Watch out, Dancing With the Stars!
11am– We’re hanging out in Avianca’s first class lounge waiting for our hour-long flight to Bogota. Can’t say I’m terribly impressed: the only food seems to be crackers and there is no bar.
1:30pm– My dad, who lives in Bogota, picks us up at the airport. I’m excited that we won’t have to navigate anywhere for the next few days—until we realize my dad also isn’t terribly great at getting around in his own city. The GPS becomes our best friend.
3pm– We go to the nearest Juan Valdez. Hey, you would too if you knew how good it was! We also scope out some grocery stores, and find it strange that milk and eggs aren’t kept in the fridge.
10am– We head out, since road space rationing means certain vehicles (ours today) can’t drive in the city between 3:30pm and 7:30 pm. We’re doing a bit of a road trip, so will have to hurry so we can get home by 3:30 p.m.
11am– We arrive at Zipaquira’s incredible Salt Cathedral, which is basically a massive church that was carved out from an underground salt mine. The uplighting illuminates the Stations of the Cross and the pews—it’s quite the sight!
1pm– After touring the cathedral we track down the Taj Mahal. Seriously. Jaime Duque Park is kind of like Disneyland, but with replicas of world wonders instead of rides. We get a kick out of taking corny photos in front of the Taj Mahal, and head over to Russia’s Red Square.
3:29pm– We make it home with about 30 seconds to spare before we can be ticketed for being on the road.
10:30am– We plan to see more of Bogota, but first we need to hand-deliver a postcard that we picked up at Post Office Bay in the Galapagos Islands. When we realize there isn’t an actual address on it, it dawns on us that picking it out of the barrel was probably a terrible decision.
11:15am– We’re in the right neighbourhood, but how the heck are we going to find the right building? We stop random people on the street with no luck, but then dad spots it: a drug store! They’ll know!
11:30am– We’ve got the right building, now the guard is calling up to the apartment in Spanish. I can pick out “postcard, Galapagos, Canadians” and start to think there is no way this girl is letting us up to deliver it. She must think the guard is totally insane.
11:32am– Incredibly, Miss Postcard Recipient buzzes us up, and welcomes us in with a big smile. And guess who just arrived the night before? Her fiancé, who sent her the postcard! He can’t believe we’ve already delivered it, since he only just got home from the Galapagos! We snap a picture and say goodbye.
11:40am– As we’re getting in the car to drive away, the guard rushes after us saying the couple wants to take us out for coffee, do we have time? Sure! We walk to a coffee shop and are entertained by this lovely, worldly young couple for the next hour—proof that everything happens for a reason. If we hadn’t grabbed that postcard and tracked them down, we never would have met them!
1pm– We’re sorry to part ways, but want to explore Bogota today so we exchange emails and head off. First stop La Candeleria, the historic centre. After checking out things like the presidential palace and entertaining street artists, we head up to Monserrate which affords a stunning view of the entire city below.
4:30pm– We’ve only spent about 20 minutes at the site before we realize the queue to get in the gondola to get back down the mountain is huge. Uh oh.
6pm– It took an hour and a half, but we finally get to the front of the line and take the three minute ride down.
4:45am– Ouch, another early wakeup call. We’re flying home today, so we’ve got to head to the airport. Should only take half an hour…
5:30am– My dad keeps asking us to look around for a certain road as the GPS frantically tells us to turn around. We continue in the same direction, as dad is convinced he knows more than the GPS.
5:35am– We are officially lost.
5:40am– We pull over at a dark gas station and ask a few guys for directions. It’s a huge success, as they point us back the way we came and don’t rob us.
5:50am– We made it!
1:30pm– After a five hour flight to NYC, we’ve landed at JFK. After getting off the plane, we gasp as we see a massive queue leading into customs. Suddenly, an airport worker calls out “U.S. and Canadian passport holders this way.” We’ve been saved! Thank you America, for looking out for your northern neighbours! We breeze past the 200 people in line and make our way through about four different stops with customs officers, before being cleared to go through security. As a side note, I would not recommend JFK for anyone with a connecting flight!
2:37pm– Well, our flight started boarding 7 minutes ago in another terminal…and we’re STILL in the security line. JFK should probably look into getting more than two X-ray machines.
2:45pm– We finally get through security, grab our stuff and sprint toward the bus to take us to the next terminal. With four minutes to spare, we’ve made our connecting flight—but didn’t get time to stop for food. So. Hungry.
11:30pm– After a quick stopover in Salt Lake City, it was a quick flight to Calgary where we landed late at night, in a city covered with snow. Home sweet home!
Tamara will be returning to Europe later this year (one of her favourite continents) to attend a Sikh wedding in a German castle—how incredible does that sound!? She’s also posting about her incredible trip through the Galapagos Islands on a yacht, so stay tuned for those stories on Globe Guide, as well as Facebook, Twitter @Globe_Guide, and Instagram.