COLOMBIA – A MUST-SEE DESTINATION
The number of destinations available direct from Scottish airports has mushroomed in recent years but there are still some countries we can’t connect to without a change of plane.
With London airports increasingly congested and prone to flight delays, and with Paris’s Charles de Gaulle as chaotic as ever, my jump-off point of choice for a variety of destinations is Schiphol in Amsterdam — it’s an airport that actually works. Consistently voted best airport in Europe at the Business Travel Awards in the UK, timings of its Scottish departures are designed to dovetail where possible with the intercontinental network and most have an average transfer time of less than two hours.
Regular connections — between two and six a day — on KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are offered from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness and Glasgow.
Out of its 150 worldwide destinations,the top leisure destinations from Scotland are Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong, New York and Thailand. This year, though, it has a plethora of new routes, including some interesting long-haul options such as Mumbai, San José, Costa Rica, Minneapolis, Mauritius and Cartagena in Colombia — the last of which I visited recently to experience its world business class offering.
In 2018 the airline brought in impressive new cabin interiors to business on its Airbus A330 fleet. The world business class cabins of its Boeing fleet are already in service.It’s fun in your own little pod of secluded luxury: totally private, with a comfortable full-flat seat, a 12-language in-flight entertainment system, a 3D flight-tracking system, and meals by trendsetting Dutch chefs.
It’s well worth the quick hop off, hop on at Amsterdam to get to Colombia, where a fabulous South American experience awaits.
The capital city of Bogota I can take or leave. This city of 10m people has appalling traffic and a microclimate that leaves you sweating one hour and shivering the next. It’s shabby but not chic enough for all the hassles and — apart from the impressive gold museum, a few bijoux streets (guarded by armed private security), and some large-scale,thought-provoking graffiti — I’d give it a swerve.
If you do go, take the walking tour offered by bogotagraffiti.com and check out the political street art that resulted in death for the artist.
Street trafficking of drugs is still an everyday sight.
The Netflix show Narcos remains essential pre-tour viewing.Cartagena, however, is a different ball game.
This wonderful old fortified city has Unesco world heritage status and some of the most beautiful Spanish colonial architecture in South America. More Caribbean in atmosphere, the city has a palpable vibrancy and was one of the first sanctuaries for freed African slaves. Its most beautiful attractions are inside the ancient city walls, built to protect the seaport from pirates. Here you find brightly coloured houses, shaded courtyards and bustling squares. Once through the city gate with its famous clock tower you reach the main square, Plaza Bolivar.
The old cathedral, gold museum and notorious Palace of the Inquisition await. The latter is a chilling affair, with a museum illustrating the gruesome past, complete with the instruments of torture used. It’s a mere two-minute walk from the pavement where the visage of every Miss Colombia from decades past to present day are emblazoned on the pavement — Colombian men still come to stare daily.The most interesting barrio of the city,however, is the less touristy Getsemani. Once characterised by drugs and crime, it is now one of Latin America’s newest hot spots, with 200-year-old buildings, hostels, boutique hotels and brilliant nightclubs such as Cafe Havana, with a salsa and live music scene to justify the long queues for entry.
Brightly coloured buildings, localssitting outside their modest homes, street art and countless street food vendors are the backbone of this wonderful district. It’s standing room only for the candlelit 9pm mass in the Iglesia de la Trinidad. This feelslike the real Colombia, and it’sabsolutely intoxicating.I particularly enjoy discovering a city through a walking tour on the theme of its local food and drink,and the one I took in Cartegana was a real highlight.
The Literary Menu of Garcia Marquez is a gastronomic walk in Cartagena de Indias that serves some ofthe snacks, fruits and drinks that the characters of the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez taste in his books.
In three hours you visit nine must-see places and stopto taste delicious local food and drinks six times.See https://.www.tiendafoodies.com/paseos/cartagena/el-menu-literario-de-garcia-m/.
Tourism to Cartagena hasgrown by more than 200% inthe past decade, and international hotel groups are moving in fast — so, just like Havana, don’t hang around but get there fast,as it’s a gem right now.