Travels

A Week in Cartagena & Tierra Bomba

Xavier and I spent a week in Colombia early April to get away from the winter and to celebrate the end of my semester. We wanted to do something completely different from Iceland – go somewhere warm and where we wouldn’t have to do any camping!

In the end, we went with Cartagena in Colombia. It’s Xavier’s mom who suggested it. When we looked it up and saw how beautiful the old town was, we booked it the same week and we were at the airport three weeks later! I had never planned a trip so quickly and it felt good. I didn’t know what to expect and so it was really fun to discover it on the spot.

Fun fact, Cartagena is the only walled city in America aside from Quebec City. Since I’m from Quebec City, it was cool to visit the only other city of its kind on the entire continent.

The hotel we stayed at in Cartagena was the Bastion Luxury Hotel. We quickly learnt that Colombians are very nice and helpful. The service at the hotel was excellent and the hotel itself was beautiful. We spent a lot of time by the pool on the roof, reading books and sipping on drinks. The breakfast served each morning was exceptional – a massive buffet of fruits, bread, smoothies, eggs, cheese, olives, and I could go on and on 🙂 Let’s just say it gave us the needed motivation to get out of bed each morning!

We wanted to go try at least one restaurant with a tasting menu in Cartagena, and after reading reviews online, we went with Carmen. We were  very happy with our choice! The restaurant was absolutely stunning with such a romantic atmosphere. In fact, throughout our trip, we were very impressed by the quality of restaurants in Cartagena. As foodies, we really enjoyed it.

For the second part of the week, we took a boat and went on the Tierra Bomba Island at the Blue Apple Beach House. After spending a few days in the busy city of Cartagena, we were looking forward to a few days of relaxation on a quiet island. When we got to the beach club, we were welcomed by a beautiful beach with only a few people swimming, a pool area with a DJ where people were hanging out, and a beautiful terrace with tables looking out to the pool. There was also a volleyball court, a massage area and lots of relaxing spots all around the property. Immediately, we felt on vacation!

The best part of this hotel is that when I booked the room, there was only one left so I didn’t pay too much attention as to what I was booking since we had no other option. Therefore, when the receptionist lead us to the cabana on the side of the property, I couldn’t believe that’s what I had booked – and neither could Xavier! The room was simply stunning. We had our own private balcony and outdoor bathroom (the shower under the stars thing is pretty awesome). It quickly became my favorite room I had ever stayed in!

After three days of pure relaxation at Blue Apple Beach House, we went back to Cartagena for the last night. To finish the trip on a good note, we went to the Sofitel hotel for a romantic dinner at Restaurante 1621. The service was amazing and the food delicious. I wish I could go back!

Now that Colombia is in the past, I’m already looking forward to our next adventure!

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Iceland Trip: Westfjords, Snaefellsnes and the Golden Circle

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Finally, here’s the third part of our Iceland trip! I’ve really changed my mindset about this blog. I now use it as a journal rather than a blog so I feel absolutely no pressure to write articles and I only do so when I feel like it. The past few months have been super busy – in a good way! – so I haven’t really been thinking about Candidly Julie. However, today I was feeling this urge to write about our trip, so I decided to (finally) post the third part of our trip in Iceland. We’re actually starting to think about the next trip we’re going to do, but we have no idea where we’ll go yet. One thing for sure, we want to do something adventurous again!

This third part of our trip covers the Westfjords, Sneafellsnes and the Golden Circle, three very different but equally beautiful parts of Iceland.

First off, after Lake Myvatn, we headed for the Westfjords. We were very excited about this part of the trip since most people don’t adventure into the Westfjords – I think only 4% or so of visitors do. The drive to Isafjordur, the Northern capital of Iceland, was very lengthy since there are no bridges/tunnels or in-land roads in the fjords (it’s too mountainous) and therefore we had to drive around the each fjord which takes a few hours. However, Isafjordur is stunning and worth the drive.

I have a funny story about this town – in fact we still laugh about it! I was the one driving when we got into Isafjordur and I had written down the name of a well-rated restaurant, Tjoruhusid, where I wanted us to go to. We didn’t have wifi at that point, so we were trying to figure out where the restaurant was with the map. I drove to the tip of the town near the water (it seemed like the restaurant was in that area), but I ended up driving the car into the marina. We both looked at each other like “oh boy, it clearly isn’t here”. However, instead of doing the smart thing, which was to head back to where we came from, I decided to continue on the road, thinking that we could go around the marina and back on the road. I ended up at a dead-end, but I could see an opening that looked like a an alley big enough for cars that went back into the town, so I started driving through it. However, we quickly realized that I had driven right onto the restaurant’s front lawn!!!! They had this cute path set up for their clients in between the two buildings of the property and I was right on it with the car!!! The server came out of the restaurant, looked right at me, and I could see he was like “what are they doing??” I felt awful, but we were so tired of the drive that we just started laughing and we couldn’t stop. Once again, instead of driving back, I just continued, drove up onto the sidewalk, and back into the parking lot where I parked the car. We stepped out, still laughing hysterically, walked to the restaurant, went inside, looked at the server: “table for two please”. He looked at us and said “this is a five stars restaurant – I don’t think you’re at the right place”. Oooops! I guess we didn’t make a great first impression hahah. That said, the restaurant was amazing – next time I go though, I’ll make sure not to drive on their front lawn before I park the car.

After the restaurant, we walked a little bit around town. We were the only ones in the streets since it was late. At some point, I look up to the sky and here it was; the northern lights. That evening couldn’t have been more perfect. So perfect that I don’t have any pictures of our stay in Isafjordur except of the drive on the way there as well as one of the restaurant. Speaking of the drive, we saw a seal!! I was so excited. I immediately had to stop on the side of the road and we ran to the water. He/she was so cute!

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After Isafjordur, we headed to the Latrabjarg cliffs. Apparently, on a clear day, you can even see Greenland from there! We felt so remote from the rest of the world, which was pretty cool. It was so pretty that I didn’t want to leave. Xavier had to pretend he would throw my selfie stick in the water if I didn’t start walking back to the car.

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After the cliffs, we headed out of the Westfjords to go to the Hotel Husafell to celebrate my 24th birthday. The hotel was breathtaking – I would definitely go back. The restaurant had amazing food and we finally ate lamb! There was also an outdoor spa with heated pools where we relaxed before dinner.

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On my birthday, we headed to Snaefellsnes where we finally saw the Kirkjufell mountain! I was so excited about it since it was my computer wallpaper all summer at work. As a little surprise, Xavier got me a lamb (no, not a real one) since I kept talking about how cute they were for the entire trip 🙂 I couldn’t resist taking a picture with them in front of Kirkjufell! Later that day, we also visited a glacier. However, we couldn’t adventure that far since we didn’t have a guide and obviously we didn’t want to fall down a crevasse.

Since we were there on my birthday night, we decided to go to a hostel in the town near by to hang out, which turned out to be such a good idea! We met Europeans, other Montrealers as well as people from Bangladesh and India. They were all hilarious! We spent the evening making fun of each other (cause why not), cooking food, playing music and talking.

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Finally, we ended this incredible trip with the Golden Circle. This was by far the most touristy area of Iceland since it’s close to Reykjavik. However, it’s still very much worth it, especially for the Geysir and the Gullfoss waterfall.

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This trip was simply incredible and I can’t wait for us to travel again 🙂

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From Southern Iceland to Lake Myvatn

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On our third day we woke up in a very sunny Vik, a charming town on the South coast of Iceland, and drove to the shore where we saw hundreds of puffins! So many that we were both wearing our hoodies in case they pooped on us… 🙂 I fell in love with that part of Iceland with its many sheep and beautiful sceneries. I kept saying that I wanted a cottage in the area. That said, I quickly realized I wanted a cottage in every single part of Iceland…

On our way to the shore, we drove next to a sheep on the side of the road. I thought he was so cute, so we stopped to take pictures, and another couple clearly had the same idea since they had also stopped. However, the sheep kept “screaming” at us, as if he was trying to communicate something. We realized that all of the other sheep were within the fences and somehow he had escaped. We figured out how to open the fence, and when we did he just ran inside and jumped all over his friends! It was the cutest thing. We were so glad we stopped. 🙂

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After Vik, we drove along the South coast to go to Fjadrarglijufur, an insanely beautiful canyon. I had seen many pictures of it, but it’s nothing like seeing it in real life. When we got there it was sunny, but it turned cloudy pretty quickly and we ended up being caught by the rain. Even then, the scenery was beautiful and I was able to take the picture at the top of this post and that’s the result without any filters! It looked exactly like that in real life, which was pretty amazing. In the end, this was a highlight of our trip.

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In the afternoon, we drove to the Skaftafell visitor center for a three hour hike to go see Svatifoss and Sjonarnipa. On the route to Svatifoss there were a lot of people, but passed that point we only saw 8 people for the next 2 hours! It was a great feeling to be surrounded by such beautiful nature, and the view of the glacier when we arrived at the top was incredible!

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Towards the end of the hike it started raining, but we were fully equipped for it! That’s something we learned earlier on during our trip: always be prepared for any kind of weather in Iceland. After the hike, we still had to drive 3 hours to get to Hofn for the night. We were caught in the rain quite a bit throughout that drive, but overall it went well and we got to see some incredible sceneries. We even stopped at the unique glacier lagoon Jokulsarlon, as you can see below. The picture is pretty bad since it was cold and rainy, so we didn’t stay outside very long. However, it was a pretty magical sight. Overall, that day turned out to be one of my favorites of the trip, even with the showers! And when we finally got to Hofn, it was snowing! We couldn’t believe it – we didn’t expect Iceland to be so cold at that time of the year. I had to put on a lot of layers that night to be able to sleep comfortably!

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The next day, we started our most intense driving day of the entire trip. We drove about 8 hours, so needless to say we were pretty happy when we arrived to Lake Myvatn right on time for the sunset at around 9:30pm.

To my surprise, an hour after we left Hofn, we saw some red mountains that I had seen so many pictures of! Even though we had a lot of driving to do, I knew we had to stop there. It was an impromptu stop that turned out to be fantastic. After visiting the canyon, we ate some delicious ramen (our on-repeat meal) surrounded by the most beautiful scenery. It’s one of those moments I hope to never forget! Aren’t these unplanned moments the best? 🙂

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Here are some pictures on the way to Myvatn…

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When we finally arrived, we rewarded ourselves with a spa evening at Myvatn Baths, a beautiful lagoon where the water is around 35 to 40 degrees celsius. I cannot recommend this lagoon enough, and going at sunset was a brilliant idea. Being in the warm water while watching the sun go down with moon-like surroundings is pretty incredible. I don’t have any pictures since we just wanted to enjoy ourselves without having to worry about taking pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. 🙂

Finally, we arrived at the campsite around midnight and settled in for the night. We cooked some pasta in the shared kitchen and met two really nice guys from England. However, people were being too loud in the kitchen so the owner, a tall old man, came in and told everyone to leave and go back to their tents. Xavier and I were disappointed because we still hadn’t eaten and our food was not ready. But as everyone was leaving, the man came toward us and whispered that we could stay! We were so happy! We got the shared kitchen just for the two of us, and had a romantic meal of pasta with tomato sauce. 🙂 Thank you mystery old man.

That night, it was so cold in Lake Myvatn that I couldn’t sleep. It must have been around -10 degrees celsius! Xavier had a warmer sleeping bag than mine so he gave it to me and I finally fell asleep. He’s just the best. 🙂

The next morning, we explored the Lake Myvatn area. It’s a pretty surreal place, and it really does look like the moon! We did not get lucky from a weather perspective, but at least it did not rain! Here are some pictures…

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Stay tuned for the third part of our trip! 🙂

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