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Yeah, I should have posted a long time ago about Cartagena, Colombia, but life happens… So better (a little) late than much later, plus- its nice to revisit Cartagena and sift through the many photos I have.

Cartagena was a last minute plan, and for a family of parents, teens and grandparents, I was worried that it’ll get boring after a few days, but connecting my imagination along with my good friends: Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet Guide, and some googling, I built a blueprint that would work for us all.

As a general rule, I always seek to find activities that involve the local community and encourages sustainable tourism, while trying to leave a minimal environmental and social footprint.

Without further ado, here are my recommendations for Cartagena, especially during Christmas.

Getting Around and what to do in Cartagena

The best would be… by foot. Not only is it free, but losing yourself by walking in the smallest alleys, allow you to discover the old beauty of Spanish colonial old city, the crumbling walls, the wide variety of door knockers, the colorful graffitis in Getsemani, the vibrant dresses of the fruit basket ladies- Las Palenqueras, and that’s just the feast for your eyes, not to mention sounds and real tastes that you may find. Going further to other neighborhoods, use a local taxi- they are cheap and convenient. Also- read about the tours we took to really go out the beaten track.

cartagena ladies

Beautiful ladies of Cartagena, Las Palenqueras. Don’t take a photo without buying a fruit. Fruits are yummy, cheap, and you’ll be helping by paying.

old walls

Deteriorating buildings are so beautiful. Be sure to look up.

doorknobs

Door knockers are Cartagena’s thing

COLLAGE

Look where you step- you’ll be rewarded

walls

Walk on the walls that encircle the Old City, and be sure to gaze out into the sunset

vendorcollage

Enjoy the many vendors

Hat Vendor

I had to add the hat guy

colorscollage

Ahhh… the colors all around make it so hard to return home to our “regular” (non) hues

collage

Xmas in Cartagena means dances, and lots of them, in the main square

getsmani.jpg

Stroll outside the walled city, in the vibrant neighborhood of Getsemani. Observe graffiti

Responsible Tourism in Cartagena

Responsible Tourism is, among other things, to be aware and have meaningful connections with local people, and a greater understanding of local cultural, social and environmental issues.  That’s the kind of travel we usually try to conduct. That is why we chose to experience a few tours with these companies, which allowed us to be exposed to local traditions, away from the beaten path, while supporting locals by spending our $$. This was a win-win.

We toured with Alex Rocha of ​Experience the Real Cartagena in the further neighborhoods of Cartagena, learning of the zones system, that reflects the different poverty stages. Alex explained about life in Cartagena, and it’s historical aspect dating back to the afro-Colombians, brought in as slaves. We got to talk and dance with the locals (remember, it’s Christmas time, and locals are eating and dancing in the streets). We visited the colorful Bazurto Market and tasted different fruits and juices, and bought a local hat (this IS the place for cheap buys). .  We ended up in Alex’s neighborhood, and were invited to his home, where we met his beautiful family, and his wife made us an amazing lunch. We enjoyed so much, that we took Alex again to the Aviary (the wonderful relaxing bird reserve) and Playa Blanca, while visiting a small fishermen village on the way.

Be aware, Playa Blanca is full of vendors trying to sell, sell, sell. I suggest you walk all the way to the far right, as you enter the beach, to get away, as much as possible from the crowds.

Alex1

Outside the touristic city- into the hoods. Notice the recycled Xmas decorations. Also- visited Convent of Santa Cruz de la Popa- the highest point in Cartagena

Alex2

 Bazurto – Cartagena’s bustling food market

AviaryDay

A beautiful day at the Aviary, and Playa Blanca

Two more tours were exceptionally joyful, and those were led by Lorena Salgado of Insider, who’s an ethical travel company, that gives back to the community. We took their Africa in America tour. We visited the village of San Basilio de Palenque, where we met and learned about the Palenqueros, who were the first free Africans in America. In this village, they are the only ones in the world speaking ​Spanish-Bantú, and they have maintained their musical traditions, mainly the Champeta. We met with music legend Rafael Cassiani, who was born in the Palanque, and started his Champeta musical career there. Of course we feasted on a traditional Palenque lunch served on banana leaves. Later that day,  we visited ​San Jacinto​, which is the small village of knitting crafters.

The other tour we took with Lorena of Insider, was the evening Salsa tour, where we hopped from one salsa club to the other. It was amazing, as we didn’t only get to watch and dance to the Salsa beats, but learn of how the Salsa came to be, it’s historical and cultural connections to present times and to the people of Cartagena. It was one of the highlights of our Cartagena visit. Highly recommended!!

Basilio1

Top left: statue of a man breaking free from his chains and reaching out for his motherland, West Africa. This is the statue of Benkos Bioho, San Basilio de Palenque founder. Bottom left: hair braiding goes far beyond a hairstyle- it was used by Palenque’s slaves to braide intricate maps and codes. Today it’s a social gathering- kind of a street spa.

Basilio2.jpg

Beautiful people of Basilio de Palenque

Cassiani

With Champeta legend Rafael Cassiani. Watch a short clip

weavers

Weavers of San Jacinto

Where to eat and sleep 

Allow yourself to eat from street vendors some of the fresh fruits or local pastries. Some really good restaurants, though, are these:

Cafe Stepping Stones. We loved their breakfast and coffee. Also love the idea that they are partners of not-for-profit foundation, FEM, who focus on sustainable local projects.

Moshi. Though in local terms, this would be an expensive restaurant, relatively to NY it is so reasonably priced, and yet, the service, food, tastes and look of the dishes, are so attentive and delicious. They even surprised us with little dish samples that they shared with us. It is so good, we went there twice! Highly recommended.

Ganesha. Loved this little place in Getsemani, quiet with good, tasty small plates of Indian food, when you had enough of plantains and arepa 🙂 Loved having chai, or cold lassi, as well as some Indian delights.

indian

Refreshed in Ganesha

Caffe Lunatico. Ate here twice, great ambiance, food, and selections of wines. Tasty, unique food, good professional service, in Getsemani.

For kids- Choco Museum. We left our 3 teens for the chocolate workshop, for a little over 2 hours. They had so much fun, learning and creating with chocolate. They took samples back, and we all enjoyed tasting.

For adults- El Rincon De Getsemani. As we lazily strolled in Getsemani during the evening, we heard live music emerging behind a door. We hesitantly opened the door, and peeked inside, just to warmly be invited inside. Oh wow- a band of at least 8 musicians played the salsa, and folks were dancing enthusiastically. We joined. We came back another evening (without kids), and had so much fun learning some basic salsa steps by nice locals. This is a local salsa club, didn’t see any tourists there. Get a glass of beer and enjoy trumpets and salsa.

Hotel Capellan. Beautiful rooftop, nice little chilling pools, and some nice views from the roof. Grab a beer and ceviche, and relax. Everyday they had an afternoon tea time served with cakes- complimentary. Conveniently located in Getsemani, in walkable distance from the walled city.

Hotel Capellan

Hotel Capellan, chillin’

more photos (as well as in my Instagram):

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We have a mulberry tree not far from our home. We’re lucky that way. Sent my boys to get all red-dirty, and they got that sweet juicy stuff, hands, mouth and all..

Mulberries

So with so many of them, I quickly baked 2 mulberry cobblers, inspired by Bakerita’s recipe. My recipe is different as it’s not vegan, and I played with some other flours that I had.

Mul4

Yes, One regular cobbler, and one chocolate one.

You’ll need:

for the fruit:

  • 3 cups of mulberries
  • 3 TBS dates nectar or pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp arrowroot flour
  • pinch of cardamom or cinnamon- to your liking

for the cobbler topping:

  • 1/2 cup almond flour (for chocolate version: 1/2 cup pure cacao powder)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of fine sea salt
  • 3 TBS water or date nectar (for chocolate version: add 3 TBS date nectar/maple syrup)
  • 3 TBS coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • for chocolate version add 1/3-1/2 cup of chocolate chips or cacao nibs

how-to:

  1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a round pie baking dish.
  2. Gently mix all fruit ingredients in a bowl. Toss to coat until evenly distributed.
  3. Spread the mulberries into the baking dish.
  4. For the cobbler topping – In a medium mixing bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients: flours/powders and salt.
  5. Add all the wet ingredients (the remaining ingredients) and mix until combined.
  6. Drop topping by tablespoonfuls onto filling (create mounds).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until cobbler is brown and cooked through.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

notes:

  • If the batter is too thick or dry- add more water and mix, but slowly, tsp by tsp, not too much.
  • I like to use the D’vash date nectar– it’s a 100% dates. We like it not too sweet. Feel free to add more nectar, maple, or sugar.
  • Play around with different fruits, have fun!

Mul5

Mul2

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Autumn season is here, and along with the other great root vegetables, kohlrabi is an excellent choice. Both bulb and green stem and leaves can be used in different ways. The texture feels like a crisp apple, the taste- like a broccoli stem, but a bit sweeter. Many people I’ve met are not familiar with kohlrabi, and are missing out, and that’s a shame!

fresh kolhrabi thins

fresh kohlrabi thins

Here’s a very easy way to prepare the bulb, and enjoy a healthy, tasty snack, or salad. I give you: raw, thin slices of kohlrabi, or kohlrabi carpaccio if you will.

First, you’ll need to peel it. I use my knife to cut the stems off, then cut the woody base, and peel the outer layer. You can use a vegetable peeler for that, but I really prefer my knife, as its quicker.  See demo here (used with a peeler).

Cut the kohlrabi bulb in half, and each half into thin slices. Prepare the slices on a plate, one layer first. Drizzle olive oil on top, sprinkle sea salt, and squeeze fresh lemon. Prepare the next layer, and again: drizzle olive oil, sea salt and lemon. Continue layer upon layer. Finally, leave for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

*nice additions (all together or just some): sprinkle thyme or mint, small chunks of goat cheese or parmesan cheese, some balsamic vinegar, or- toss with lime juice and lime zest with some cilantro.

Enjoy !

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Call it ice-cream, call it pudding, as long as it’s chocolaty, soft, and cool in my mouth, it’s one of the ultimate heat breakers for summer. The fact that it’s gluten, and dairy free, both paleo and vegan, elevates it to ideal. And, to top it all, it’s easy to make. Oh, it will be somewhat grainy, as I like to feel some chunks (dates, pecans). Now that’s pure awesomeness.

chilled chocolate banana date mousse

chilled chocolate banana date ice-cream

you’ll need:

How to:

  1. Pulse the coconut flakes in a food processor, for about 1-2 minutes. At first it will be powdered, and then it will start to stick to the container walls.
  2. Peel bananas and cut roughly into slices, and add to the coconut mixture in the food processor. Add cacao powder, medjool dates (make sure no pits), and pecans. Add any optional flavors*.
  3. Blend in food processor until thick and creamy. If you like it smoother (and not feel the date, or coconut chunks), keep blending even more.
  4. Transfer to a freezer-safe dish, and tuck in the freezer 30-60 minutes, yet not too long so it doesn’t harden too much. If you do leave it too long, that’s fine, just thaw it outside for a while, before serving. Alternatively, you can save in the fridge, covered, to have it as a soft mousse/pudding treat. All of the above, if you don’t finish it right away.

optional flavors to add:

  • 1/4 tsp cardamom powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder. YES, it’ll add pizzazz to your mouth;
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon powder;
  • 1/3 tsp coffee powder + 1/8 tsp chili powder + 1 Tbs vanilla extract;
  • throw in some of your favorite nuts and berries (goji, mulberries, etc’);
  • throw in some mini chocolate nibs or chocolate chips.

What’s your favorite addition?

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Curried-Cumined Zucchini Soup

Curried-Cumined Zucchini Soup

Our winter is too long and too white. There, I said it! To break all this whiteness, I made a warm green soup.

you’ll need:

  • 2 Tbs fat (butter, ghee, coconut oil, tallow);
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds;
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped;
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped;
  • 1 tsp curry powder (if you like less spicy, use 1/2 tsp curry and 1/2 tsp turmeric);
  • 3-4 zucchini, coarsely sliced (I also used one Dudhi, an Indian type of long zucchini);
  • 3-4 cups liquids (bone broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth, water). Use less liquid (3 cups) for a thicker consistency;
  • salt and pepper;
  • lemon;

* optional: garnish (cilantro, parsley, sour cream)

ingredients assembly. not in the photo: lemon, broth, parsley, salt n' pepper

ingredients assembly. not in the photo: lemon, broth, parsley, salt n’ pepper

how-to:

  1. Melt fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and allow them to heat just until they let out their wonderful aroma. They will start to splutter. Don’t allow them to burn or blacken.

    sizzling cumin opening it's fragrance

    sizzling cumin opening it’s fragrance

  2. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 4 minutes until they start to soften.

    zuc·chi·ni. noun, plural zuc·chi·nis

    zuc·chi·ni. noun, plural zuc·chi·nis

  3. Add liquid, zucchini, curry powder and salt (add more salt if using only water as your liquid). Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes, until veggies are tender.
  4. Allow soup to cool, and blend (I use an immersion stick) until just smooth.
  5. Before serving, reheat soup. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed. Ladle into bowls, squeeze some lemon, and add some garnish.

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Peru- Part III

Part IV- Aguas Calientes

*in this post, all photos can be clicked for a bigger photo

Day 6

Wow, we were so excited to finally head on to Machu Picchu, the crowning glory of our journey. We didn’t even care that we had to wake up very early in the morning, to start our walk towards the mini van at 5:00am. You can say that we got used to this kind of travel, we were trained by now.

We sat ourselves with 4 more passengers, and left Cusco towards the city of Ollantaytambo, a 2 hour drive. We were thrilled to enjoy, once again, the beautiful scenery. Of course, some of us preferred to just sleep.

Once in Ollantaytambo (seemed like a nice town worth visiting next time), we boarded the train, Peru Rail, to Aguas Calientes, for a two hour ride. And what a ride that was. Big windows on the sides and above our heads allowed a direct view to the amazing scenery during the ride, as well as a glance into passing by houses and farms of the locals. A nice stewardess was passing with some snacks and hot drinks. Coca tea was our choice. It was a fun ride.

Train to Aguas Calientes. Smile

Train to Aguas Calientes. Smile

towering cloud mountains and forests

towering cloud mountains and forests

raging river through the window

raging river through the window

spotting Aguas Calientes

spotting Aguas Calientes

Arriving at Aguas Calientes (meaning “hot waters”). The small town can only be approached by train or foot, and is the access point to the yearned Machu Picchu (unless one takes the Inca trail that lasts a few days). As this town serves tourists who come to Machu Picchu, there are lots of restaurants, touristic markets and stores, guest houses to cater different budgets, and… hot springs. Since we arrived early, and planned on hiking up to Machu Picchu the next morning (yap- early, to see the sun rise), we had a whole day to spend in town.

Aguas Calientes, to Machu Picchu, Peru

near the hot springs,where locals and tourists alike enjoy to bath, Lior seems to be the local attraction

Aguas Calientes, to Machu Picchu, Peru

tired from the long day, we found a place to sit and relax

Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water, I will ease your mind

more Aguas

more Aguas

local market

local market- the juicer. we came back for more

walking along the river, more Aguas Calientes views

walking along the river, more Aguas Calientes views

flowers of Aguas Calientes

flowers of Aguas Calientes

even a soccer field in this small town

even a soccer field in this small town

It was fun just walking around town. We found a french (!!) cafe’, a cute little bakery near our guest house for fresh tasty alfajores (on calle Chaska Tika), and stumbled upon a local school band that was practicing (short clip).

Lior: Getting up at 4am, I was expecting a bus to take us to the train station. Well, this bus turned out to be an old minivan, and we were squished in there for around two hours. It was all worth it for the long, scenic, and relaxing train ride, in which we got hot tea (or coffee) and snacks! Interestingly enough, there are two different trains that reach Aguas Calientes, but you are only allowed to ride one. That’s right, us tourists are not allowed to go on the cheaper train, reserved for Peruvians only.

Aguas Calientes is a really nice town, split in half by a river. On one side of the river, it is strictly tourist attractions, restaurants, shops, the market. The other side is where the people live, go to school, play soccer. The tourist half is expensive (more than Cusco), but they have nice things, good food. The less touristy half has less “nice” restaurants, and can be cheaper. Indeed, we found a bakery across from our hostel (we stayed in the non tourist half) that served absolutely delicious mini-alfajores! Be careful, we bought and ate way too many alfajores, and ended up with extra cookies, and no room in our stomachs (but lets face it, is there such a thing as too many alfajores?).

Peru, Part V- Machu Picchu

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Orna and Ella are Israeli icon restauranteurs. Their place is a Tel-Avivian institution, and their yam latkes, or pancakes, are very popular, for a very good reason. If you’re ever in Israel, be sure to visit their place, and definitely try the yam latkes.

This year, Hanukkah falls smack on Thanksgiving, so a yam latke is a given.

paleo yam latkes

paleo yam latkes

So I took Orna and Ella’s original yam latke recipe, and tweaked it to fit my paleo diet needs, aka: no gluten, dairy, sugar…

you’ll need:

how-to:

  1. Heat oven to 370°f *. Spread some coconut oil on parchment paper on a baking sheet. * my oven seems to me to be less heating, so please start yours with 360°f.
  2. Just as the original recipe suggests: “Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into large pieces. Cook sweet potatoes in a pot of boiling water (or steam) until they are completely soft. Place the sweet potatoes in a strainer for an hour or two until they are drained of all water (they can also be left overnight in the fridge to drain).”
  3. Blend the yams with the rest of the ingredients above, without the coconut oil (which is only for greasing the baking sheet).
  4. Spread latkes (flatten them) on baking sheet. Put in oven for 40-45 minutes, as you make sure they’re not burned (see no.1 above).
flatten golden latkes on baking sheet

flatten golden latkes on baking sheet

Serve with apple sauce, yogurt, sour cream, or chive sauce in original recipe.

photo ain't doing no favor to these yummy latkes

photo ain’t doing no favor to these yummy latkes

from my pre-paleo era, recipe for light Hanukkah sufganiyot

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