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Our guide was William, an 83-year old veteran of the Cartagen touring scene. We boarded the tour agency car with Simon, the driver and travelled to San Felipe de Barajas Fortress. William showed us the tunnels built under the fortress to confound invaders just in case they overpowered the fortress. He also impressed on us the genius of the fortress design. Then we drove to the highest point in the city, Candelaria Convent at La Popa hill. We did the peninsula and the Bocagrande beach with the high-rise hotels and condos. Then to the walled city for the Santo Domingo square with the church and the Botero and the Simon Bolivar square with the Inquisition building and museum of gold. The only thing in the itinerary we missed was the Claver Church but William did go into an explanation of Claver so that was sufficient.
There were a number of things William wanted to show us that werent really in the published itinerary, like the UNESCO heritage-tagged private homeson Manga island. the street art inside the walled city, the inside of the Heredia Theater, and the Claustro dela Merced where Gabriel Garcia Marquez ashes are buried.
William was very quick to volunteer taking our pictures. Not only that, he knew what angles were best and would often do three to four shots of us at different angles at the same site. But his hands were a bit shaky after all, he was already 83. He seemed to know everyone in the city. For example, the theater was officially closed but he talked to the guard, slipped him a small note, and we were allowed in. Not only that but the guard even put up the lights inside the theater so we could enjoy its magnificence. He was quick to help us in negotiating for a good price whether it was t-shirts, local art-handicraft, fruits.
I mentioned to William that my wife wanted to check out emeralds and William promptly had the driver bring us to the Joyeria Caribe emerald museum. It was an interesting place with arguably the widest selection of emeralds. It took an hour before she could buy her earrings and William patiently waited for us which meant adding another hour to the total tour time. But William didnt mind.
We loved William and his grandfatherly style. But he could climb up and down and walk with the best of them. His English was occasionally hard to understand but it didnt detract from our positive experience with him. Hats off!
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