By Marsha Reeves Jews
The World Bride Magazine team had the idea to go to Cartagena de Indias to attend Tendencias 2014, Cartagena’s bridal week. I thought that was a wonderful idea and that the event would be similar to most bridal shows and conferences that are held in the U.S. That was far from the truth.
Upon arriving in Cartagena, my first impression of the city reminded me of a Bible verse, “old things are passed away.” As we drove on streets that have supported people since the 1500s and were beautifully lined with man-made stone walls, I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the blatant traces of the past to the freshness of modern asphalt and gleaming office buildings. And so began our journey as we headed to our hotel located inside Cartagena’s colonial walled city, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Our driver was wonderful and our representative from the hotel made certain we got a glimpse of various landmarks along the beautiful road near the Caribbean Sea. We were in northern Colombia, with weather that was very pleasant with an average temperature of 88 degrees.
Cartagena de Indias is an extraordinary yet complex city. It is the perfect backdrop for a destination wedding. The city offers the rare opportunity to walk back in time to a place that was filled with romance and opulence, and at the same time to feel the subtle elegance that surrounds your every experience. The city is right on the water and provides the familiar water activities for you and your wedding party.
The timeless historical architecture of the churches and hotels is beautiful and provides the perfect luxurious setting for a romantic wedding weekend. Imagine these amazing buildings that were constructed in the 1500s and tightly hold the mystery of a people’s history that will never be forgotten. The walls of many monasteries and convents are now adorned by luxurious wall treatments, window dressings and extraordinary artwork and other well-appointed, eye catching touches.
Since it was the Cartagena Bridal Week, the entire city of Cartagena and its citizens were poised to provide each and every participant a memorable experience. Not only were we impressed by the event’s local event planners, caterers and other wedding professionals, but we were also impressed by the various venues, and found ourselves viewing each with the eye of a bride and planner.
I visited several wonderful hotels that weren’t part of our well-planned schedule. Each hotel and staff had their own personality yet they each fit nicely into the beautiful architecture that once held either convents or monasteries to truly provide individual experiences.
Sofitel Legend Santa Clara Cartagena, our host hotel, lived up to its well-deserved five-star rating. It is one of the finest hotels with stunning wraparound of the coastline. Sofitel is, in itself, magical. Although the hotel is reminiscent of an old convent that surrounds its guests, modern pleasures are within immediate reach. Embracing its rich architectural heritage, the hotel’s gracious old-world ambiance permeates the grounds, from the lobby and outdoor gardens to private terraces and inviting courtyards. The center courtyard express a vibrant openness while at the same time maintains a peaceful quality and style. All of the luxuries and amenities have been carefully designed to reflect what is expected of an internationally renowned hotel. But most importantly, all of the stunning appointments, professional world-class management and facilities clearly aim to inspire and renew the spirits of those who embrace this incredible experience.
Tcherassi Hotel & Spa with the Vera Restaurant is the perfect location for a villa experience. There are seven rooms situated in a rather abstract manner on different levels with a variety of access locales and stairs. The pools are located on the roof and the lobby next to the Vera and bar. I would certainly book the entire building for either the groomsmen or bridesmaids. This amazing hotel is right in the heart of a busy town square but you would never know it. Another bonus is that each room enjoys a wonderful view of the city.
Casa San Agustin, a luxury boutique hotel, features three houses set within the business and residential area. The hotel is well appointed and these separate accommodations are seamlessly integrated. Casa San Agustin has 24 guest rooms and six suites. The architect and designer worked hand in hand to restore the library’s frescoes and wooden beamed ceilings. In the center of these historical structures is the courtyard with a historic aqueduct as its centerpiece, yet another amazing part of Cartagena’s history. The hotel preserves an authentic Colombian style with a blend of contemporary details. Large pictured windows and breezy balconies allow natural light to brighten each space and bring the beauty of nature indoors. A select number of guest rooms feature private plunge pools or Jacuzzis and all rooms feature traditional colonial inspired furnishings and luxurious linens.
Then there is Hotel Charleston Santa Teresa. How can one city boast another five-star hotel and spa? This hotel is renowned for its commitment to creating a lavish destination for tourism, weddings and retreats. The options are endless, with lodging that varies from suites of incredible proportion to single rooms. Rising above this ancient and bustling city is an incredible oasis of calm and cool understated elegance. While you sit cradled in this amazing paradise, you can enjoy the fascinating historical architecture and feel right at home with all the contemporary luxurious décor and appointments. Their spa is where you would want to spend your time because the variety of services makes the trip unforgettable. Every person I met in my brief visit was excited about the hotel and its variety of amenities.
I must say, this trip was a wonderful experience. While I speak only a little Spanish, there wasn’t one person who wasn’t capable of answering my questions. The people, the courtyard markets and the history make this a magical experience.
In every hotel, I felt the commitment of each person enjoying the hotels’ transformation from their humble beginnings of a convent or monastery to an elegant representation of the world’s best architects and decorators.