THE BEST WAY TO CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA
From LAX, Spirit Airlines and COPA offer connecting service (change of plane) to Cartagena. Restricted round-trip fares begin at $762, excluding taxes and fees.
To call the numbers below from the U.S., dial 011 (the international dialing code), 57 (the country code for Colombia), then the number listed below.
"The Cartagena of Gabriel García Márquez" audio tour is available through the Tierra Magna tourist office, http://www.tierramagna.com, with a branch in Plaza Santo Domingo, where the tour begins. The office is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. You can rent the audio guide for about $35; major credit cards accepted. Bring a passport or driver's license to leave as collateral for the audio equipment. Allow three hours to complete the tour at a comfortable pace.
WHERE TO STAY
Sofitel Santa Clara Hotel, Calle Del Torno 39-29, Cartagena; 5-650-4700, http://www.sofitel.com/gb/hotel-1871-sofitel-cartagena-santa-clara/index.shtml. Built within the 17th century Santa Clara Convent (where much of "Of Love and Other Demons" takes place), this opulent hotel is next to the home García Márquez built for himself in the 1990s. Doubles from $328.
Casa Pestagua, 33-63 Calle de Santo Domingo, Cartagena; 5-664-9510, http://www.casapestagua.com. Just steps away from the Plaza Santo Domingo, this boutique hotel is housed in a restored colonial mansion that once belonged to an 18th century count. Doubles from $350, including breakfast and a foot massage.
Centro Hotel, 34-80 Calle del Arzobispado, Cartagena; 5-664-0461, http://www.centrohotelcartagena.net. This midrange hotel offers clean, comfortable rooms set around an open courtyard and a center-of-the-action location next to the cathedral and Parque de Bolivar. Doubles from $170, including breakfast.
Media Luna Hostel, 10-46 Calle de la Media Luna, Cartagena; 5-664-3423, http://www.medialunahostel.com. For the budget-minded, this backpackers' haven is in a beautiful old colonial home in the Getsemaní neighborhood; the rooftop terrace, with 360-degree views of the city, is one of the best night life spots in town. Private doubles start at $27; shared dorm rooms start at $13.
WHERE TO EAT
La Vitrola, 2-01 Calle de Baloco, Cartagena; 5-660-0711. This Cuban restaurant, redolent of Old Havana, is said to be a favorite of García Márquez when he is in town. Make dinner reservations, especially on weekends, or you'll miss out. Entrees $13-$76.
La Casa de Socorro, 8B-112 Calle Larga, Cartagena; 5-664-4658. This cheery Getsemaní spot is an excellent place to sample comida costeña, typical food of the Colombian coast, such as sea bass topped with cheese and garlic. Entrees $9-$21.
La Mulata, 9-58 Calle Quero, Cartagena; 5-664-6222. This hip luncheonette is ideal for fueling up before or after the tour; cheap, tasty plates of grilled steak or chicken can be had with addictive limonada de coco (coconut lemonade). Daily set lunch $4.50.
La Ganache, 35-3 Calle del Coliseo esq., Cartagena; 5-664-6133, laganache.com.co. This cute-as-a-button pasteleria makes the perfect stop mid-tour. Recharge with one of its sumptuous pastries and a refreshing tea or coffee. Pastries $3.50-$5.50.
TO LEARN MORE
Turismo Cartagena de Indias, http://www.turismocartagenadeindias.com/?la=en