The best place to stay in Cartagena, Colombia

Thursday, April 30

When booking our accommodations in Cartagena we were shocked at two things: 

1) Cartagena is expensive!! We had thought Cartagena would have comparable prices to Ecuador (the other country we were visiting on this trip), and boy were we dead wrong! Cartagena is no cheap deal...but my, is it worth every penny!! 

2) There are a gazillion options for accommodations in Cartagena!! I'm not going to lie, Kevin and I were a tad overwhelmed! The options ran the gambit from very expensive (and gorgeous!) resorts in the old walled city, to more guesthouse type accommodations. 

So, we did our homework and spent hours researching where we should stay! Should we stay in the old walled city? Should we do AirBnB and save a few pennies but be further away from the city? Or should we stay in Getsemani, the new up and coming neighborhood right outside the walled city? 

We ended up choosing to stay in Getsemani, and I am SO glad we did. Getsemani is a short walk from the old walled city, but is very historical in and of itself. In some ways, I loved Getsemani even more than the city center, as it felt very authentic and local. Walking down the street where our hotel was located, there were young kids playing checkers and chess, riding bikes, and old men sitting out in their rocking chairs laughing the night away. Many new hip restaurants dot the area, and it is so lively and colorful, especially at night! 

We chose to stay at Casa Relax. For the price we paid per night, it was totally worth it! It was a lovely little oasis tucked into a neighborhood in Getsemani, built in the original courtyard style houses. 

Here's what I loved: 
- It was family style eating along a lovely wooden table. Every morning we were served a yummy breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and fresh fruit and met tons of other travelers! 
- There was a pool and hammocks to relax in after a long day of site seeing
- It was a short walk to the walled-city, and conveniently located to many other places of interest
- It was a good bang for our buck (ie: we could afford it!)

What I didn't love: 
- No hot water in the shower. Seeing as Cartagena is pretty toasty and humid most of the year, this wasn't that big of deal...but I do love a hot shower at night! 
- They don't give you a top blanket. The room is lovely, but what I noticed right off the bat was that the bed has a sheet, but no top blanket. I never asked for one, so maybe they have some on hand? 

If you are going to Cartagena, and are on a budget, Getsemani is your best option!! Good luck!! 

To see other Cartagena posts: 


Tuesday, April 28

Many of you know that Kevin and I lived in Nepal in 2013. It became a dear dear place for us, and my heart is grieving over the massive earthquake that shook the country on Saturday.

Kevin and I were making breakfast on Saturday morning when we heard the news, and immediately my heart sank. My mind raced, wondering, "how are our sweet precious girls at the aftercare home? Are they hurt? Are they alive" ... "are our friends ok?" ... "how is our church family there?". Kevin and I got on facebook and many of our friends had sent messages that they were alive and surviving the chaos. We got word through text that each girl in the home was also ok, as well as the staff. Our hearts felt more grounded, but still...the devastation continued to overwhelm us.

Kevin and I have been watching countless videos of the damage. Almost every historical world heritage site has been destroyed or at least damaged. The roads are mangled. The buildings crumbling. But mostly the loss of lives is devastating. And the loss of emotional peace and security for many will haunt them in this next season of surviving.

It's hard to imagine being in such a huge natural disaster. Last year when there was an earthquake in my city, I remember being so frightened to fall asleep. I stayed up that night praying for people who lived in fear because of a traumatic natural disaster. The trauma and magnitude of what our friends in Nepal are facing is real and intense. Most of our friends have been sleeping in shelters the last few nights, displaced from their homes. Can you even imagine?

Would you join me in praying for Nepal?
For peace and comfort as they rebuild...
For resources of food, water and electricity to not run out...
For wisdom and good management of the relief organizations...
For unity and trust as people work together...
For God to do something amazing and bring hope when there is so much hopelessness...

Thank you friends. Your support and prayers are important.
If you are interested in giving, I found a list of charities doing relief work in Nepal here. I've had personal experience with both Samaritans Purse as well as World Vision, and know they are reputable!

Thankful that we can still play a part in the relief process by praying and giving:) May God take our small offering and multiply it for his purpose! Thank you for caring friends.

A few of our posts from Nepal:
Our Life in Nepal:                                       In the Girls Home:                   Travel in Nepal: 
Making a home in Nepal                              On Being Rescued                    Bhaktapur
My husband, redeeming a view of man       On Being Brave                         The Villages
Exploring in Kathmandu                             Celebrating a birthday        Swayambu {Monkey} Temple
Being Sick in Nepal                                                                                      Durbar Square
Our Marriage in Nepal                                                                                    Bodhnath temple
One year ago we moved to Nepal                                                               The time we almost died 
Our first week in Nepal                                                                                   Pokhara
Our first day in Nepal                                                                                      Chitwan

Saturday Morning Breakfast // The Tradition Series

Friday, April 24

I am sooo excited to share both this tradition, and this lovely friend with you! Almost 2 years ago, I got a thoughtful email out of the blue from a most adorable reader in Salzburg, Austria! Sweet Gabriella, half British and half Austrian, has become such a dear friend to me. We've skyped a few times, and have written countless emails back and forth (yeah social media!). I hope you'll pop over to her IG and say hello {and see her dreamy pictures of life in Salzburg Austria!} she is to introduce herself: 

Hi there! I'm Gabi (or Gabby, Gabs, Gabriella). A 24-year old teacher in training, married to the love of my life, Steff (short for Stefan), and living in the dreamy city of Salzburg, Austria. I’m eager to grow and learn in so many areas of life (cooking, photography, faith, relationships, kindness!) and am excited for what the next years have to offer - highs and lows!

When I got married almost three years ago, we had this verse from James on our wedding invitations and thank-you notes “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” that has been with me ever since and is a true daily reminder of God’s love and grace for us.

The first time I read about the concept of date-night (we really don’t have something like that in Austria) I was intrigued to try it, but my husband and I were students when we first got married and there really was no lack of time for just the two of us. Fast-forward a year later and we were scrambling to find a bit of quality time. Work (him) and uni (me) took over weekends, too, and so we shook hands on keeping Friday evenings to ourselves (yeah, we’re the kind of couple to shake hands on things and play a game of rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets to drink and who has to drive :)). Anyway, we soon realized that we needed to add on the morning after to really make the most of the time we had together - and so our Saturday morning tradition was born. Now, I can’t imagine not having that time to ourselves and have even started a Pinterest board solely for our Saturday morning inspiration ;)

We try to sleep in, but, really, sleeping in means 8 when you get up between 6 and 7 every day (church on Sunday starts at 8.30, so…). We love breakfast and trying out new recipes, so very often we’ll be sitting in bed scrolling through recipes to find a new item to try out. We’ve mastered quite a few new things and really look forward to carrying on that tradition once we start a family! If the weather is nice and nothing else is on for the day (a rarity!), we head into the city by bike and make our way to one of our favourite coffee shops for a coffee-to-go. Cup in hand, we’ll head to the farmers’ market and grab a few things we might need, or just enjoy the people watching.

We’ll sometimes get back only to go straight to bed for a mid-morning nap, or (if we haven’t before going out) we'll snuggle up with another cup of coffee and have our quiet time. Last weekend my husband spoiled me with the most beautiful flowers and they’re a daily reminder of great breakfast, strong coffee and an arm-in-arm walk through the city with my favourite person. I’ve learned to really live the little things in life - and let me tell you: they’re beautiful!

Social Media Links:
Instagram @gabriellahoell

Happy Weekend dear friends! I hope it's a great one!! It's my beloved's birthday today, so we are headed off to a fun birthday weekend on the beach in San Diego! Happy Birthday Kevin...thank you for being the wind in my sails, I love you with all my heart! xoxo 

Isla del Encanto, Cartagena // Colombia

Wednesday, April 22

If you are visiting Cartagena, a day trip to a surrounding island is a must. Here's why:

We had assumed Cartagena had beautiful beaches right off the main walled city. While we were correct in assuming it has beaches, I wouldn't necessarily call them beautiful. Boca Grande, the main strip (fashioned after Miami Beach in Florida) houses the longest stretch of beach closest to the historic city center in Cartagena. The beach is windy, overcrowded, and teeming with salesmen and women selling you everything from mangos, to massages, to worthless trinkets. I'm generally not very critical of any place we travel, but I have to say... Boca Grande was not really my cup of tea.

Fortunately for us, we had heard there were many beautiful excursions to the surrounding islands. We walked to a local travel agent, and shopped around for prices and options. The most popular beach is Playa Blanca, however it was going to be quite crowded the week we were there (as it backed up to New Years). Wanting a less crowded option, we booked a day trip out to Isla del Encanto.

This ended up being a fantastic option for us! Kevin and I paid a reasonable price for the all-inclusive tour. Included was round trip boat transportation out to the island (it took about 45 minutes each way), use of all beach chairs/cabanas/umbrellas, a delicious lunch (with lots of gluten free options, I might add!), a lovely beach with great facilities, and just really pretty grounds. I'd say the beach only had around 80 people on it, so it felt small {especially since many of the people chose to add other excursions to their day like snorkeling or scuba diving, taking them away from the beach!}. Kevin and I spent the whole day reading, swimming in the ocean, eating, and lounging on our beach bed!

I'm so glad we chose this fun adventure!! Happy Wednesday friends! xoxo

GlobeIn, the most adorable {and ethical} monthly subscription around!!

Monday, April 20

I love creativity and innovation, especially when it involves global endeavors around the world! Needless to say, I was thrilled when GlobeIn asked me to review their monthly subscription of artisan products from around the world! Friends, you are going to die of happiness when you see their adorable themed gift baskets they send to you each month! Here's how it works...

GlobeIn,  a San Francisco start-up, has a monthly subscription box called The Artisan Box. Each month, they deliver “the globe in a box” - a themed collection of artisan-made products from around the world. These are products you can feel good about supporting! Each item is consciously sourced, follows fair trade standards, and is crafted using responsible environmental practices. The box includes stories on the country of origin of each product as well as the stories of the artisans and farmers. 

That's can literally see and read stories of the organizations around the world that hand craft each item in the box! I was sent the Refresh Box, which included all sorts of great's what I received: 
- Dead Sea Soap: Made in Northern Israel by an organization called Sindyanna, that works to address issues related to the status of Arab women in their society.

-Natural Hemp Washcloth: Made by women in Bangladesh through an organization called Bagdha. 

- Handpainted Candles: Made by women in South Africa

- Yerba Mate Tea: Grown by farmers in South America

- Shea Shampoo: Made my women in Togo, West Africa

- Palm Leaf Basket: Made by Martina Garcia Garcia in Oaxaca, Mexico
It was so fun opening up my basket and trying out all the fun items! My favorite item was the tea (which surprised me! It was SOOO good!). The adorable basket was also just perfect, and has found a permanent place in my room! Many of the baskets have food products, which look absolutely delicious!! 

 It made me feel ever more productive about the purchase because all items were ethically sourced and supporting organizations that promote peace and employment throughout the world! That is something I can get behind!! 
So...because GlobeIn is AWESOME, they've created a special code that provides you 25% off your first box with the purchase of 3+ months subscriptions or gift purchases!!! Hooray!! 

So use the special code: HOPE 
And get 25% off your first box!!
Check it out here!  

If you can't travel right now, GlobeIn will bring the world to you!! Enjoy!! 

Emphasizing the beauty of the small

Friday, April 17

"People often ask me why I emphasize beauty- art, candles, music, cups of tea, cinnamon rolls, great stories and books- as though these things are unnecessary and frivolous. I prioritize them because I want to bring the whole reality of God and His life into my home" - Sally Clarkson 

My heart gave a hearty AMEN when I read this quote in the book Own Your Life. Oh friends, isn't this so true? Small beauty, cultivated into our home is a magnificent thing. Life is hard and messy and stressful, but sometimes small beauties can bring the joy we need to relish right where we are at. I've been working 12 hour days with few breaks (seeing clients, full time school, part-time work) and I come home feeling like an 80 year old who just ran a marathon. But when I sit in my comfy chair with my feet up, drink some tea, listen to classical music on my record player, and admire the thriving plants in my room, this sense of beauty calms my spirit. It is a resting place. Selah. 

And isn't God the master creator of beauty? He who created the moon and stars, the mountains, the ocean, the rain forrest...master crafter of loveliness. THE ALPS PEOPLE!!! Who can stand in Switzerland and look at the Alps and not be inspired? for our souls. {This here was a similar sentiment I had 2 summers ago as we spent time in Europe} 

And the amazing thing, beauty doesn't have to cost much! A cup of tea here, a few $2 plans from home depot there, a good book and a fantastic pandora station...and you are set:) When we invite others into beauty, they catch a deeper glimpse at who our God truly is. Isn't that amazing? 

Speaking of beauty, we are off to the central coast of California this weekend to visit some dear ones. Hope your weekend is full of beauty!! 

Give-Away // Bella Adele Co.

Wednesday, April 15

Ladies, you are in for a treat with today's give-away! Eeppp!! It includes gold and the sweetest designs you ever did see!! Rachel from Bella Adele Co. offers one of a kind gold foil prints. They are so dainty and perfect and I got the privilege of picking out my favorites and adding them to my room. What I love about these gold foil prints is that they add something special to a space...I smile every time I walk by my newly hung prints! They are tastefully designed, and each one is hand drawn by Rachel's sister and hand foiled by Rachel....truly all original designs! This is the real deal:)

 {and since you all know I LOVE to travel, I got a bit giddy with her amazing selection of adventure inspired prints!}

The other thing that I love about Bella Adele Co. is that Rachel stepped out and went after her dreams!! I'm always amazed by women that don't let fear get in the way of doing what they were created to do!! Starting a business is risky and scary, but Rachel stepped out and did it!! Let's be women that encourage others in their pursuits...we can be our best and biggest cheerleaders, right?!?!

Today, i'm giving away an 8x10 print to one lucky reader!! The winner gets to choose their favorite print! Here's how you enter...easy peasy!

1. Head over to Bella Adele Co's Etsy shop {here} and pick out your favorite design! Then, come back and leave a comment on this blog post with your print of choice!!
2. Follow Bella Adele Co. on Instagram @BellaAdeleCo
3. Follow Hope Engaged on IG @hopeengaged
4. The give-away ends on Monday April 20th. Winners will be notified via email!

That's it...SO SO easy!!! And even if you don't win, you can still head over to Bella Adele Co. and pick up a dreamy print for a great price- you can't beat the quality and creativity! $11 for a 5x7 and $18 for a 8x10.

And because Rachel is a dear, you can get FREE SHIPPING all week with the code HOPEENGAGED.

So, what better time to buy a print and support the launch of Bella Adele Co. than today??

{Below are a few pics of the sweet prints up in my room! I plan to get frames for them, but for now, they sit sweetly up on my wall with these easy-to-hang-hangers! I'm a pretty simple person, so these fit perfectly as a statement on my white walls!}

Cartagena, Colombia {Day 2} // And the BEST restaurants in the City

Monday, April 13

Our second full day in Cartagena we slathered on some sunscreen and took a taxi to Boca Grande. We sat on the beach in Boca Grande, read our books, swam in the ocean, and ate fresh mangos. I didn't bring my camera to the beach, so you'll just have to google image Boca Grande. In all honesty, I wasn't a huge fan of Boca Grande...if you're looking for a good beach in Cartagena, take a boat taxi out to Isla del Encanto  (like we did) or Playa Blanca!

After spending the full day at Boca Grande, we came back, showered and then headed back into the old walled city. The colors were SO beautiful!! Also, Cartagena has the BEST restaurants...we were so excited to find some of these gems:

1. Cono Gourmet: This restaurant was unbelievable! First of all, they are insanely affordable...and second of all they are creative! They offer 4 different wraps (rice wrap, plantain wrap, sweet wrap, and seaweed wrap). They fill each one with different ingredients, and the combinations they have are delicious. My favorite was the Costeno Cone. Make sure to hit this place up for a delicious lunch or dinner!! {Calle La Factoria # 36-40, Historical Center, Cartagena, Colombia}

2. La Paletteria: This is the cutest little home-made popsicle shop ever! They offer a wide variety of flavors, and there were even dairy-free options for me which I appreciated. The place was continually packed, as these popsicles were a sure-fire way to cool down from the heat of the sun! The flavors were fun and creative, and the store was adorably decorated. You will want to go here everyday!

3. Cafe San Alberto: If you are a coffee lover, you can't miss Cafe San Alberto! Known as some of the best coffee in the world, this sweet cafe offers legit pour over coffee that will have you coming back each day! The ambiance is super cute too, Kevin loved it!

We also tried a lot of street food too! Arepas (masa with cheese) are one of the most popular items being sold on the street, along with fresh fruit, empanadas and lemonade. We tried samplings all over town and were impressed with the yumminess!

Enjoy the colors of the city!! Happy Monday friends!

For more pictures of Cartagena see:
Cartagena {Day 1}
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas

For more pictures of Cartagena see:
Cartagena {Day 1}
Castillo San Felipe de Barajas