Tag Archives: street art

Cartagena, postcard perfect!

Cartagena de Indias is a town on the Caribbean Sea. I will be one hundred percent honest, I did next to nothing during my visit to Cartagena, as it is ridiculously excessively hot there. Daily temperatures were around 35 degrees celsius, but with between 70-90% humidity depending on the day, resulting in a ‘feels like’ temperature of around 43 degrees celsius. The minute you move a single muscle, you are already drenched in sweat. Any day time excursions would be advisable for the early morning or very late afternoon, be aware there is little to no shade.

My Cartagena highlights were the old town, Getsemani and a quick visit to the castle on the hill.

Cartagena’s Old Town

Amazing colours in the old spanish colonial buildings int the Old City of CartagenaWhile the town of Cartagena is now  modern sea port, the old walled city oozes the charm and character of it’s Spanish Colonial History. The gorgeous colours of these 400 year old buildings have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site to retain their history.

While the old town has churches and probably castles, I didn’t pay much attention to specific monuments, I really just explored and was gobsmacked at just how beautiful and colourful almost every building was. Many have fantastic colour combinations, sometimes with plants and vines falling gracefully from a balcony above. It feels like this town was the most photogenic city I have seen in my life. I absolutely LOVED every second of my explorations of the old town.

As a walled city, it is also worth walking the perimeter on the wall itself, the views are gorgeous.


Three Women, Street Art in GetsemaniGetsemani has been mentioned from time to time as an unsafe area of Cartagena, while I was not keen to wander through solo after sunset, I would have been more than happy to explore solo during the day.

Getsemani is a lively suburb where many bars, cafes and restaurants can be found. The highlight of the suburb for me was all the street art. The walls were dotted with some fantastic pieces, many by artists we had previously come across in Bogota and Medellin. There are graffiti walking tours available for the area, so if you aren’t comfortable going solo, the a tour is an option.

Getsemani is definitely the place to be for nightlife, but go with friends.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

Castillo de San Felipe de BarajasEntry to the castle costs 25,000 pesos for an adult; a student/teacher ticket is 10,500 pesos (Right about now is when I am grateful for my International Teacher Identity Card). Tours or audioguides are an additional expense, which I choose not to pay.

Make sure to visit the castle as early as possible in the day because it really is roasting hot. The castle affords some fantastic views over the city, both old and new as well as out to sea. I didn’t learnt he history of the castle but did enjoy wandering around and exploring the underground tunnels.

In trying to get into the castle you will be harrassed by street vendors selling water and hats, if you don’t have these things already, it’s not a bad thing to give in to a street purchase at this point. The hat is a lifesaver!

Eating and Drinking

Honestly with the weather so hot, sometimes what you need to is to seek refuge in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled building. A few restaurants, cafes and bars I would recommend visiting include:

Cuba 1940s: This Cuban style cafe is in the old town on the corner of one of the plazas. They sell absolutely delicious cocktails and the food is to die for! In addition to amazing food and drink, the selling point for the cafe is that it has a pool in the centre, you can sit on the edge, drink your cocktail and dangle your feet in the water.  It is super chilled and well worth spending some time and pesos here.

Coffee SiphonSan Alberto: This cafe in the old town really specialises in preparing good Colombian coffee. The coffee is sourced from Buenavista, Quindio. The cafe offers a variety of coffee preparation methods for you to choose from, such as cold drip, french press, not to mention a whole swag of others I have forgotten. I opted to share a siphon with my friend Jake and Laura. The siphon is a coffee preparation method I have not previously come across, but was very happy with. It was a fascinating and engaging to watch coffee prep process, that resulted in absolutely delicious coffee.

La Mulata: A seafood restaurant in the old town that has ripper reviews on TripAdvisor. It is ideal to reserve a table if possible, but you should still be prepared to wait. Without a reservation we waited at least an hour before ordering, I was getting tired, cranky and hungry but all this disappeared when I saw my meal. Very generous portions of fantastic quality seafood, cooked to perfection. This place was well worth the wait!

Cafe HavanaCháchara: In the suburb of Getsemani is a funky cafe/restaurant called Cháchara. It has funky decor with almost a garden party feel to it. The food was delicious and reasonably priced.

Cafe Havana: This is a famous cafe well known for live music and salsa; the fact that Hilary Clinton visited it certainly boosted it’s profile. It’s big night of the week is Wednesdays, where crowds flock in the doors, paying the 8000 peso entry fee. Things don’t kick off until about 11:30, but get in early if you want to sit down.


My recommendation for accommodation in Cartagena consists of four requirements: In the Old Town, has Air Conditioning; has fans; and has a pool. Being centrally located and having access to a means to cool off is vital to staying in Cartagena.

I stayed at Hotel Escallon and was very happy with the location and facilities.


Buzzing around Bogota

After a late night arrival and only a few hours sleep, my friends Steve, Jake, Laura and I hit the streets of Bogota for our one day of exploring the city.

Conveniently we were exploring on a Sunday which meant that entry to all museums was free and most central streets were closed to cars, which filled the city with people and street stalls. We visited Museo del Botero, Casa de Moneda and Museo del Oro. I’m not much a museum person, so I have simply provided a short summary of each of the museums. Aside from exploring the city on foot we also did the Graffiti walking tour and rode the cable car to the top of Montserrate for an awesome view of the city.

Museo del Botero

Fatty Mona Lisa at Museo del BoteroMuseo del Botero is an art gallery primarily displaying the artwork of Fernando Botero. His style is to represent women, men, animals as ‘voluminous’ or in my words, fat. In addition to the quirky artwork, then architecture of the building is beautiful. It is very Spanish looking, whitewashed, multiple archways leading to an internal courtyard with a garden and fountain.

Casa de Moneda

Attached to the Museo del Botero is the Casa de Moneda, a museum about the history of the currency in Columbia. It then also extends into another art gallery with a wide variety of works in various styles.

Museo del Oro

Further into the centre of town is the museum of gold, which informs the visitor of the history of gold mining in Ecuador. Showcased as also many traditional gold artifacts.

Plaza Bolivar

Plaza BolivarThe main central square of the city is Plaza Bolivar. It is flanked on all sides by beautiful historic buildings. The plaza is a hub of activity, with street sellers of food and toys. Kids whizzing around on roller blades and bikes.

One of the main streets runs through the plaza, though I have forgotten the name. It is worth wandering down the main streets to enjoy the atmosphere, the local street performance art and random games, such as guinea pig racing. The streets were also full of various stalls selling almost anything you might want to look for.

Bogota Graffiti Tour

Indigenous Lady Street ArtThe Bogota Graffiti Tour is a free walking tour (tips based) around the Candelaria area of the city and then continuing into downtown, where the artwork becomes more politically based.

Our tour guide Jay was absolutely brilliant at explaining the various art styles, as well as discussing the various artists their styles, history and motivation.

We were able to see numerous pieces by the same artist, and given visual indictors to look for in identifying the work of each of these artists. For example, the work of an artist referred to as Rodez can be identified by the use of multiple eyes and large array of colours. Jay’s intricate knowledge of the styles of each of the individual artists and the way he taught us to identify the artists made the tour so much more fascinating and personable.

Homeless Person - Political Street ArtThough I am not by any means a politically minded person, some of the more controversial and fascinating stories Jay had to share were regarding Plan Columbia and a concept referred to as False Positives. To assist Columbia combat the drugs issue, the USA implemented an initiative called Plan Columbia in the late 90s. While there is debate as to whether the initiative was successful or not. There were some definite negative results. Possibly the most negative result of the initiative, were the false positives. There was some form of reward for killing guerillas (I’m no expert on the matter, so I am not going to say who was providing the reward or what type of reward it was, though I suspect financial). In order to gain a greater reward and appear to have greater success in the war on drugs, many civilians were kidnapped, dressed in guerilla clothing and murdered. These deaths were referred to as False Positives and were absolutely horrendous. While the US may have had good intentions, this was a case where the assistance may have been misguided and done more harm than good.

So much of the art was absolutely spectacular and I would highly recommend the tour!


To round off our visit to Bogota, we watched a sunset from the peak of Montserrate. Access to the mountain top is via cable car and/or funicular. I was given the recommendation to catch the funicular up and ride the cable car down, but the funicular was not running that evening. No matter which transport method you use the cost of a return ticket during the day is 18,000 pesos, or 19,000 pesos after 5:30pm.

The view of Bogota from Monsterrate was absolutely spectacular. It gave a good overview of just how far the city sprawls. As the sun dropped in the sky bathing the city in golden light, the street lights came up and the busy street network became visible.

The sunset from the mountain was the best way to end our visit!

Sunset over Bogota


We stayed in Casa Bellavista Hostel for a reasonable cost per night with a delicious breakfast included; 28,000 pesos per night. The location was in La Candelaria, it was close to many bars and food options. It was easy to walk to all of the things we wanted to see, and there was loads of street art in the area.



Walking tours in Rotterdam

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARotterdam is an interesting city, it got almost completely destroyed in the second world war through bombing (the city that lost it’s heart) and as a result is the most architecturally modern city in the Netherlands. It is a place that visited often, but only ever to shop; and despite my interest in architecture, I had never really bothered to look at the city, so it was about time to change that!

One way I really enjoy getting to know a city is through free walking tours. There are many cities that offer free walking tours, always offered by people who genuinely love their city and work for tips.

Surprisingly and disappointingly, it wasn’t so easy to find a free walking tour in Rotterdam in 2015, at the time of writing this post.

As Rotterdam has started to gain more tourist appeal, the walking tour options have improved, and inspired a revamp/rewrite of this post. My knowledge and interest of the city has also grown since I recently became a Rotterdam resident.

Rotterdam Free Walking Tour

On Saturday June 17th, 2017 Tim, Vincent and Hans started Free Walking Tour Rotterdam. Eager to see what the guys had to offer and coinciding with a visit from friends I went on their first tour.

Rotterdam Old Harbour

Tim and Vincent did a fantastic job of showing the city sights, explaining the city’s history and sharing with us what makes the city tick.

Since I now live in Rotterdam I can vouch for the fact that the tour hits all the highlights including my personal favourites: the Market hall, Cube houses, Old Harbour and the White House.

At this stage Free Walking Tours Rotterdam only operate on Saturdays at 1:30pm from the Market hall. Due to popularity they are investigating increasing the frequency of the tours.

A range of walking tour options

Ani & Haakien hostel have a broad range of free walking tours on offer within Rotterdam, as well as a few offerings for paid tours further afield (If I hadn’t already been – the tour to the UNESCO heritage listed Kinderdijk would be pretty high on priority list!).

I enjoyed the architectural walking tour of the city, which runs on Saturdays at 11am. The tour covers the history of the city’s architecture, the architectural styles over time and the city’s programs for renovations. The focus of the tour was definitely the older architecture, pre and post war, but with little attention paid to newer architectural structures such as the new Market hall.

The added bonus – you do not need to be a hostel guest to access their tours and the staff I spoke to were awesome, friendly and helpful! (If I had a need to stay in Rotterdam, I would definitely book a bed in this hostel)

Self Guided Walking Tours

If, like I was, you are stuck with the problem of not being in Rotterdam the day that a particular tour is offered then the next best option is a self guided walking tour – which is obviously free.

For this I have two recommendations. For architecture and the general sights of Rotterdam I would recommend the app from Rotterdam Tourist Information. If you prefer to check out street art then the Rewriters App is fabulous. (they do also offer a paid street art tour on the weekends when enough people are interested).

My self-guided street art tour

Cartoonised city sights of Rotterdam by Last PlakWith a keen interest in street art and the knowledge that Rotterdam had numerous hidden gems, I was pretty excited to hit the streets of Rotterdam. The best option I found was an app called Rewriters. The app costs a dollar but provides a fantastic interactive map through Rotterdam to a great number of interesting works of art from a variety of artists. The app contains audio and text to explain a bit about the artist of each piece, as well as some information about the piece itself.

I really had a fantastic time checking out all the art works, I was impressed by the quality of the work and range of styles and pieces visited on the route. It was also a great way for me to get to know my new city better.

The app offers two complete walking routes, one within central Rotterdam and the other in Capelle aan den Ijssel – this one is still on my ‘To Do’ list.

Note: Ani & Haakien offer a Graffiti and Bar Tour on Friday nights at 9pm. I was interested in checking out the street art in the middle of winter, so wasn’t prepared to walk for 1.5 hours in the dark and cold. Now that we have long daylight hours in Summer, I have already seen the majority of the art and as a result have not done this tour myself.

My self-guided architectural walking tour

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe app is really well designed and walks you from place to place, with pictures, maps, descriptions and audio. I went with my cousin Roel and his friend Sjoerd (they are both still students and require good english for their studies and future careers, so the outing was partly english practice for them and partly about seeing the city).

The tour has 46 places of interest to visit, but we had limited time and were easily distracted by shops, food and drinks, so only managed to visit about 9 of them.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tour starts at the tourist information office on the Coolsingel of Rotterdam, a short walk from Rotterdam Blaak train station. From there it heads across to the Maritime museum, though I am not sure why. The third stop was the Museum of Rotterdam, which was a gorgeous old building. The only seventeenth century building in the city center that was left standing after the war.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAContinuing on was another old building, St Laurens Church, which was the only surviving late-gothic building from the original medieval city of Rotterdam. It was badly damaged in the war, but has since been restored.

Just a block or so from the cathedral the style of architecture is a drastic change, and switches from classic to extremely modern. The new markethall, the library, the pencil building and the cube houses are all very interesting designs.

Library, Cube Houses, Pencil Building & Blaak station
Library, Cube Houses, Pencil Building & Blaak station

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe markethall is the newest of these, having been opened in October 2014 (not even a year ago). It has an arch shape, through the arch are apartments, the two ends are capped with glass walls. Internally the center section is filled with market stalls, cafes and restaurants. The walls and ceiling of the hall are beautiful bright colours and are essentially an artwork representing the foods and flowers you might find in a market, as well as some depictions of neighbouring buildings, such as the Laurens Church. It’s a thoroughly fascinating piece of architecture, one that has drawn many people in the direction of Rotterdam, where previously Amsterdam was the big drawcard of the nation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this very modern area in the direction of the wharf, at least one older building can be found, The White House. The first Dutch “Skyscraper” standing a not so high 45 metres tall, with 11 storeys. It’s a gorgeous building by the water, but once again, provides such a contrast to the modern buildings nearby.

From here it is about a block to the river where you can see the iconic Erasmusbrug and Willemsbrug (bridges). These weren’t on the walking tour officially, but they were so close that I threw them in for my own interest. The last stop I made it to from the official list was the Red Apple building. It’s a very new building and has quite a large overhang. I noticed actually, that many of the modern buildings in Rotterdam has an overhanging component, which I find fascinating, not to mention and engineering wonder (that is, to me, who is not an engineer).

We finished up our afternoon with a beer in one of the many restaurants in the market hall. A fabulous end to an enjoyable afternoon!

Check out my pictures on Flickr!


Some other tour options


Franks Tours: Frank runs tours through Ani & Haakien, as well as independently. His city tour and graffiti tour both sound like they are worthy of investigation.

Urban Guides: Cost is between €17,50 – €25, tours take 2,5-3 hours and it is by bicycle – this one sounds pretty cool, but in September it only operates on the weekend and unfortunately my weekends are already all booked up.
Leijnse Stadtoers: Cost is €15, it takes 1,5 hours and is available on request.
Gilde Rotterdam: Cost is €5, it takes 1,5 to 2 hours and there is an agenda from which you can select a walk.
Rotterdam Roots: Cost is crazy expensive, tour lengths range from 1,5 to 4 hours.
City Walking Tours:  They offer a few tours, you need to call or email for bookings.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December 2015, the walking tour options in Rotterdam have since greatly improved and this post has been revised and republished as a result. Happy Walking!


San Francisco

I have made the leap back across the world to the U.S.A where I will be doing a study tour for the next two months, essentially looking at the use of technology in the classroom. While on tour, I will have some opportunities to explore the places I go.

My first stop in the U.S.A has been San Francisco. I had just under a week to explore before the study tour begins. San Francisco is a big city, particularly in light of where I come from. It has a rich culture and so much diversity in the city. Aside from a few key sites, I felt that San Francisco is mostly about exploring the suburbs.

Things to See and Do

Cable Cars


I think one of the things San Francisco is very well known for are it’s crazy steep hills which are tackled by super cute old school cable cars with wooden brakes. At each end of the line, the cable cars are rolled onto a turn table and manually turned around.
These things are so cute it’s not funny! I loved riding the cable cars!

From Powell Street Turnaround there are two lines Powell & Hyde and Powell & Mason. They both take you up and over towards the Fishermans Wharf area. Depending on what you want to see and do, I recommend the Powell & Hyde line and to jump off at the top of the famous Lombard Street. Walk down Lombard and weave your way through the streets towards Fishermans Wharf, or keep walking straight-ish to head up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower.

Hot Tip: The line to get onto the cable car at Powell Street Turnaround is ridiculous, walk a couple blocks up the street to another cable car stop and get on there.


Whether there is truth to it or not, the claim is that Lombard Street is the worlds crookedest street. It is a very steep one way street, that runs the length of one block and has eight hairpin turns. It’s definitely worth a look.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower is at the top of Telegraph Hill and provides a pretty awesome 360 degree view of the city of San Francisco. Be aware that a visit to the top costs $8 and last entry is at around 5:30pm.

Golden Gate Bridge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Golden Gate Bridge, probably the city’s biggest icon. Well known, unfortunately, for being shrouded in fog. There are loads of ways to see the bridge, from mountains, from towers, from boats, walking and cycling. I opted to cycle the bridge together with a girl from my dorm room.

There are about a billion bike rental places to choose from, while it possibly wasn’t the cheapest option, we rented our bikes from San Francisco Bike Rentals on Jefferson Street, west of Pier 41. By reserving a bike online we got a 20% discount off the rental price, and paid $24 to rent a bike for the day (A helmet and a bike lock are included in the price).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Pier 41 area, you follow the coast line. There are loads of photo ops along the way, provided the bridge isn’t completely hidden by fog. You continue along the coast line until you are close to Fort Point (You can cycle to Fort Point for more photos if you choose), then you turn left up Long Avenue, which winds its way up to the bridge.

The bridge has a reasonably wide path which is shared by cyclists going both directions, as well as pedestrians. Make sure you take it easy! If you want photos, be sure to stop and pull up to the side of the path so that you don’t block traffic.

Once you reach the other side, you could turn around and go back or continue cycling to the historic upper-class town of Sausalito and catch the Ferry (approx. $11) back to the Fishermans Wharf area.

Cycling the bridge is fun but pretty windy, make sure you bring a coat!

Street Cars

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe street cars look a little bit like trams. They are vintage and like the cable cars, super cute! I made good use of the F-line street car which runs all the way along Market Street and then along The Embarcadero (waterfront) to Fishermans Wharf. The route the F-line takes is scenic and gives you a great opportunity to see what there is on offer at each of the piers.

Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Fishermans Wharf and Pier 39 areas are very commercial. Pier 39 almost feels like you are visiting Disneyland. That being said, I did think they were worth a look. There were some good options for eating out and I made sure I had some ‘famous’ clam chowder in a bread bowl.

Fishermans Wharf is pretty much just food, but Pier 39 has food and many specialty and souvenir shops. At the end, on the west side of Pier 39 is also a sea lion colony, which attracts hordes of tourists!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlcatraz is another San Francisco icon. It is an island (and national park) 1.5 miles off the coast of San Francisco. From 1934 to 1963, it was home to the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a maximum high-security prison.

We booked tickets to Alcatraz online through Alcatraz Cruises for $30 each. The ticket cost covered the return ferry ride to the island, entry to the national park and an audio tour of the prison.


The ferry ride to the island and the island visit were bitterly cold, which gave an indication to us of just how awful it must have been to be stuck out on “The Rock”. Alcatraz was basically used to house the worst of the worst; the prisoners who caused too much trouble in other prisons. Life on The Rock had very strict routine without too much disruption, though riots in May 1946 due to a failed escape attempt were rather horrendous. Less bloody, was an escape by three inmates who dug out ventilation tunnels with the use of metal spoons and escaped on an inflatable raft made of stolen raincoats.

The prison was interesting to explore and the audio guide that went with it was just fantastic. It was narrated by one of the prison wardens, with additional commentary from various inmates and family members of the prison staff who lived on the island. The narration was accompanied by appropriate and effective sound effects, which created a real sense of place and time.

The View

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe View cocktail lounge on the 39th floor of the Marriott Marquis Hotel on 4th Street. Unsurprisingly, it has a superb view of the city!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a pretty fancy place, but to my surprise didn’t have a strict dress code. With some friends from home, we turned up in jeans and sneakers. We sat amongst people who had just come from a Giants game and others who were wearing Tuxedo’s and formal dresses.

This was the perfect spot to sit for a few hours lounging around on sofas, drinking tasty cocktails, watching the sun go down.


I’m not sure what the Mission District is mostly known for, but what I found there was loads and loads of cool street art, and some good coffee.

The coffee place I checked out was Four Barrel on Valencia Street, they had a great atmosphere and really tasty coffee. As I enjoyed my latte,  I did some googling about what to see in the Mission and came up with Balmy Street Murals (Balmy Street is off 24th).

Caffeinated, I jumped on a bus and made my way to Balmy Street, stopping at several alley ways along the way. I noticed that deep in Mission I heard very little english and even the bus announcements had become Spanish only, so I wonder if it is a latino district perhaps.

Anyway the street art was awesome, so many different colours, styles and messages – I loved it!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACastro is the Gay and Lesbian district, I had heard that it was a very colourful district in a variety of ways. I think I was there too early in the morning to really experience all the colours on offer, but the man in fishnet booty short provided a bit of an insight.

The pedestrian crossings in the pride colours and the colourful murals were pretty cool.


On Steiner Street just next to Alamo Park are some gorgeous Victorian style buildings, over the top of which the city can be seen. The houses and the view are both beautiful, but I don’t know that it was really something to write home about.


The Exploratorium is a museum on the waterfront at Pier 15, which is all about learning through exploring. Throughout the museum are workstations that allow you to interact with various gadgets and devices to learn concepts by tinkering and doing. If you are a person curious about how things work, then it is definitely worth a visit.

As a teacher studying technology and investigating the idea of learning by doing, this place was great. It gave me a number of cool ideas for ways in which different things can be taught. I also think that as a place for young people to visit, it’s almost like an educational theme park, loads of fun!

Visits cost $29, but are discounts to $24 for teachers.

Some General Info


I stayed in Hostelling International, San Francisco Downtown.  The location was absolutely brilliant, right near Union Square and a short walk to everything downtown. Rooms were a good size, nice and clean. I spent 3 nights in a 4-bed female dorm and 3 nights in a twin private room with a colleague, both with private bathroom. There is a tasty bagel breakfast included, and the wifi is fast and reliable. It’s one of the best hostels I have stayed in.

If you aren’t a HI member you need to pay a bit extra than the listed price, I would recommend buying the eMembership because it quickly pays itself.



Getting around the city with public transport is crazy easy. I am usually a walker, but with all the really cute public transport ie. cable cars and street cars, not to mention the hills, I opted for public transport instead.

In and around the city I would recommend buying a muni pass. The muni pass gives you access to the cable cars, streets cars, buses and light rail. You can get a day pass for $17, 3-day for $26 or 7-day for $35. The alternate option is to pay around $6 per ride, which adds up very quickly.

You can buy a muni pass from a ticket booth right near the cable car turnaround on Powell Street (just look for where Powell Street meets Market Street)


I’m aiming to travel on the cheap and I’m not much of a foodie, so I don’t like to splash out too much on food. I found that buying frozen meals or pre-packaged salads from Walgreens cost close to the same as eating at a budget restaurant.

For most meals I paid between $9 and $15 for a single main menu item. Most meals in the US are quite big portions, so I never had more than one menu item.

Check out all my San Francisco Photos on Flickr