Santa Marta is one of the few cities to which we have traveled and found the restaurants haven’t yet been destroyed by Coca-Cola and their desire to monopolize the restaurant industry with their exclusivity agreements and strong arm tactics. I guess I need to explain this a little bit. Coca-Cola has convinced restaurant owners to allow them to provide all the equipment necessary for fountain sodas, at no charge, if the restaurant agrees to sell Coca-Cola’s products exclusively thus blocking the competition from entering the market. This practice started in the USA and spread slowly across the world. It appears Coca-Cola’s sales representatives in Santa Marta are not very good at their jobs. Lucky for us!
One of the joys of traveling is experiencing the local food and drink. In too many places we’ve visited the restaurant’s drink menu is basically Coca-Cola products. We don’t drink soda. I used to, but not anymore. It makes me feel ill. In my early working years, a soda at lunch was the norm. Then the media told me regular soda was packed full of bad sugars and syrups. They also said it caused diabetes. Then they said, if I drank diet cola I wouldn’t be so obese. Good news, or so I thought. I switched to diet soda. The good news was short lived when the media told me I was going to die of cancer because I drank diet soda. They told me rats had died drinking diet soda. Finally, they put icing on that story by schooling me about how drinking diet soda would make me more obese than regular soda. The full circle was made. When I skipped drinking soda for a day or two, I found myself feeling better. It’s hard to explain how this happened but slowly I realized drinking soda made me feel lousy. I eventually stopped. On very rare occasions you may still catch me with a cola, but it is a rare occasion.
I try not to drink caffeinated products after three in the afternoon. I find I sleep much better this way. So, iced tea is out. Cindy and I have friends who drink coffee after their evening meal. We’d be up all night if we did this. So what do we drink aboard Cream Puff on a hot afternoon. We drink watered down juice. One of my favorites is mango juice. I add about three parts of water to one part mango juice and add lots of ice. I have found this the most thirst quenching and cooling drink ever. That is until we reach Santa Marta.
On the drink menus in Santa Marta restaurants they sell various juices. The most popular is lemonade. It might actually be limeade. We’re a little unsure about which it is. But for now, let’s go with lemonade. We prefer the natural lemonade meaning pure lemonade. Lemons, still in the peel, are tossed into a blender with ice and given a short whirl. Sometimes the lemons look green. Are they limes or are they lemons that are not quite ripe? Again, let’s go with lemons. Some people add other juices such a coconut or pineapple. The result is a frozen lemonade drink guaranteed to quench your thirst and provide relief from the hot afternoon sun. Here’s the best part: The all natural lemonade cost about US$1.00. To buy a can of Coca-Cola is about US$1.50. It’s a no brainer here to see why the restaurants are serving a ton of these drinks. Almost every table starts with lem-mon-ar-do. Or, it might be lim-mon-ar-do.
We later found out it is actually limeade.
The food in Santa Marta is turning out to be a very nice surprise in the culinary front. We have already had some fantastic meals. The marina is located in the heart of the city and within walking distance are hundreds of small eateries. Each is unique as there are few chain restaurants. We often look toward TripAdvisor for a recommendation but are finding local recommendations to be more on point. Some restaurants have English menus. This really helps us. It is so nice to understand what we are ordering and not worry about translation. If we are fortunate enough to have a waiter who speaks a little bit of English, we try to order in Spanish so they can help us. They get a good laugh out of this and we get a free Spanish lesson. We had one waiter tell us we were not allowed to ask for the check in English and that he refused to bring it to us until we asked for it in perfect Spanish. We did eventually get the check and made a new friend in the process.
I know I have mentioned this in a previous post, but Santa Marta is very affordable. Cindy and I went out with another cruising couple for dinner. We had an appetizer of fried calamari. This was not the American style of breaded and deep fried but rather pan sautéed with mango and spicy chilies. It was so good. For the entrée, Cindy had roasted duck and I enjoyed lamb gnocchi prepared in a red wine source. We washed this all down with a few adult beverages. Our total bill for this fabulous meal was about US$40 (including a good tip).
Speaking of walking to restaurants, do you remember the game you played as a child where you tried not to step on the cracks in the sidewalks? We play that game here. Not because we have reverted back to fun childhood times but because we have to. When walking about town, we must constantly look to see where we are placing our feet. Why? Because, sometimes there are huge holes in the sidewalks. We have come across too many missing manhole covers to mention and often times the existing covers are cracked and probably shouldn’t be stepped upon.
To mark some of the holes, someone might place a brick or large rock near it. I imagine this helps people go into the hole headfirst rather than feet first. I can almost imagine seeing someone not quite looking where they are going, or perhaps texting and walking, and tripping over the rock. The city is undergoing a massive repaving project and is replacing streets and sidewalks with bricks. The results are stunning. But in the mean time we continue to be careful. It’s a good thing we are drinking juices at lunch rather than a few beers or margaritas. A tipsy walk back to Cream Puff might wind up with one of us going down a hole and winding up with Alice in Wonderland.
From our home to yours, we wish you a very happy Christmas. Or, since we are in Santa Marta Colombia, Feliz Navidad.