October 19th, 2011

Driving through a city is great if your goal is to get to the other side. If, on the other hand, you want to learn about, notice, savor, discover what’s actually there, a slower pace is recommended. Detail and interest emerge when we give our senses a little time to take things in. That’s why we sip whiskey, lick ice cream, and kiss slowly. That’s why we read the book, not just the outline. And that’s why a walk or a bike ride through a city is so much more compelling and pleasurable than a car ride.

Take Cartagena, Colombia for example. To be appreciated, this steamy, walled port city demands attention. The occasional distracted glance through a car window just won’t get it done. That’s probably part of the reason its been designated a UNESCO site – to preserve the pedestrian friendly historic streets and allow visitors and locals to drink in the color and detail, like these windows we found in two days of wandering around on bike and on foot last week.

Cartagena is no longer about drugs and muggings. It’s about a diverse Caribbean culture and history. You can bike there, but Bogota is the most bike friendly Colombian city with its Ciclovia program – now respected and widely imitated around the world.