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Cartagena: In the footsteps of Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Travel to Cartagena, the Colombian city that fuelled the fiction of the Pulitzer prize-winning novelist and journalist Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Cartagena: In the footsteps of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Cartagena, Colombia. Image: Getty

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Despite his books being closely associated with his native Colombia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez spent most of his adult life as an immigrant. He lived as an undocumented worker in Venezuela, a reporter in France and died earlier this year in Mexico, where he saw out most of his life. And yet, his best-known books have ties to Cartagena. The writer once said that all of his books are woven with ‘loose threads’ of this Caribbean city.

A new Cartagena audio tour devised by local historians walks travellers around 30 of ‘Gabo’s’ haunts and book locations. Start at his seafront house where he spent his winters — it was also the fictional home of Fermina Daza, the object of Florentino Ariza’s burning desire in Love in the Time of Cholera. Then stop off for a rum at El Coro, the bar next door in Sofitel, Santa Clara, where Gabo was once sent to report on the remains of a 12-year-old girl with 70 feet of copper hair — a surreal incident that inspired his novella Of Love and Other Demons.

Walk along Calle de la Factoría, past the home of feted Colombian painter Alejandro Obregón, where Marquez drank, fought and debated with his tempestuous, lifelong friend. Then it’s on to the newspaper offices where he once worked and to Casa Roman, another fictional site. Finally, shade your sun-addled head under an almond tree in Plaza Fernandez de Madrid, just as Florentino did, hoping to catch a glimpse of Fermina. tierramagna.com

Gabo said:
“All of my books have loose threads of Cartagena in them. And, with time, when I have to call up memories, I always bring back an incident from Cartagena, a place in Cartagena, a character in Cartagena.”

Published in the September 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)