Cartagena de Indias is a walled city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1533. I was thrilled to visit it recently to attend the Hay Cartagena Literary Festival. It is a magical and enchanting city, steeped in romance and brimming with literary and historical references. It is also beautiful. Once squalid and rundown while a new high-rise city grew up further along the coast, old Cartagena has undergone a renaissance and is full of old colonial houses, secret courtyards, leafy squares and cobbled streets of vibrantly painted houses with bougainvillea spilling from their wooden balconies.
Irvine Welsh talked about Skagboys, a return twenty years later to his characters in Trainspotting (the most shoplifted book in the UK, apparently). He spoke about heroin addiction, Scottish independence, the breakdown of consensus in modern Britain and his love of music. He told us that he creates a playlist for every character: he needs to know "where they stay, who they lay and what they play".
Strolling from venue to venue, there were many bookshops and cafes - Abaco, my favourite, was both bookshop and café.
Another morning, we saw two men sitting on upturned paint tins, playing draughts on a painted square of wood with red and white bottle tops as pieces.
Day and night, there were colourful palenqueras, the descendants of slaves from Palenque, selling fruit from the trays they balanced on their head. This lady told me she started aged ten.
I am currently living in Panamá. Please come and visit my website www.maevefriel.com or subscribe to my blog www.maevefriel.com/blog where I am mostly writing about my time in Panamá and about Latin American children´s literature. Or follow me on twitter @MaeveFriel or on Facebook.