Dear Team ITG,
First of all, don’t worry: I’ve been wearing my sunscreen, leaning heavily on my Goe Oil and La Roche-Posay for moisture top-offs and educating everyone who will listen to me on which skincare products they should be using. (I am pretty much the person you don't want to get stuck sitting next to at dinner. Look what you've done to me!) Luckily, this whole 93-degrees-and-sunny-in-December thing means my hair dries almost instantaneously and luckily the Goe Oil is a bit of a multi-tasker (it can be used as a hair-styling aid if I'm trying to look anything other than straight “beachy,” which so far has not been required). Back to business: Cartagena, Colombia. If you go to Cartagena, the chances are that you will never want to leave. So, you should probably go as soon as possible. (I’m already considering starting a Colombian branch of the office for us; does anyone speak Spanish?)
From the minute you arrive here—this northern Colombian city dangling into the Caribbean with its sun-dappled palm-tree-lined parques and plazas thick with people and tourists and dancers and musicians (here for New Year’s Eve, or here just because), with its 16th century fortified walls still intact—an urge to relax starts to seep into your body and mind; you find yourself submerged, taking a little bit more time to look around you, to sit and have long, dawdling conversations, to eat five courses, to finally finish that book you’ve been reading, to stay out way too late and sleep better than you ever have. (Here, a shout out to my best friend and host for the third time in this fair nation, Mariana Zobel de Ayala , her wonderful family, and their must-be-seen-to-be-believed gorgeous house [1,2].)
As we came from frigidNew York, our main focus has been lazing about in the sunshine, walking around the city and trekking up to the 477-year-old Castillo San Felipe de Barajas , where we found a trumpeter  raising money for arts programs who played ‘New York, New York’ for us—so join me in swooning at that memory. The plazas and parques are circulated by vendors with fresh coconuts that they’ll machete open for you to drink, or green mangos they'll draw, quarter, and season for you with salt and lime . On one of the final days of my visit, we took a boat out to the islands with Mariana’s sister Eugenia and cousin, Monica Urquijo Zobel  and some other friends to have lunch: dried fish and fried plantains, freshly caught and grilled langostinos  that we pried from their shells with salty fingers and to drink, a volley of alcoholic coconuts (we weren't driving).
We spent New Year’s Eve at our friend Cloclo Echavarria’s party [14, pictured with a papier-mâché pink flamingo, n'est-ce pas] at her beach house, a few-hours drive from Cartagena and accessed on foot by a gently curving balloon-and-flower-strewn arbored walkway. I was kicking myself for not bringing those Dior gold tattoos (I mean, where could be more perfect?!) but I made like I had Emily with me and did what I could with some of becca's shimmering skin perfector along the tops of my cheekbones and a few swipes of They're Real. (I tapped on a little of Laura Mercier's lip stain in hibiscus in the car on the way.) For her guests, Cloclo had prepared baskets of fresh-flower garland headdresses  and elaborate papier-mâché masks made by local craftsman modeled after cheetahs, parrots, bulls, and zebras . We rang in 2013 with sparklers, champagne and passed bottles of aguardiente (you have to drink it from the bottle, I promise, it's a thing), and danced all night, staying to watch the sun rise over the beach before heading back to the city and our beds.
So guys, I love you, but I really, really don’t want to come home (and if I do, I’m definitely packing a cheetah mask in my carry-on. And may just be wearing it around the office.)
Photographs by Mariana and Eugenia Zobel de Ayala.