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We won’t be going to the Rosaria Islands

By Frédéric VITOUX Sofitel Santa Clara Carthagène


Early the next morning, Hélène and Robert set off from the hotel, the Santa Clara, which had been built in the 17th century to house a convent and which a friend in Paris had recommended to them, with tears in his eyes. They wandered through the old fortified Spanish city. They would have the chance to explore it more thoroughly later. For now, they were content to get a feel for the place, taking in fleeting impressions, the sounds and colors and humid heat of the southern Caribbean coast.
There were little one-story colonial houses painted royal blue, canary yellow and blood red, their wooden balconies hung with hammocks – the hammock, that sublime invention worthy of highly civilized countries! – along narrow streets made even narrower by purple bougainvillea blooming under the cornices. On the worn asphalt, the hoofs of docile horses resonated as they pulled carriages bearing tourists, no doubt travelling just as the city’s notables had in past centuries… All of this made a first impression on them, as did the thickness of the air.
“Do you remember that little American movie from the ‘40s with Ava Gardner that was set in a South American city like this, on the Caribbean and with heat like this?’’ Robert asked Hélène. “Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor?”
“She was never more beautiful than at that time, when her face still had something of the soft roundness of adolescence.”
Hélène smiled.
The two of them had met in the ‘60s, at the Chaillot cinematheque in Paris. She was studying Spanish, preparing for her final exams.
He was about to begin an internship in a law firm specializing in international and copyright law.
They were both unrepentant film buffs at the time – and they still were.


It was almost noon. The sun was beating down. In a large square that had once been a slave market, Hélène haggled with a vendor, paying 50,000 pesos for a Panama hat for Robert and a straw Colombian one for herself. They were not luxurious.
“I think it was ‘The Bribe,’ directed by Robert Z. Leonard – and please don’t forget the Z.!” she said later. “But I think the sets were typically Hollywood, like in a B movie from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.”


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