Once upon not all that long ago but still when I was at school, a teacher said that fruit was the best fast food in the world. We oozed scepticism, even at that tender age, probably threw a “yeah right” or a “whatever” in her general direction and moseyed along with the rest of our lives.
Fast forward to the close-set streets of Cartagena, in sticky, colourful Colombia and her words resurfaced after all these years.
In the painted, peeling labyrinth of the Old Town, it takes a few moments to notice the fruit. Amid the treacle sweets and coconut fritters, the belts, the artwork and the handmade signs for mobile phones, Cartagena takes those first impressions, spins them around the dance floor, plies them with champagne and leaves them dizzy and breathless and staring at the stars.
The fruit sellers are quieter – on the whole. Women sit with their backs to the road, their eyes on the uneven pavements and the mix of crammed crowds who filter by.
The fruit looks resplendent, majestic even beneath the glaze of the tropical sun. Droplets form on the skins of the mangoes, and the coconut shells rustle their hair in the breeze. Fruit on the street looks photoshoot ready, the way you only see in adverts back home.
Here, fruit is how it’s meant to be: bursting with colour, taste and even opportunity as it’s so easy to buy. It’s far from the hard lumps of tastelessness found in Britain’s supermarket shelves.
To be fair, I suppose, that cloudy island is a long, long way from these towering coconut palms. And when the occasion demands, an English apple can still summon up the sweetness to complement a sour bite.
Yet for a heady fruit extravaganza, the tropics are hard to beat. And the streets of Cartagena provide the backdrop to make them shine.
Disclosure: I travelled to Colombia as a guest of ProExport Colombia but am free to write about whatever I like, as usual, as always.