The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #43

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A reader writes:

The architecture, including the tile roofs and the overall design of the buildings and balconies, in addition to the palms, narrow streets, upscale shops, street name on the side of the building and the square tower all suggest a resort town in southern Spain. The glass windows indicate that at least part of the time it is fairly cold there too. Reminds me of Sitges.

Another writes:

Whenever I see bouganvilla, I instantly think of Panama, so that's probably tainted my 800px-Bougainvillea-Taormina-Sicilia-Italy-Castielli_CC0_HQ perceptions (and it's possible that those pink flowers aren't even bouganvilla). But that, and the balconies, look like the old "french quarter" of Panama City: Casco Antiguo (also known as Casco Viejo). Of course, even if I got that right, one of your other readers will know the exact address and have eaten at the little cafe.

Another:

Was meeting with my tax preparer and reading the Dish on the sly. I saw the picture load on my iPhone and my heart leapt with joy: "Singapore!" yelled I, with an expletive that brought frowns to all the clients and accountants within earshot. Embarrassed, I waited for a few hours to check the picture again. Once before in the early days of the contect, I had guessed Singapore (only to have the location be West Palm Beach), so I didn't want to make the same mistake twice!

It's either Malacca or Penang, up on the West coast of Malaysia. Both are great places to visit and soak up a few centuries of culture and atmosphere, and to buy cool and useless trinkets to take home. Its a tough call, but Malacca is my guess.

Another:

It sure makes me think of a weekend we spent in the Portuguese city of Malacca, Malaysia.  Waking up to the muezzin's morning adhan is one of those time-and-place memories I cherish.

Another:

This one is deceptively hard, so I'm making a wild, educated guess. 

Tropical, affluent, with old architecture.  If only I could read that sign!  At first I was convinced it was New Orleans.  I even tried to crowdsource the exact location by posting the picture on the Facebook walls of my New Orleanian friends.  No luck. One suggested  Spain, and that the balcony style was a giveaway.  After googling Spanish balconies with no luck, I decided to guess Spanish influence in a tropical seting - San Juan, Puerto Rico.  

Another:

I came somewhat close to #41 when I wrongly guessed Vung Tau. At the risk of being that guy who went to a place one time and now thinks everywhere looks like it, I think this is Hoi An, Vietnam. Specifically, somewhere in the Ancient Town close to the river. The crumbling yellow buildings, the balustrades, the tourists down below and the French writing on the signs ... the only thing that doesn't quite fit my memory is the white high-rise in the distance.

Some friends and I bought old Soviet motorcycles in Saigon last year and spent five weeks riding them up the country to Hanoi, Top Gear style. It was an absolute blast and Hoi An was easily the most beautiful town in Vietnam.

Another reader who guessed Hoi An uses a photo of Le Loi Street to bolster her case:

P1030693

Another:

New Orleans, for sure.  I've never actually been there, but it looks like how I've always imagined Bourbon Street to be.  Plus my French girlfriend assures me the blurry sign in the foreground is in French.  So, her knowledge and my hope lead me to New Orleans.  

Another:

Ok, so this is pretty much a wild guess. After zooming in close to the sign, I think I can just barely make out "Il Dante". I googled "Il Dante" and all that came up was "Restaurants in Colombo." So, that's all I have to say about that: Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Another:

Geez! These last two windows were extremely hard. Last week's Montana view was seemingly only for people who visited Missoula, and this week's seems to be just as difficult. I threw every Photoshop trick I know to try to clarify the sign above the doorway, but I can't quite get it. Based on the verdana style houses, the bouganvilla, leafy plants, apparently warm weather and the paint on the buildings, I hazard that it could be either somewhere in Manila OR Central America. My hats off to anyone who gets this without actually having visited the country.

Another:

Well, a google search for "El Bistro" quickly pulled up the photographed restaurant in Cartagena, Colombia, so I bet you'll have tons of correct answers this week.  I expect the prize will go to someone who has a cool story about the place - not me, since I've never been there!

Twenty-five other readers correctly guessed Cartagena. One writes:

No googling, just pure "that's what it looks like".  Was there in the early 2000s when I lived in London and my GF (and future wife) lived in Lima.  We had to arrange crazy weekends in Miami (the halfway point). One time we met in Lima and visited Colombia.

Another:

I was fortunate enough to spend several months in Cartagena. I couldn't read the sign, but it looked like the first word was "el" and the second word began with "B," so I googled "Cartagena el b" and let the algorithm fill in the rest. Bingo.

Another reader found a close-up of the elusive sign:

El-bistro

Another:

The Spanish colonial architecture, vivid paint colors and blooming bougainvillea jumped out at me and I immediately thought of Cartagena (even though I've never been!).  Some searching in Flickr and Google Images confirmed it; I found that highrise building in the background in Cartagena's Financial District.  GoogleMaps, alas, does not provide a street view of the historic Old Town (El Centro), just links to photos taken there.  Since it's a pedestrian precinct, I guess Google couldn't send their camera-cars in!

Another:

I can't believe it, I know where this is! I've been to Cartagena recently, so as soon as I saw the architecture I thought it looked amazingly similar. With a little image enhancement and my knowledge of Spanish, I realized the sign says "el Bistro".  Just a Google search later and I found it. This means the picture was taken from the north side of the street, the second floor of the Hotel Agua, Calle de Ayos, 4-29. On Google Maps it's on Calle 35, between cross-streets K4 and K5. And since I'm not so Google Map savvy, I drew the location and field of view of the photo. I'm pretty sure that modern, tall building in the distance is the Centro Commercial, which I've circled:

VFYW contest

Another:

Long time reader, first time submitter. The street names in Cartagena de Indias change nearly every block but according to Google Maps, the picture in question looks to have been taken just East of Carrera 4 along Calle 36. Consulting my trusty backpacker book, the street name is Calle de la Estrella. I'm guessing #4-45. 

The country in question is the victim of many a bias, not least of which from citizens of the USA. It is often overlooked by travelers and almost always appears in the news only in the context of the negative stereotypes that have stuck with it for at least a quarter century. The fact is that Cartagena is but one of the many spectacularly beautiful cities in a country full of them. The amazingly friendly people, vibrant salsa music scene, plethora of exotic fruits, Pacific and Caribbean coasts, topography of every type and the most beautiful people in all of South America make Colombia a gem. I spent six months there last year and can't recommend it enough to fellow travelers!

Another:

This is definitely my hometown of Cartagena.  It is one of the most beautiful and romantic cities I have ever been to.

Another:

I always make the VFYW contest a family-wide affair, roping in my mother, father, girlfriend, and any additional person who I have a hunch might be familiar with the region in question. In my two previously published guesses, however, I went it alone and came up a bit short (or in one case, 5000 miles short, guessing Ecuador over
Sicily). This time the family lifeline proved quite helpful. 

My girlfriend, a native Venezuelan, immediately spotted the "look and feel" (her favorite English phrase) of neighboring Colombia. Obviously this view in particular has a strong tropical, Carribean feel to it, making Cartagena the likely frontrunner. Then she somehow managed to guess that the sign across the street read "El Bistro" (this is shocking to me since when we're driving she often can't read a street sign until it's right above her). One google images search later and we've found the restaurant across the street from the view.

As for the other members of my family lifeline? My parents guessed New Orleans (mom) and Curacao (dad, because the architecture struck him as more Dutch than Spanish) - this despite the fact that they both visited Cartagena less than a week ago, and for all I know ate at El Bistro. The joys of VFYW....I'll never let them live it down.

Another reader makes a wonderful collage:

VFYW-3-25-11.001

Another:

My girlfriend and I were able to decipher this one from the sign in front of the restaurant: El Bistro. The hotel seems to be right across the street.  So: Centro, Calle de Ayos #4-29 Cartagena, Colombia. We have gotten several right without winning including Talinn, Galveston, Trieste, and Tromsø. So here is hoping that counts for something!

Many readers who guessed Cartagena have correctly guessed cities in previous contests, but only one this week correctly guessed one of our most difficult ones - Lausanne, Switzerland. The winner writes:

I had pretty much given up on entering this contest, though I still enjoy reading and following it each week.  Your readers are so well-traveled and other contestants so determined not only to identify the city, but the exact location, offering up their lovely remembrances of those places at the same time.  I am neither well-traveled nor that intent on tracking down the exact geo-coordinates for places.  Rather, I am somewhat well-read and have a life long interest in urban design and architecture. 

Something serendipitous happened this week, however, and I offer my guess.  The travel section of my local Sunday paper featured a travel story with photos submitted by a reader. One of the photos looks remarkably similar to this week's VFYW Contest.  I reviewed some Internet images to make me a little more sure and now offer my guess: Cartagena, Columbia.  I believe the photo was taken somewhere in the Old City District. Alas, since I have never been there, I have no personal story to share, so even if I'm correct, I will not likely win.

Never give up!

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