When last we met, I was relaying anecdotes from my daughter Lindsay’s recent trip to visit us in Panama. The thing about having a visitor is that you see your surroundings in a whole new light and discover things you thought you already knew.
Eager to visit the Pearl Islands and without time to visit my first choice which was Contadora Island, we made a return visit to Toboga. It’s fun, its cheap and its beautiful. So we took the 11:00 a.m. ferry and arrived with the usual locals carting all sorts of supplies on to the island. This adds to the non-tourist vibe that we have grown to love. So, we have been to Toboga a few times but Lindsay’s reaction reminded us of our initial impression which was awe. She said it reminded her of those little villages on the coast of Italy. Of course, none of us have visited the coast of Italy but we have all seen those pics and it seems to fit. Along, the way we found a secluded beach for Lindsay to practice her “Toboga Yoga”.
We were excited to show her around and explore. It is truly beautiful and sort of like a fairy tale. Flowers, butterflies, roosters and chickens. Small, brightly painted houses with well-kept, uniquely decorated trims. The American owner of Calaloo, a charming little restaurant, shouted out to us as we passed and we assured her we would be back for lunch. Every place you turn is a photo op, and we took full advantage of that. We took in the sights and did return to Calaloo for a delicious lunch of fresh ceviche and beer.
We met a really cute couple who looked fresh out of college, they turned out to be commercial pilots and spend their vacation time and free air fare visiting all the places they usually only see from airport terminals. Definitely a “don’t judge a book by its cover” moment.
A couple sitting in the back of the restaurant overheard our conversation with the pilots and came up to us when we were leaving to say they were from the same area that we grew up. So Sam began to talk with them and discovered he knew the woman and had double-dated with her and her boyfriend in high school. Truly a small world.
Then off to the beach. We had fun getting our feet wet, talking with our new found friends, shelling and weirdly discovering a fresh bunch of broccoli washed up on the beach, clearly rejected by some passing ship or restaurant in Panama City and not appreciated by the fish. A great day in Toboga.
For Lindsay’s last night we visited the Cinta Costera (coastal ribbon) which winds around the outside of Panama City. We started at the Mercado de Mariscos for dinner exploring each fonda’s menu until Lindsay settled on one selling grilled coconut shrimp. I settled on grilled shrimp in passion fruit sauce while Sam chose pescado frito and patacones. Everything was delicious. The Cinta Costera comes alive at night with food and souvenir vendors and Panamanian families meeting friends, playing pick up games of basketball, working out in the outdoor public gym and generally having a great time. We enjoyed the great people watching but panic set in at the lack of public bathrooms. We found a cool Panamanian diner and noted the location for a future dinner. I insisted Lindsay try her first raspara, which is the Panamanian version of a snow cone enhanced by a covering of sweetened condensed milk. Her choice of passion fruit was sweet but delicious.
We reluctantly said goodbye the next morning but had such a great time sharing our world with someone we love.