WON’T YOU TAKE ME TO BOCAS TOWN?

We  abandoned our original plan to visit Bocas Town for three weeks at the end of our stay here.  Bocas Town is intense (think Key West, Central American style) so we decided to stay three days. My husband Sam loves to drive, so we also decided to drive the 8 hours to get there.

Things were going along great along the international highway, when my extra astute husband detected a tire problem.  We had yet to traverse the mountains to get to the Caribbean side of the island, so this was concerning.  We finally found a spot to stop.  The tire was bulging along the sides and apparently ready to blow.  Sam changed the tire but we were halfway between Coronado and our destination.  Should we continue the mountainous terrain on the spare which was not much bigger than a candy life saver?

 

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Handy Husband

I won’t keep you in suspense, we continued.  It was stressful to be sure and the trip over the mountains was punctuated by winding roads, chickens crossing the road, Indians walking along the narrow highway and banana trucks and busses were whipping around corners.  Finally, we arrived in Almarante, where we were told that a man on a bicycle would meet us at the fork in the road and take us to Leezas parking where we would park the car and take the 30 minute water taxi to Bocas Town.  Weirdly, it happened just as described and we couldn’t have been happier.

We arrived before nightfall in Bocas Town and actually walked to our hotel which was very nearby.  I was so happy to get settled, freshen up and have some of that great seafood that everyone talked about.  I was starving so I was excited.

We were just about ready to leave our hotel room when ALL of the lights on the island went out.  We carry a flashlight so we wandered around a bit, but the restaurants closed quickly and since we had no idea what to do or where to go we stayed at our hotel.  They have a nice restaurant which was also closed but the beer was still ice cold.  So keeping with my husbands adage that “beer is food” we sat on the candlelit deck sipping beers.  It wasn’t terrible.  The lights did go on again after about 30 minutes and we were able to have one of my favorites, Corvina also know as Panamanian Sea Bass.

I had several must-do’s in Bocas, one was Starfish Beach which is in all the travel magazines.  The next day we packed our beach things and caught the local bus to the beach.  People were packed in pretty tight.  We were told it was a five minute walk through the jungle to get to the beach, more like 15 though.

The water is said to be very clear and there are starfish everywhere and tourists are admonished not to touch them.  Unfortunately, the beach was great but starfish were not plentiful and I am sure tourists have driven them further out but we did scope out a few.

 

Next day we took an excursion to several islands.  Zapatillo Cay was first.  It is totally uninhabited and you are dropped off on the beach and you can explore on your own.  There are no restaurants, no beach chairs, nothing.  It was really beautiful though.  We had lunch and relaxed at another beautiful island where you could look in the water right on the dock and see some beautiful fish and relax on a hammock.  Then we took a fast ride through the mangroves and saw sleeping sloths in the trees.  We also stopped to watch dolphins.  Another great day.

Later, we walked around Bocas Town.  There was a festival where adults scream at a devil and pretend to beat him with sticks.  There is a kid version, where the devil is smaller but just as much screaming goes on.  We discovered a great bar with great music and nice people.  Bocas has a lot of tourists, surfing is good and backpackers are plentiful.  There are people from all over the world.  Also, we ran into an old friend from last year that moved to Bocas, CeCe.  We were so happy to see her and catch up.

It was a great trip!

 

 

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Bon Pasco

Bon Pasco!  In Aruba, this is the Papimento greeting for Merry Christmas.   We really enjoyed ours, hope you did as well.

Our new adventures included spending Christmas in Aruba.  This would be the very first Christmas we have spent away from home.  Despite the obvious differences such as snow vs. palm trees,  family is the constant.  We truly missed ours. The Arubans, like most people everywhere, cherish traditions and family.  The island is alive with parties, decorations and gift exchanges.

Our Christmas Day was spent snorkeling and watching the sunset on the beach sharing a bottle of champagne.  Arubans celebrate big on Christmas Eve and Christmas day is for Sinterklaas to deliver presents to the kids.  Sinterklaas arrives at the marina in Orangestad and the children welcome him as he comes by boat. This is another Dutch influenced tradition.  Aruba has a mixture of influences that have melded into celebrations and daily life.  They have elaborate decorations everywhere.  At almost all of the traffic circles, there is a green area which is decorated lavishly.  One even has a miniature Aruban house completely furnished.  Another has a chorus of Angels.  One has a perfect replica of a cruise boat.  All are colorful and beautiful. We rented a car and traveled the island enjoying them.  We made some friends here and celebrated with them learning their customs and traditions.

We enjoyed the children singing songs in the supermarket.  One little girl truly had the voice of an angel and even though I understood little of what she was singing about, her sweet voice brought tears to my eyes.

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And, of course, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without silly games.  Meet my husband, the snowman.  Needless to say, we didn’t win in the toilet-paper snowman building contest.  Lots of laughs though.dscn6403

We returned to Panama on December 30th and plan on spending a week in Panama City, then up the coast to Coronado and finally a trip to the Caribbean side in Bocas del Toro.  I will be updating this blog as we go.

Here’s wishing all of my readers a very happy and healthy 2017!

Two beach bums and a Scooter

Ok, so we are a month into our island adventure in Aruba.  Already we have had some great experiences.   So what we notice is we are becoming more and more …. shall we say…. relaxed.  By this I mean my normally fastidious husband is deciding to cut his shaving down to maybe once or twice a week.  Me? I am letting my normally blown dry hair go natural and somewhat wild and my practice of never leaving the house without makeup routine is totally ruined.  This is the siren song of  beach life.  The ability to live in a bathing suit, to use minimal make up and hair products.

But….. we keep telling ourselves we are not on vacation.  This is our home for the next 3 months so some discipline is in order.  We have a great workout facility in the immediate area and we are always walking and exploring.   We are trying to eat healthy but this is a bit more challenging.  They have the most amazing cheeses here, cheap and delicious.  They import a lot of food from Holland so in addition to the amazing cheeses, you will often see a puzzled look on my face in the grocery store at the unfamiliar looking labels.  With names like Aardbeien and Jong Kaas,  it is fun to figure out what the item is and what you would possibly do with it.  I adore food challenges so bring it on.  One of the things that is so nice about this trip is that I have a full kitchen this time.  Getting some good material for a future food blog so check back.dscn3375

Obviously we are spending a lot of time at the beach.  This naturally extends to people watching.  This is a favorite pastime of mine and an endless source of entertainment.  So, there was this American couple eating at the beach bar.  The woman told the bartender her fish was terrible so the bartender took it away and did not charge.  Then the man asked for some juice.  Not just any juice but  maybe a mixture of pineapple and orange, oh no, make that papaya and pineapple, oh no make that orange and papaya.  Here’s where I start rolling my eyes.  Ok so now, he gets his juice, and the bartender had the audacity to charge him, so fish lady chimes in “well if you are going to charge him, I want a full order of juice not just this bar glass, but a tall glass.”  The bartender told them nicely, this is a bar, we don’t give anything away.  Then fish lady opens her personal container and says “fill this with ice”.  These two were a tag team bartenders nightmare and have certainly studied their “How to be an Ugly American” handbook.  So there I sat disgusted and generally embarrassed for my country when along comes Scooter.

Scooter and his lovely wife were visiting from Tampa and were clearly having the time of their lives.  Not usually a fan of cigar smoke, I commented to Sam that the little Cohibas this guy was smoking actually smelled delicious.  Sam was looking longingly at the little beauties.  He is not a smoker but has enjoyed them in his past.  Scooter took note and generously offered Sam one, then the rest of his pack, then in a totally unexpected and generous move, went to the cigar store behind the bar and surprised him with an entire pack while we had a great conversation with his wife.  Wish we would have been able to get to know them better, but alas our ride was waiting.  Scooter, you restored my faith in Americans, at least for today.

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Scooter

 

 

 

 

Aruba With a Twist

dscn1423We are on the move again.  We spent an incredible summer working, visiting, playing and rediscovering our home base in Charlotte, NC.  There was lots of time with family, ball-games and hanging out with new and old friends.  It was everything a trip home should be and all the comfort familiarity can bring.  We enjoyed every minute of it and now are looking forward to our next adventure.

Just a recap.  My husband Sam and I sold our house and most of its contents in June of 2015 and spent last September through April adventuring and discovering Panama.  It was an amazing cultural exploration and a true journey of self-discovery. We worked on learning a new language and meeting interesting people.  Living and navigating a new and exciting country tested and delighted us.

So, this year our first stop is Aruba.  I know, I know if you have read my blogs, you know this isn’t new but now here’s the twist. We always wondered how it would be to spend an extended period of time in Aruba and just see if we can get sick of our favorite place.  So, for the next four months we plan to be beach bums.  It is very interesting how deep you can immerse yourself in local culture when you stay for a long period of time.  Even a tourist destination like Aruba can take on a new shade or two when you stay in a place making it your home.  Anyway, I can think of worse experiments if it goes wrong.  So we will be looking for the unfamiliar as well as the familiar.  We will embrace the local color as well as the tourist attractions.  Also, we have family and friends coming to visit so it will be exciting showing them our favorite places.  So, to me, the metaphor here is…. how much candy can you eat without getting a stomach ache.

The challenge here is realizing you are really not on vacation every day.  This is where we live for the time being.  So, you can’t go full-out vacation mode even though it is tempting.  First of all money is an issue, things you would normally not worry about, fancy dinners, expensive excursions will be more rare.  We need to eat right and get into an exercise routine.  It’s doable but restraint is the key here.

I am so grateful for this experience and thankful I have the kind of partner who is not only wonderful with details but is on the same crazy page I am.

Thank you to the readers of this blog.  Your comments and feedback have been so encouraging and helpful.  I love the idea of taking you all along on this journey and I appreciate you taking the time to read and follow.

I promise to be honest and truthful even if this turns out to be a beach bummer, which right now I can’t imagine but you never know.