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?


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!




Lovely Coronado, Home of Picassos and Lagartos


We arrived in Coronado, Panama two weeks ago and I must say I am in love.  First of all we are staying in a gorgeous apartment on the 10th floor of the Coronado Golf Tower.  The thing about this breathtaking mountain and ocean view apartment is it’s affordable.  We would never be able to afford this in any other location I can imagine.  Coming from Aruba, we are constantly impressed  by how cheap it is to live, eat and play in our beach location which is approximately an hours’ drive from Panama City.

When we first studied this location last year, we made a trip here to visit our ex-pat friend Don.  He was sweet enough to show us around and introduce us to his friends who are mostly other ex-pats.  Picassos Restaurant is the epicenter  for networking, entertainment and good food.  My first impression was “Ah ha, so this is where all the hippies from the 1960s went”.  So did I really want to hang around here for an extended period of time?  As charming as flowers in the hair, granny dresses (for real) and orthopedic flip flops can be, is this for me?   Given its incredible beauty, we decided it was worth a shot.   As it turns out, the people are great.  They are friendly, eclectic and very entrepreneurial.  It seems almost everyone has a business and on Tuesday mornings at Picassos, business cards are passed out freely.  There is the egg seller known for his double yolks and heavenly Panamanian coffee grown in the mountains and processed in small batches.   There is a concierge service, a massage and reiku expert, numerous real estate agents and artisans of all persuasions.   As you can imagine there are also musicians from all over the world.  We were treated to an impromptu blue grass concert featuring local and visiting artists. As our new friend Scott the harmonica player and former tennis pro said “it was magical”.   If you closed your eyes you would swear you were in South Carolina, minus the moonshine.

With our lovely apartment came a golf package.  Sam has been practicing his game for a few years but I honestly was never too excited about the idea. But given the beautiful course literally at our feet and the idea that we could do something together, not to mention the fun of racing around in a golf cart, I said why not?  I will give this a fair shake.  As it turns out, we play nine holes every other afternoon around 4ish when its not too hot and I really like it.  Don’t misunderstand me the game is all right but the birds, butterflies, palm and orange trees are spectacular.  Keeping score is not an option.  Speeding around in the cart and searching for lost balls is also fun and the occasional “high five” for missing a water hazard is also gratifying.

Speaking of water hazards, many are filled with what the Panamanians lovingly call lagartos which in Spanish means lizard.  I disagree, mi amigos, these are crocodiles and are not tiny.  I was so excited when, in my golf kit, I found a water hazard ball retriever.   I can just see me having a tug of war with Mr. Largarto with yours truly surely losing.

Our first two weeks have been great.  More adventures to come.

America Redux

Ok, I love my country so I feel compelled to offer some perspectives upon my return to America from Panama.  How can I do this, though, without bashing one Country or the other?   America is my home, my native land and with that comes some rose-colored glasses.  Americans have much and we can take it for granted.  In my experience, people in other countries have a sometimes truer view of America than most Americans. We can be loving, generous and kind.  We can also be rude, entitled and arrogant.    When we travel, like it or not, we are ambassadors for America.  I have seen many cringe-worthy moments of Americans who act badly in foreign Countries and expect everyone, everywhere to speak English.  Instead of remembering why we travel, to experience different cultures and surroundings, some Americans strive to get as close to their comfort zone as they can.  Instead of embracing the differences, they complain about those differences loudly and obnoxiously.

I have experienced the pluses and minuses of living in a foreign country and although my frustration sometimes bubbled to the top, more often than not, being patient and open enabled me to experience some extraordinary moments.

Everyone should travel and not just to a resort.  It is at once scary and exhilarating.  I remember my first trip to Albrook mall in Panama where I was convinced people would be staring at me because of my blonde hair and blue eyes but no one seemed to stare.  A young man in a kiosk asked me if I was Brazilian.  Another one passing out advertisements asked if I was Cuban.  Weirdly, no one suggested I was American.  The thing I loved about Panama was that there are so many types of people from so many backgrounds, they seemed very accepting of everyone.   I would even say that I didn`t witness racism, a word we throw around in America to describe almost every person who doesn’t agree with us without regard for the true meaning of the word. I am not saying it doesn’t exist there, just it wasn’t something palpable as it is here because our media is constantly talking about it. The elephant in the room that is political correctness in America, is not at the forefront of every conversation in Panama.

Life seemed simpler in Panama. Yes, most everyone has a smart phone but on Sundays you will find them outside enjoying their immediate and extended families walking, roller-blading, picnicking and doing everything BUT being on their cell phones.   Most people work hard but live simply and it seems for the most part, happily.

It’s good to be home, but I am starting to feel that travel itch again already.






Hasta Luego Panama


Our friend Alicia explained that you should never say Adios to friends you want to see again.  It’s too final.  So it’s  hasta luego (see you later) Panama.

Our six months in Panama have ended.  We are home and have begun post-processing our great adventure.  It is pretty amazing to think we actually lived in Panama for six months.  It was exciting, interesting, daunting, sometimes frustrating but memorable in every way.

There were quite a few things that didn’t make my blogs.  So here is a recap.

We spent quite a bit of time at the largest mall in South America called Albrook.  Not only could we find most comforts of home but there was some great people watching and food experiences here.

We did some biking on the Amador causeway.

Food and drink played a large part.

We played a little golf and went to an outdoor boxing match.  We were impressed by the Iron Man Competition.  The swimming part was held at the dock right outside our hotel.   There was music, parades, holidays and cultural shows.  History and gorgeous architecture everywhere.


We finally managed to make it to Contadora Island.  A beautiful day on the beach!

We also visited Coronado, an expat community a little over a hour from Panama.  Our friend Don showed us around and introduced us to his friends.  We looked at some beautiful and reasonable rentals for future reference.

I can’t even begin to describe the amazing flora and fauna.

Sam was always exploring and managed to log 30 miles walking a week.  He discovered the military bunkers located all over the Amador area and the Islands nearby.  Some were from the American time in the canal, some were from Noreiga’s regime,  even some from World War I.  Our local historian/hotel handyman, Jesus would fill him in on bits and pieces of the fascinating history of the canal.  It was such fun to discover the man-made and natural wonders surrounding us.


The best part by far were the wonderful people we met on our journey.  Friends that you cannot hope to have in a short visit but you become close over six months.  Most of the Panamanian people are kind, hard working, family-oriented  people that I will never forget.  Also, we were able to meet many fellow travelers who invited us to visit them in their own homelands of  Columbia, Chile, Romania and Canada.

Throughout this journey I have focused on the positive aspects of Panama.  As with any journey or any place on the planet, there are positives and negatives.  There was the traffic jams, language barrier, occasional bouts of homesickness.  The struggle to find a hairdresser, etc.  All in all I wouldn’t have changed a moment.  Much love and respect goes to my husband and travel partner for his knack for photographic documentation and persistence in getting all the right shots.

Thanks for joining us on this trip.  Stay tuned for more, we are just getting started!




Monkey Love


We’ve moved to the rain forest, an area known as Gamboa.  Our hotel is a golf resort and we don’t really play golf but are having fun putting around.  The views are spectacular and we hear amazing animal and birds sounds at night from our balcony.

The first day we met Carlos, a very friendly hotel employee who was showing us around.  He was explaining all the animals we might see and mentioned our favorite Panamanian animal, the Capybara. Seeing our excitement,  he said meet me in the lobby at 6:00 p.m. and I will take you to where the capybaras gather.  We met him at the appointed time and took a golf cart to a very specific spot on the course near a water-filled ditch.  There they were, not the same ones we thought were capybara on Ancon Hill and turned out to be agouti, but the genuine enormous capybara who had captured our hearts through pictures and you-tube videos.  Wow!  amazing!  What a great way to start off at our new rainforest location.


Monkeys were our next photographic prey.   Panama is great because of the many types of animals and colorful birds that call this great country home.  So, we went on an excursion with the Disney-sounding name of Jungleland.  We met at the dock and boarded beat-up Panamanian style boats.  We traveled the Panama Canal shipping lane to a floating lodge deep in the rainforest.  Along the way we spotted many ships, tug boats, mechanical equipment, the largest (until recently) crane in the world.  We even saw the Panama Express train filled with containers running alongside the Canal.

We stopped along the way to see heron, harpy eagles, egrets, crocodiles, iguana.  Soon, Captain Carl said we were pulling into a cove where we may be boarded by pirates.  The kids squealed in excitement and, truth be told,  I squealed a bit myself.   Armed with peanuts, we waited as a group of capuchin monkeys boarded our boat by jumping on the roof.  We waited and soon we saw a little face peek out from over the roof.  I held out my treat and he grabbed it and ran.  We also saw howler monkeys, tamarands too.  We loved every minute of it.

We soon arrived at the floating lodge and were treated to a delicious Panamanian meal, rice, chicken, steak, tamale, cinamon bananas.  Yum.

Then we were asked if we wanted to go fishing.   Si, por favor!  A expert Panamanian fisherman Ruben took us out to his favorite spot.   I had never fished before and was happy to hear Ruben would bait our hooks with minnows.  No sooner had I dipped my line in, I caught my first fish.  Sam and I both caught many.  Most were throw backs, a service also provided by Ruben.  One was a keeper and I am pretty sure it was Rubens dinner.  Such a great experience.

So, back at the hotel, we tried the golfing thing had lots of fun but more practice is necessary.  I dearly love doing things I have never done before.  Panama has been an amazing experience of “firsts”.






Adding to the multitude of new experiences, we were invited to a fashion show by our new friends Hector and Claudia.  Hector is a Panamanian born businessman and former Ambassador to Israel.  Claudia is a Romanian model who met Hector while modeling and studying in Israel.  They are engaged and spend part of their time in Panama and part in Romania.  Her modeling takes her to Japan, Italy, Panama, Romania and several other locations around the world.  We met because we live in the same house, i.e. the Country Inn and Suites.  They are patiently waiting for their apartment to be built in the City and in the meantime they are working on other projects.  They are lovely!  We sometimes run into each other in the coffee shop or business center and spend three hours talking together without even realizing it. We share baby pictures and family photos and stories about our respective homelands.  Claudia is starting a line of beautiful jewelry, Claudia H.  which will soon be launched and available to all.   She even shared logo choices,  and let us preview some of the merchandise. It is really nice and I think I see a potential birthday? Christmas? Valentine? gift in there somewhere for yours truly.  They are such a pleasure to be around and so entertaining.  I could listen to them talk all day.FSCN8289

So Claudia was booked for a fashion show at the Hard Rock Hotel.  We asked if we could tag along.  It is a great venue and always has a lot going on plus an epic rooftop bar with 360 views of the City.  So we could support our friend and have some dressed-up fun.

Sam, as you could probably guess, has never been to a fashion show before but is always up for anything.  The venue was in a space aptly named Bling.  Lots of shine and sparkle, perfect for the show. We positioned ourselves to strategically take advantage of photo ops.  The prestigious designer, Anna Chajin, is Panamanian and American. She put together a beautiful line of casual and elegant clothing for woman and also some menswear pieces inspired by the indigenous Guna Yala Indians.

Guna Yala Indian


To begin, there were some gorgeous little dresses, followed by a young man who jumped up on stage, posing in his best skater/surfer stance.  Anyway, The young man jumped up on stage and Sam burst out laughing, thinking it was some kind of half-time entertainment clearly breeching proper fashion show etiquette . I could actually see where he could have thought this but we could soon see he was modeling some casual men’s clothes.  We recovered quickly and soon blended back into the mostly Panamanian crowd.

Claudia looked simply stunning in the two elegant gowns she modeled.  She reminded me of Princess Grace of Monaco in her younger years.  After finishing with the after-show paparazzi, she joined Hector, his beautiful sister and brother-in-law and us.  They had never been to the rooftop bar either so we went.  It was breathtaking .  We had some wine, listened to music and got to know each other a little better.

Such a great and unexpected evening.  So nice to meet such wonderful people and learn even more about Panamanian culture.

Carnivales and Canadians


It seems there are always parties, fiestas and special events here in the beautiful country of Panama.  So we were thinking of going to Carnivale but got mixed reviews from the locals.  Our friends, Hector (a born and bred Panamanian) and his beautiful Romanian fiancée Claudia were actually leaving the Country for a vacation because they didnt want to be here for Carnivale.  Our friend Alicia, also a Panamanian national, made a particularly bad face while relaying how they drench you with water cannons and throw eggs.  So, this kind of dampened our enthusiasm, that was until we met…………………..THE CANADIANS.

A word about the Canadians, a group of nine Alberta farmers and associates.  They came to Panama at the suggestion of their friend Alec who had a long-held wish to come back to Panama.  I must say I didn’t really catch all of the story but it was important to him to return and the others were happy to accompany him.  These people are your no nonsense, salt-of-the-earth types whose winter vacations tend to take them to warm southern destinations and sometimes unique group experiences.  We got to know them over local beers by the pool.  Sam was particularly bonded to Vince, a larger-than-life, constantly smiling guy who we instantly liked.  Sam enjoyed hearing about farming, cattle, farm machinery, lumber milling and all manner of manly undertakings.

Vince was all for going to Carnivale so while the others stayed behind we decided to venture headlog into the blaring music, samba bands, gorgeous floats, beautiful girls and dancing people from ages 1-90.

Carnivale is loud!  I mean really loud.  We dressed in our most throwawayable clothes and brought plastic bags for keeping our valuables out of the way of whatever liquids or other matter might seep into our totes.  After a few beers, we positioned ourselves along the parade route.  As it turns out the water cannons and eggs are reserved for the daytime festivities thank you very much.   There were some older men in headdresses that seemed to have some kind of historical significance, followed by lots of young and old devils, your obligatory men on stilts and lots and lots of music and groups dancing.   The night we went was the coronation of the Carnivale queen who was beautiful and very regal on her sculpted float wearing her shimmering gold costume.  The parade was set up where you could watch it twice because of its circular route.  Really fun and colorful.

Then, of course, it was time to get Carnivale food!  We had hot dogs, chicharones, meat on a stick, chicken and lots of beer.  The Panamanians love their meat so every tent had plenty.  Strangely, there were no sweets or deep fried oreos like we find at our American Carnivals.  It was great being in another country trying their version of stuffing your face with Carnival food.  Love it!  Another difference was the lack of enthusiasm for the fireworks.  In America, we stop, gather around for the main event which is always the fireworks.  In Panama people walk around and seem to hardly notice.  Of course the night was not nearly over because they party until dawn so the fireworks were merely an interlude.

Anyway, for us, it was time to return to the hotel and we met up with the other Canadians who wanted to hear about our experience at  Carnivale.  We enjoyed telling them all the highlights.  They were wide-eyed as we told them, in great detail, the story of  how Vince was chosen from the crowd and  asked to dance with the queen on her float.   Hmmmmm if only we had pictures.

Such fun!

Welcome to my World (part II)


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.

Welcome to my World (Benvenidos a mi mundo)

How exciting!  Our first visitor!  Using my motherly skills of coercion, I gave my daughter the gift of a plane ticket to Panama for her Birthday and Christmas present which she readily accepted.  She is becoming quite the traveler. I can relate totally to the addictive nature of traveling.

The highly anticipated day arrived, and we arranged a trusted English speaking driver to pick her up at the airport. That evening we caught up by the pool over a bottle of wine until we were discreetly asked to take it inside by the tap tap tap on the window by a fellow guest.

Always being one to maximize her fun, Lindsay was meeting a friend in the San Blas Islands on a sailing adventure.  Transportation for her and a crew member was arranged and they were to be picked up at 5 a.m. the following day at our hotel.  But first a small request by the Captain,  “Can you pick up provisions? San Blas is a group of islands inhabited solely by the Guna Yala Indians and devoid of supermarkets or even a convenient store.  Since Sam and I are usually up for a challenge, we offered to help.  So we took our large suitcase to the Supermercado at the mall to pick up the list of items. Limes, potatos, eggs, parmesan cheese, boxed milk, cabbage, etc. and of course Ron Abuela Rum and wine.  Sam, the logistician, carefully packed the groceries in our suitcase and then repacked in boxes when back at the hotel.  The jungle ride to the dock is rumored to be quite bumpy so we had little hope for the eggs, even though carefully packed in their cartons inside a Nike shoebox recently habitated by Lindsay`s newly purchased boat shoes.  At 4:30 a.m. the next morning we helped her move provisions and equipment to the lobby.  Everything went smoothly which made me feel much better about the trip.   She ended up staying an extra day and after quite a delay arrived a little tired but happy.   The eggs also made it without a single yoke being spilled.


The next day was relaxing at the pool and then Happy Hour at the Balboa Yacht club.  The bartender, Jonas making amazing passionfruit margaritas and moitos.  Then off to Isla Flaminco marina for seafood and then a rooftop nightcap with a view of Panama City and Salsa music.  A great night.

No trip to Panama is complete without visiting the old city of Casco Viejo.  We went in late afternoon did some exploring and had dinner at a particularly interesting venue.  Lindsay was craving fish that wasn’t fried and maybe a more upscale restaurant.  I picked out an interesting place that got great reviews.  This place is located in between two buildings.  It is a permanently stationed food truck inside a completely gutted old building.    “Mom, this is a food truck” she said and gave me a look that clearly said this wasn’t the restaurant she was hoping to find.   The metal doors with “The Fish Market”  messily scrawled in chalk opened just as we were walking by.  Scattered around this interesting building were white picnic tables and a menu with about 10 items on a large chalk board.  Twinkling lights were scattered everywhere and huge white columns rose from among the picnic tables, food truck and little cabana bar.  The whole effect was magical.  The food was outstanding.  Beautiful fresh grilled fish nestled among greens and decorated with an edible flower, coconut and kiwi mojitos and key lime pie for dessert. Everyone was happy.

Next door, a beautiful rooftop bar at Barlovento where we had a cocktail.  Then off to Tantalo rooftop where the views are spectacular and the pulsating Salsa music dared you not to dance.   Tired but satisfied we found a cab and headed back to our hotel.


Next – Taboga Island in Bienviendos a mi mundo – Part II









Big Balboa Cat on a Chair

DSCN5984We are the Cats of Panama and we are Legion

We prowl, we fight, we sleep, we love, we hunt … we survive.  We are seen and unseen.

We are called el Jefe, Grande, Naranja and Miguel. Our territories are clearly defined.

Tourists and locals are our main prey.   Do not pet or play with us, we do not respond and do not care.

We have heard “hola gato” in many different languages.  We will put up with you, but only for the sake of the fish.

Fish rules our day.  Feed us from your hand or from your plate.    We will steal a fish skeleton and drag it to a dark corner.

 A delicate meow, a simple nudge is usually all it takes.  We know what works and how to play the game until we are satisfied.

Afternoons you will find us resting on patios and bar stools of your favorite haunts.

We sleep and groom ourselves to look our best for fresh tourists.   We count on you and are never disappointed.

We are the Cats of Panama and we are legion.


Big Balboa Cat on the Rail