Getting to know our way around Panama

LOCATION: Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: Hot (90) and humid.

Yesterday, we bought a 48-hour pass on the Hop On/Hop Off, so we are using it a lot to get our money’s worth. We planned our trip today and waited at the bus stop for our bus. This colorful one (not ours) came by….

Our first stop was the area’s largest shopping mall. I easily got my 10,000 Fitbit steps in. It is a popular place, and of course, crowded for the holidays. We stopped in a Conway Store (Panama’s Target -even with the Target logo) and bought a few things.

Then, back on the bus to a drop-off stop at an island connected to downtown via a causeway. We had a drink at the marina, admiring the yachts.

You can see Panama’s skyline in the background. One of those tall buildings is our condo; another one is a Trump Tower.

For lunch, we had corvina (sea bass) ceviche and grilled octopus, Greek-style. All very good.

Back on the bus with a drop-off in front of our condo.

For dinner, we bought 3 fresh tamales from a lady selling them at the market. They are different from Mexican tamales. More cornmeal; less meat. They are wrapped in plantain leaves and tied up in a string. We split a pork one and a chicken one. There were some strange things hidden in the cornmeal — olives and raisins. Pretty good.

Then — our evening’s treat. The Nutcracker Suite was performed on a stage in the park below our condo. We sat outside and listened to the Panama Symphony Orchestra. Then, I took Mac for a walk in the park and glimpsed some of the ballerinas. A nice culture fix!

Old Panama

Continuing our trip on the Hop On/Hop Off bus….

The next place where we disembarked was Old Town, Panama City. It was built in the 1600s. It has been declared a UNESCO Heritage site, and is undergoing lots of renovation. Construction everywhere. We walked through some dreary areas, then found the nice bits.

Many of the buildings are really decrepit and you wonder why they are still standing. This is a “before” look….

Then you see the “after” results….

The area is full of cute shops and restaurants. George wants to buy a Panama hat while he is here…

Back on the bus, we had lovely views of downtown Panama City from the causeway leading to some nearby islands…

Back home, we took care of Mac, then went grocery shopping at our nearby market. We bought a take-and-bake- pizza for dinner. Our homeowner, a bachelor, doesn’t have much in his kitchen; he must eat out all the time.

The lovely day ended by listening to the Panama Symphony practicing in the park below for an upcoming Nutcracker performance.

The Panama Canal – Wow!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: About 90 and humid. Overcast with a 5-minute PM shower

Today, the maid and her brother came to clean the house. The arrangement is for them to clean the house on Fridays, including taking a walk with Mac our dog during the day. This means that Fridays we can be gone for longer periods of time. So, we decided to do the Hop On/Hop bus. We waited for it in front of our condo. Our building is 48 stories tall, and we are on the 31st flor. This is the view of the apartment from the bus stop, along with the Christmas tree decorations….

We got off at the Panama Canal. We watched a movie (in Spanish) about its history and walked through a museum learning a lot of interesting things. The canal is about 50 miles long and it takes boats about 8-10 hours to go through, as they have to negotiate the locks. It costs the big cargo ships $800,000 to go through!

After the tour, we had an absolutely perfect lunch in the canal’s visitor center restaurant, appropriately called “The Atlantic and the Pacific”.

We shared a platter of mixed ceviche – raw baby octopus, clams, shrimp, and red onions in a spicy lime cold broth.

We ate outside, overlooking the original locks

Back on the bus to our next destination….More to follow!

Getting lost in Panama

LOCATION: Panama City, Panama

WEATHER: Fairly hot and humid. High about 85. Forecasted rain, but just stayed cloudy

Our homeowner left this morning for his trip. Mac, our dog, started acting lethargic and puny. We were worried about him. He didn’t seem interested in food, treats, or his walk.

We took off exploring, in the general direction of some shops and the metro. We walked and walked, and finally found someplace for lunch. It was a “locals” hole-in-the-wall, served cafeteria style. Today’s menu was mostly different kinds of chicken. We picked the roasted chicken thigh with rice and plantains. We shared it at $3.75.

Then, we did a bit of shopping, looking at for some shorts for George. No luck. The currency here is US $. The prices seem to be fairly comparable to the USA. So far, not cheap.

We decided to take a different route home, and that was a mistake. Too bad I didn’t wear my Fitbit today. We must have walked at least 5 miles. We had to stop several times to ask directions back home. I was a bit nervous as we had left the instructions on how to get to the apartment back home, and did not have the address with us. But, we live near a park and I could ask people how to get to that park. We also got ourselves into an area without sidewalks and had to cross 6 lanes of highway traffic. A few kind souls stopped to let us by, but there was still quite a bit of honking!

Mac started to perk up in the afternoon. We ate well, and enjoyed his walk. He must be getting used to us.

Our homeowner is a bachelor and must not cook at all. We went to the supermarket to buy coffee-making tools.

Dinner was more of the Mexican food we bought last night – we bought too much, so tonight it was the leftover tacos. Pretty good.

About 7:00, the Christmas decorations came on in the park below us. The music started blasting, then the fireworks started going off….

Thank goodness everything quieted down at about 9:00. A good first day in Panama!

We made it to Panama!

Our trip went very smoothly, even though the airports and airplanes were packed with Christmas travelers. Our kind neighbors in Retama Village dropped us off at the airport at about 5:45 AM for a 7:00 AM flight to Houston. Then, a quick 1-hour layover in Houston to Panama, arriving here at 3:00 PM.

We have learned that Panamanians are very proud of their Spanish language, so they do not attempt to speak English much. It was good to be able to speak Spanish through the immigration/customs process.

We followed the homeowner’s instructions, and caught a taxi to his condo (again Spanish was a must). We seem to be right in the downtown area. The front door security man helped us in, and we were able to find the right apartment. The homeowner had left us a key under the doormat, so we made ourselves at home. We are on the 31st floor, with a beautiful view of the Pacific from our balcony.

We are right across the street from the Intercontinental Hotel, where Panama’s President lives on the top floor. (We waved to his window). 🙂

Our charge here is a 13-year-old Cairn terrier named Mac. He is darling.

We took him for a walk in the neighborhood and found a craft beer bar, right around the corner! George must have some sort of craft beer place radar system programmed in his body. We picked up some Mexican food at a taco joint and brought it back to the condo.

Later in the evening, we met our homeowner. He is an expat, teaching in the international school here. He is off on a trip to the USA, then Ethiopia for the holidays. We will be here for about 20 days. We are anxious to see the Panama Canal and the rainforest.

Our tiny house in Mission, Texas

We are getting settled in our tiny house. It is 12 feet X 40 feet. After living for 5 years in a pop-up camper, then an Airstream trailer, it seems immense!

This is the living/dining room. The furniture is indoor/outdoor, so we can take it out when the weather is good.

Our bedroom is just big enough to accommodate a queen-sized bed. This is our new artwork from France.

We enjoy many activities here in Retama Village. Tonight was an impromptu happy hour on the street behind our house. We are still meeting people — hard to remember everyone’s names!

Our tiny house artwork

Although we spend most of the time on the road either traveling in our Airstream or house-sitting, we do spend a few months a year in our new tiny house that we just built.

When we retired in 2013, we sold everything except what would fit in our Honda Pilot and our pop-up camper. So, all the artwork had to go. We gave a few pieces to our daughter, but sold most of it in garage sales. Now that we have a tiny house, we need some art for the walls.

Cute story — last spring we had a fun housesitting assignment in rural Brittany, France. There, we took care of 2 cats and 21 chickens. The homeowner is an artist. After we finished the assignment, the homeowner bought 2 baby lambs as pets and “lawn mowers” She liked us quite a bit and named the lambs Karmen and George! She painted a picture of the now-grown sheep as well as some of the chickens that we fed. We mounted and framed them, and hung them above our bed….

We did retrieve 3 prints from one of our daughters. The big one is a sketch of a farm scene in rural Japan, painted by a Japanese friend. We lived near the scene of the sketch when we were first married, in 1976. The smaller two prints are Japanese wood-block prints originally from George’s parents who lived in Japan in the 1950s. These are hanging on the wall in the living/dining room area…..

I made a collage of photos from some of our favorite housesitting assignments all over the world….

These two prints are on the main wall in the living/dining room area. It is fun to decorate, but we are determined not to buy too much “stuff”!