Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Golf Course In The Mountains.......Who Knew?

Last weekend we spent a day hiking in the mountains of Altos del Maria with friends who live nearby.  Altos del Maria is a gated community that covers over 7000 miles of land that's scenic enough to be something found in a national park.  The terrain climbs well over 3000 feet above sea level as the lush landscape changes to cloud forest with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, observation decks, parks and even a mini-golf course, there's always more to be found. 

Friends Paul & Nancy Pose Near A Waterfall
 
Views and More

A Scenic Bridge Over A River

A Creek
 
Lovely Flowers
 
A Mountain Lake
 
 

The mountains of Panama are way to chilly for our comfort but still a nice getaway for a day of hiking to discover new horizons. Las Nubes Adventure Park is aptly named for the clouds that surround it yet seemed to be abandoned some years ago.  Situated near the famous "castle" weekend home of the Melo family, perhaps the mini golf once entertained their family before it was let go? Unfortunately for us the clouds rolled in once we reached the top making it nearby impossible to view the famous castle.  We could make out a bit of the outline ensuring us that there is indeed a castle there, yet it wasn't visible for us to enjoy.

Yep, It's For Real.....Or Once Was?


We're All Shocked.....Mini Golf In The Mountains!
 
More....

And More Golf In The Background.....Nancy and I Stop To Play
 

Strange Fuzzy Flowers

The well-to-do Melo family are known throughout Panama.  They made much of their fortune through poultry farming and since Panamanians eat a whole lot of chicken, there's a huge need for it here. The family owns other businesses throughout the country some of which bear the family name and cater to the needs of animals.


A Swimming Hole?

Waterfalls Everywhere......
 





Just a note worth mentioning is that Altos del Maria IS a private, gated community that restricts access to the public, unless they have a reason for entering. But since our friends know many of the residents we gained legal access into the development with their help.

I think it's best to just let the photos speak for themselves of our day out cloud-tripping through the mountains.....along the gringo trail.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Little Hug For His Hose........

Summertime in Panama is also known as the brown season since it's the time of year when all the grass, plants, shrubs, and trees dry up from the lack of rain. The four month dry season usually runs from December through April with little to no measurable rainfall to be seen.  Clyde enjoys this time of year since the need to mow the grass ceases, as the green plush landscape changes to hues of brownish yellow.  On the other hand what also dies are the decorative plants around the house along with anything else that we planted.  Since neither of us is good at remembering to water the plants and shrubs, this year Clyde decided to put in a drip irrigation system.  By burying a system of pipes attached to a timer, the plants can receive water each day for a set amount of time keeping them alive until the rains begin again.

So my industrious hubby has been shopping for all of the necessary parts both locally and in Panama City.  In nearby Coronado there is only one normal type of "gringo" store that sells hardware.  It's a store called Novey that displays hardware products on the shelves just like a store would back in the states. They have hoards of helpers standing around ready to pounce on customers to assist them in finding items. But when Novey doesn't have what he needs, Clyde is forced to visit a "chino" hardware store where everything is behind the counter, similar to a pharmacy here.  In this case Clyde must ask the clerk behind the counter for whatever it is he needs in Spanish.  Sometimes that's harder than it sounds when it's something he really doesn't know a name for in English.

A Hose Clamp, This Is What He Needed


Yesterday Clyde was out looking for a hose clamp but Novey was out of them.  He went to another small hardware store and attempted to ask the clerk for the item.  Although he does pretty good with Spanish he was having difficulty explaining what it was that he needed.  He explained that he had a "tubo" a tube (pipe) with a "manguera" or hose over it and needed something to go over that. A clamp is what he needed in English but didn't know the word in Spanish.  Finally the girl figured out what he was asking for and grabbed a box with one in it.  He read the word "abrazadera" on the box which means "clamp."  The next day he realized he needed another one and went back to the same store.  The clever clerk asked him in Spanish if he remembered how to say the word. Clyde admittedly said, "no he didn't remember."  The girl jokingly gave him a hard time telling him in Spanish that she could not write up the ticket and sell him the item, until he could say the word. Eventually she used her arms to simulate a hug "abrazos" in Spanish and reminded him that the word is "abrazadera."  I guess we could say that a "hose clamp" is nothing more than a hug for a hose, and a word that will never again be forgotten.......along the gringo trail.

A Pre Carnival Tent Set Up Alongside The Highway Selling Cases Of Beer
 

Haircut Anyone?  A Barber Shop In La Chorrera

Extra Police On Patrol......Is He Real? 
It's A Cardboard Standup Placed Along The Highway





Monday, February 16, 2015

Carnival, Valentine's Day And Another Year Together.....

When my romantic husband planned our wedding some 11 years ago (yes he really planned the whole thing) he choose to do it on Valentine's Day.  Being a guy his thinking was that he'd never be able to forget our anniversary since the whole world would be celebrating too. The stores would announce our special day months prior to it with hoards of candy wrapped in red foil, flowers, stuffed animals and mugs with teddy bears poking their tiny heads out proclaiming, "I love you," to the world. But then some years later we moved our lives to Panama where Valentines Day is barely celebrated, if at all, causing curious Clyde to contemplate and come up with a new plan.

 

But this year Valentine's Day fell on the very first day of Carnival, a huge country wide celebration that literally shuts down the roadways. Thankfully though, some blog followers, now friends visiting from Albuquerque, New Mexico offered to take us out for dinner the week prior the big event which served as an early anniversary dinner.  Since we hadn't been there in a long time we choose a restaurant called Los Camisones (translated means "nightgowns or large shirts") .  After further investigation it turns out that Mr. Camison owns the place so it's just basically the owners last name.  But anyway, we enjoyed what was by far.....the best meal we've had in Panama ever......seriously!  I choose the corvina (a local sea bass) smothered in a white sauce with mushrooms and shrimp that was absolutely scrumptious.  For a side I picked papas pure (aka: mashed potatoes).  Clyde and our friend Brent had the mahi mahi that was served with the same white sauce.  Brent's partner Kat had lobster which she said was wonderful too. A wonderful pre-Valentines - Anniversary dinner with great friends who are perhaps, maybe now, talking about retiring to Panama someday.

Los Camisones Restaurant



With Carnival comes the crowds that flock to their beach homes nearby, packing the highway with grid-lock traffic.  Gringos like ourselves tend to hunker down at home for the duration of the whole event.  Our first year in Panama we went out to partake and party hardy with the locals since we lived within walking distance of a huge street party.  Other years we stayed close to home, put in the earplugs at night to drown out the loud music and made the best of it. This year surprisingly has been rather quiet in our neighborhood even with the increase of more people.  Our home is surrounded by weekend homes that tend to stay vacant except on big holidays like Carnival.  Nearby homes are loaded up with locals celebrating their days off by lying in the sun, swaying in a hammock and drinking way too much cheap beer. Yet still the music and merriment has been minimal which makes for a nice tranquil time at home.

On Friday we hit the store before the crowds arrived from Panama City.  We stocked up on basic items trying to avoid the need to run out in the midst of the heavy traffic.  On Saturday the 14th I melted some white chocolate and dipped some over-priced fresh strawberries into the sweet mix for a special Valentines treat. Not everything is cheap here in Panama and since strawberries don't grow here (or at least not that I know of) they tend to be pricey since they're imported from California.  We paid $6.68 for a package of strawberries that would probably sell for $2.50 in the US, depending on the time of year. I did manage to find a container of "Dolci Frutta" white chocolate specially packaged for just such an occasion for around $3.50. Actually this is the first time I ever bought fresh strawberries in the almost 4 years we've lived here now.  We do buy the packaged frozen blueberries and strawberries from Price Smart, a warehouse club in Panama City to add to our morning yogurt. though.

The Chocolate Version Of Ours
 


And for anyone interested in what's behind Carnival, it's basically a huge street party of floats, large water tanks that hose down the crowds and play loud music, lots of booze, food and more.  The basic premise is a competition between a Carnival Queen from two different streets of the same town.  There is Calle Arriba (High Street) and Calle Abajo (Low Street). Both attempt to outdo the other with floats, music, costumes, parades and partying for the whole 5 day event.  It's a fun time that's enjoyed by families with kids of all ages celebrating right next to their parents.  Most businesses shut down for the duration of Carnival allowing locals some much needed time off to spend with their families.

Carnival Partygoers

Carnival 2012 in Capira

A Queen On Her Float
 
This Guy Must Think He's In Mexico Not Panama
 

Posing With The Police In 2012
 
But I Want The Male Police Officer To Do This

People On A Float
 
This Is A Real Person

Isn't She Cute?

 
Another Queen
 


So here's to another wonderful year spent having fun with my good looking husband Clyde.  He is my partner in adventure and my best friend who continues to love me, make me laugh, puts me on a pedestal, treats me like a Queen, and is willing to follow me anywhere.  But then again I did follow him to Panama for a retirement full of adventures and fun......along the gringo trail.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

In Search Of The Perfect.......Or Throwin' In The Towel In Panama.....

Sometimes I think my life is just one long search to find the perfect something.  That perfect pair of shoes that are comfy yet cute.  The perfect pair of jeans to make my butt look amazingly lifted and luscious. The perfect beauty products to make me look ten years younger and wrinkle free.  The perfect furniture and accessories to make our house look like a page out of Home & Garden magazine. The perfect kitchen gadgets to make every meal taste like something out of a five star restaurant. And the perfect kitchen towel that actually dries off the dishes instead of just pushing the water around. Yes you read that correct, some of us obsesses about finding a kitchen towel that actually does the job it's supposed to do. And no matter what country you live in, buying new kitchen towels that are absorbent from the get-go, is no easy task.

Don't get me wrong there are plenty of dish towels out there in the stores in all colors, sizes and prints but none seem to absorb any water until they're old and falling apart. So anytime, anywhere we'd walk into a store I'd be on the lookout for the perfect towel.  I'd always sneak away from Clyde and walk down the aisle with kitchen wares to fondle the towels. Usually my fondling left me disappointed until  last week.  Clyde wanted to make a  trip to the Discovery Center, a store with a peculiar mix of all sorts of things located in Panama City.  While he went to look for things for the garden I roamed around the store. There on the back wall in between pads for industrial floor buffers and heavy duty shop vacs hung a section of dish towels.  As usual I fondled them all until I found one on the top row that looked different.  It was a two-pack of waffle weave, micro-fiber towels in solid colors.  I had to get a roll of contact paper from a nearby aisle to knock them down since they were out of my reach. Once I had them in hand I read the writing on the label that was in English and it said "super absorbent, quick drying, non-abrasive and resistant to lint."  Made by a company called MU Home out of China the claim on the label seemed intriguing.  The price on the label was  $9.99, in other words $5 per towel, but IF they really worked it would be worth it. So I bought a pack along with our other purchases and off we went. 

Mine Are Red!
 
Here's one of the new towels in it's
special spot in the kitchen
 


A few hours later after arriving home I was eager to try out my new towels.  Quickly, I wet a few dishes and put one of the towels to work. I was amazed at how efficiently the towel dried off the water completely.  I hung the towel to dry on a nearby hook to see IF the towel itself would dry off quickly in this extremely humid environment. Since we live in such humidity towels here DO NOT dry unless we put them in the dryer after each use.  But a while later the kitchen towels seemed dry, once again living up to its claim on the label.

So impressed I wanted to make the 90-minute drive again into Panama City to buy more of these wonderful towels, but I knew that would be silly.  But a few days later on the weekend my tech savvy hubby was talking about maybe buying a new camera for an upcoming trip.  He already has several cameras both large and small. The one he says takes the best photos makes him stand out in a crowd looking like a Japanese tourist on holiday. You all know what I mean since we've all seen them out there at tourists spots. Their cameras usually weigh more than they do as they position their families in front of famous monuments to capture the perfect picture. But while a large camera is nice it screams I'M A TOURIST come rob me because I'm carrying money and expensive gadgets. So we thought it would be better for him to carry a tiny camera that can be safely tucked away in his pocket when not in use.  Of course we'll still be tourists and will look like all the rest, but hopefully we'll be a bit more discreet in flaunting our gadgets.

Being the good wife that I am (just ask me I'll tell you), I suggested that we take a drive into Panama City yesterday so that Clyde could look at cameras. He looked at a few locally but before laying down any money I thought it would be best to compare others out there.  And since we'd be in the city anyway.......just perhaps maybe we could swing by the Discovery Center again so I could pick up some more dish towels.  Clyde was all too willing to oblige so we hit the road for a day out.

Would You Ever Think This Was A Store?
 
 
Housewares Inside Discovery Center
 
Some Of The Stranger Items Found Here:  Ice Scrapers, Snowball Makers (for throwing snowballs), Antifreeze. They Even Sell Hospital Beds, Wheel Chairs And Other Home Health Equipment.
 


When we first moved to Panama we bought a mop with removable, washable heads that I just adore. Soon after I bought another mop stick along with additional mop heads since I tend to use more then one while cleaning.  But over the years of excessive cleaning I broke the stick several times
and Clyde's had to fix both of them. And no I didn't break them from hitting Clyde over the head or from riding them during the full moon on Halloween.  So yesterday HE suggested that we stop at one of the many Do It Centers to find another mop stick.  I had my doubts since I'd already been on the lookout every time I passed a mop aisle, again always searching for something.  But to my surprise this particular store DID have the mop handles and each came with an extra head. And for only $5.99 each we picked up a few to make me happy. But as we were checking out of the Do It Center the light bulb went off and I had an awakening.  Clyde was going to get himself a brand, spanking, new pocket camera to add to his collections of gadgets, while I was getting a mop and dish towels. No wonder my cheap husband was willing to indulge me in spending money on cleaning gadgets when he was getting a more expensive toy. And since our anniversary is only a few weeks away perhaps he's given me my gifts already and surely he's received his.

 
Panama's Version Of The Home Depot
 
 

My Favorite-ist Mop Ever!
 
Another View Of My Friend

The Heads Are Easily Removed And Washed Out


 


He decided on  a camera from one of the many Panafoto stores in Panama City. Similar to a Best Buy in the states, this electronics superstore is a bit different.  Clyde picked out the camera from that department, serviced by a clerk standing behind the counter.  With no product in hand he was to go pay for the item at the register by giving his name to the cashier. Once she typed in his name his purchase showed up and she knew what to charge him for it.  Next he was to go to "entrega" where he would pick up the camera. The clerk behind the camera opened the box and showed him what was included inside. A manager sat beside him watching the whole transaction making sure Clyde received all that was included with the purchase.  In the meantime the power went off and we were all left standing in the dark. As Clyde signed for the camera he could barely see the line to write his name.  But since power goes off frequently here in Panama, the store stayed open and people shopped as usual, as if nothing had changed. My dear husband just reminded me that it WAS MY IDEA for him to look for a camera. So he knew I must REALLY want those towels! I just didn't want him to look like a Japanese tourist!

We felt this camera would be a little less obtrusive walking the streets of Paris
and it's 20 Megapixels!
 


So there you have it, another day of exciting adventures that left us fulfilled in our wonderful retirement years in Panama.......along the gringo trail.