Manamana Panama

For Christmas this year Caleb and I decided we needed to get some sun, seeing as how the sun cruelly abandoned us to the clouds, rain and darkness for the winter. Thanks Mr. Sun, thanks.

So right before Christmas we fled south to Panama.

There it is, the Panama Canal in all its glory.

There it is, the Panama Canal in all its glory.

Christmas day we spent at someone’s house we found through AirBnB.com, which is my most favorite site when looking for places to stay. Usually much cheaper than a hotel, and nicer too.

The house we stayed at belonged to an expat couple from California. They actually bought the land and had the house built there overlooking a big valley. It was in the mountains of Panama, which means that it’s not too hot there, it hovers around the 70s most of the year. What I really loved about this house is that the terrace was very much a part of the house. Almost all of the terrace-facing doors were always open 24/7.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Onwards we went from there to Playa Venao. This was the only part of the trip where we took a bus, and that’s only because the bus system in Panama is probably the best in all of Central America. However, it all went awry in the trashy town of Penonome. Eeeeeeevil Penonome (read pen-oh-no-may).

We had to take two buses for this trip. One from the mountains to Penonome and then from there to the beach. Well, the first bus driver told us to wait at the wrong spot for the Playa Venao bus. So we waited for three hours. Three I say. On the side of a horribly hot, dusty highway with not bathroom and little water. Staring at the crest of a hill about a half mile away, watching for the coming of the bus we needed. Of which three drove by and didn’t stop. WOE.

So eventually we did end up at the right place and got on the right bus. We also arrived at our destination about 5-6 hours later than I had hoped. Oh well.

Fun fact: The buses pretty much in every Central and South American country play loud mariachi music and the like. For hours. Thank goodness for headphones.

Anyway, we made it to the beach after dark. We checked in to our $30/night room and headed to the restaurant and got some fried fish and ahi tuna steak.

Our room was worth exactly $30/night I think. It was just a double bed with a rough sheet and a fan in a claustrophobic room. The lock was a chain through the door with a padlock. Cute.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

But this place was totally worth it, mosquitoes and all. We ate amazing seafood every day, lazed in hammocks by the beach for hours and Caleb took a couple of surfing lessons.

This was also a place where we basically didn’t sleep hardly at all. The howler monkeys started yelling, “THAT THE SUN WAS UP! THERE IT IS! EVERYONE GET UP NOW!” at about 5 or 6am every day. And of course it took awhile to fall asleep because we didn’t have air conditioning here, so it was humid and hot.

One morning we just got up right when we heard the monkeys start rustling about and went and found them. It was a nice little hike and Caleb got to see monkeys in the wild.

Another fun fact: we could drink the water there. Yep, in the middle-of-nowhere Panama. In fact, we could drink the water almost everywhere in Panama. Apparently this has something to do with the Americans putting in the water system in lot of places. Though this place on the beach had clean water because they had their own well and filtering system.

So that was Panama! It was hot and lovely, and we’d recommend it to anyone. We probably won’t go out of our way to go back, but it’s still a beautiful country. Though the people were rather rude in my opinion, but that’s besides the point.

Next time I’ll talk about a few of the pictures from El Salvador below…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Panama

Lately I’ve been planning a trip to Panama, and have been asked several times, “Why Panama?

Well I’ll tell you why. Panama is much more than a canal, it is a tropical, jungley country full of two-toed sloths, vibrant birds and toasty warm waters good for snorkeling or surfing, depending on the beach.

The real kicker is that Panama is often overlooked as a vacation spot, it’s really quite similar to any other tropical country along the Ring of Fire. Jungle + Volcanoes + Pretty Water = Vacation, right? It’s just like Hawaii, just cheaper and less English.

Anywhoo, hubs and I won’t have long in Panama before we plan to move on to El Salvador. Island hopping, as it were. Or isn’t. Whatever.

We’ll be using our time wisely: efficiently and cheaply. I did have grand plans to somehow make it to Bocas del Toro, arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the country, attributed to its clear blue waters. But it’s expensive both in time and money to get there, as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations. I may be a gringo, but I plan on avoiding tourists.

So I hunted down other (clear) waters, found off the coast of Las Tablas, a 4 hour bus ride (and $10-$15) from Panama City. The actual Pacific coast of Panama is generally not-clear, but near Pedasi in Las Tablas – just a 30 minute boat ride – will bring you to Isla Iguana.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili

Am I right or am I right? That’s worth a trip. This is the site of future snorkeling and gallivanting with the native iguanas, the island’s namesake.

Since we can’t spend all of our limited time in paradise (well we could…but I like variety), we’ll also be visiting El Valle – a little town in a dormant crater in inner Panama. It’s jungley and lush.

Photo by Nathan 2009

Photo by fveronesi1

Did I mention the birds? Apparently there’s great bird watching in Panama. I sound old. But look at the pretty bird!

So that’s why one wants to visit Panama. You can drive from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans in 1.5 hours, snorkel in pretty turquoise waters and hike through the jungle. Es bueno!

I’ve hardly even mentioned the canal, which I am looking forward to seeing. Have I told you that in college I wrote a very loooooong opinion/research paper arguing that the Panama Canal should be expanded to fit the new and larger ships of today (which by the way, it did end up getting expanded…or rather…it’s in the process of being expanded). Anyway, I called it. Let it be recorded.

Liquor, Liquor Everywhere…

As of yesterday, the new privatization of liquor law in Washington went into effect. Cue crazy long lines and empty liquor shelves at every 10,000+ sq. ft. grocery store carrying liquor as Washington gets its drink on sans-government control.

Personally, I don’t really drink liquor. It’s place in my kitchen is in travel-sized bottles meant for baking. Alright, peppermint schnapps in the winter for my hot chocolate too. But that’s it.

Even though I’m not exactly the prize purchaser of vodka (…have I ever bought  vodka?), I still voted for the freedom of liquor. I don’t exactly care for the state to be in charge of the distribution of any product. Most people I know voted yes on the initiative, but now many of them are showing their ignorance by complaining about the increase in cost of of their favorite booze.

Guys. Get a grip. How did you not know this when you voted? Besides that, I would much rather pay the tax on a product than have to go to a state-controlled venue. Think of it as a convenience tax, which it basically is.

Maryland is also hung up on some liquor laws, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to fix it anytime soon. In Maryland you can’t buy any alcohol except from a designated private (non-government) liquor store. Ridiculous. Alcohol there is also much more expensive. Cheap wine in Washington is roughly $5. In Maryland it was twice that for the exact same bottle. How on earth does not carrying wine in a grocery store help the consumer? Or even the state? Their liquor stores were also disgusting, all of them. Always really cramped. I think I only saw one specialty store that wasn’t so bad.

Anyway, that’s my rant of the day. Time to go back outside and enjoy that sunshine!

 

Walrus’ First Post!

Oh hey guys, I’m Walrus.

I’m the glorified stuffed animal that lives here. I have the best life. Free food, free lodging, plush blankets on which to nap upon and a waterfront view to gaze at.

Sometimes I even see otter families!

Alright, not the best picture ever of Potter & Sons. But I’m telling you, that’s a family of otters.

I see really big boats too.

Yeah, I live the life. Let’s go outside and watch the sunset…

So beautiful! Even as a cat, I can appreciate beauty.

Really, I watch the sunset nearly every day. Sometimes I sleep through it though, post-dinner nap.

Alright, that’s all from me today, I’ll relinquish control to Carolyn again. Time to go nap…

Goat Cheese – Bacon – Date – Basil Pizza

I really like making pizza. I like experimenting with different, unconventional toppings, like raspberry jam and date nugget pieces. Pizza is just one of those versatile foods that loves some creative experimenting.

The other day, during a rare May sunny week on the island, I made the best pizza yet. I’d give you the recipe, but there are no measurements for anything. I will, however, tell you all of the toppings I used.

First off, the crust. It was none other than a ball of the Pioneer Woman’s perfect pizza dough that I pulled out of the freezer the night before. This is the best pizza dough, especially aged. I made a double batch (netting me 4 balls of dough) a couple of weeks prior and stuck them in the freezer.

Secondly, the toppings. Oh the toppings. I must credit Caleb, he’s the one that was inspired to use some date nugget pieces I had. Genius, this man.

These are the ingredients, in the order I layered them on the pizza:

  • Mozzarella (lots and lots of it)
  • Lightly fried minced garlic (lots and lots of that too)
  • Chopped, pre-cooked bacon
  • Date nuggets (next time I’ll add more, this time it was just a sprinkle)
  • Goat cheese
  • Basil from my front porch
  • A light sprinkling of onion salt and oregano

500 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Perfection.

Kudos to Caleb for taking such lovely photos of the pizza, he takes the best photos.