It almost seems hard to believe that just a few days ago, Chris and I were sitting on the balcony of our bed & breakfast, La Estancia, in Panama City, eating delicious fresh fruit and watching the bounty of colorful birds flit and flutter around a sleepy sloth perched in the trees. We've been back since late Monday night, and already my sun rash has almost disappeared, and the slightly dizzy feeling of being on a boat is gone completely. We came home to a busy "real life" week, and now that the taxes, the opera costume, the grocery shopping, and the laundry are done, and the sick kid is feeling better, so I can finally sit down to blog! Thanks for your patience... :)
Oh, and I know none of you are rude enough to comment on my chubbiness or au natural face (I know, not my best look) and hair, but I am just vain enough to excuse myself on these items. I am PREGNANT, therefore, I am allowed to have rollie-pollie-ollie-ness, and there was no way I was doing the whole make-up and hair thing. So, before you think, "my gosh, she looks bad," just remember those items. And if you think I look cute anyway, feel free to compliment. Again with the vanity.
We had such a wonderful trip! My grandparents, Nonny and Bob, were such kind and generous hosts-- we thoroughly enjoyed our taste of their sailing life, and, as always, my grandmother's incredible cooking! Thank you again, Nonny and Bob, for a most incredible vacation!
So, onto the recap of our trip:
On Sunday night (4/6), we flew from SLC to Houston, where we stayed the night at the EconoLodge. I convinced Chris to stay there instead of at a different, higher-quality hotel, because "it's only one night" and my cheapskate-ism was in control. Let me just say that this was a horrible decision, and I have learned my lesson. Luckily, as I said, it was only one night. Anyway, the next morning, we caught another plane from Houston to Panama City, then from the Intl Airport in Panama City, we took a taxi to the regional airport where we caught another, much smaller plane that took us to Bocas Del Toro. It was such a great moment to see Nonny and Bob at the airport-- our long journey was finally over!
Here we are, exhausted and hungry, in a taxi (van), heading to "The Pirate", a restaurant on the water where the dinghy was docked.
We took the little sport boat (dinghy) from the dock over to the marina-- the only way to get from the town to the marina is by boat-- and were welcomed with this sight: Carricklee, my grandparents's lovely boat.
We spent the night at the marina, then toured around the marina the next morning. As Chris mentioned in our little travel journal, you know you're in paradise when a trip to the bathroom results in the sighting of several birds, a tree snake, and an iguana. Here are Chris and Bob, checking out the sights.
After a small bit of "provisioning" in town, we set off for our first destination: Baia Grande. It was so relaxing to be on the water with that warm breeze. Just lovely.
Baia Grande is a beautiful anchorage, and as luck would have it, we were the only boat there. We snorkeled in some gorgeous, crystal clear water, then spent the evening just relaxing on the boat. The anchorage is just off shore from the small village of Baia Grande, and we had some local people row out to visit us. The next morning, we enjoyed watching the children of the village row (or be rowed by a parent) across the bay to school-- this beats the bus any day!
We left Baia Grande and motored over to another anchorage at Starfish Beach. The beach was beautiful, albeit more popular than our previous spot (there were six boats at the anchorage by the end of the night), and it certainly lived up to its name. We went over to the beach for a nice walk and some lunch at the local restaurant, and we loved seeing all of the neat sea life and hearing the howler monkeys calling to each other from deeper in the forest. There were huge starfish everywhere-- Bob was brave enough to pick one up!
Chris found this cool shell-- unfortunately, it still had an inhabitant, so we didn't bring it home.
Nonny and Bob on Starfish Beach
Chris and me-- the water was so warm!-- with Caricklee in the background
We snorkeled again, this time closer to the mainland. The visibility was not as good as at Baia Grande, but we still managed to see a lot of beautiful fish and coral. The water was incredibly warm, almost hot, in fact. We really love swimming around with our snorkel gear, and the swells gave us a little more exercise.
That night, we witnessed the phenomenon of phospherescence-- that green glowing stuff in the ocean. We could see a bunch of little fish swimming around the boat, and sometimes they would flash bright green. Bob stuck a long pole into the water and sure enough, the tracks he left glowed in the dark. So cool.
The next morning, right before breakfast, we spotted a pod of dolphins feeding around the bay. I love seeing these big mammals in their natural environment-- I find it quite awe-inspiring. The bay provides the perfect feeding ground for them-- it is shallow enough to prevent any major predators, and is a haven for the kinds of fish they like to eat.
Then, it started to rain. And rain, and rain. It was still so warm, though, and neither Chris nor I are bothered by the rain (I think Chris prefers it, actually), and we had fun just hanging out and playing cards. I beat everyone at Hearts, by the way. :) Chris went swimming in the ocean and the rain-- he likes to be nice and cool. I thought it was kind of funny that he kept sticking his head out of the cockpit to get some more fresh water on his face.
Despite the rain, we decided to take the dinghy up into a little estuary for our "jungle ride"-- and the rain actually made it feel quite authentic. We saw what had to be thousands of little crabs (and a few big ones) hiding and crawling among the mangrove roots, and heard parrots squawking at each other just out of sight. We also saw a darling little kingfisher who let us get very close before flying away. The rain prevented us from bringing out camera, so sorry, no pictures.
As if offering an apology for the rainy day, the sky gave us an amazing sunset that night. Pictures don't do it justice.
The next day, we left Starfish and went to a place called Crawl Cay. There is a very shallow reef all around this part of the archipelago, so boats have to "crawl" very carefully to get into the anchorage. Before we hit the shallow part, though, Chris got to practice his hand at the helm-- what a pro.
Also during our trip to Crawl Cay, Nonny made some incredible parmesan herb bread. Delicious!! This bread dipped in balsamic vinegar and oil... mmm, it doesn't get any better!
We snorkeled in two places at Crawl Cay, and both were amazing. We saw some huge tropical fish and coral that had almost every color of the rainbow. This was probably our best snorkeling day. Later that night, we heard the dolphins again, and when we saw them the next morning, I tried to take a few pictures. I managed to miss the best shots, of course, but at least here's proof:
On our last day in Bocas, we went back to the marina and into town for some souvenir shopping. One of the most famous souvenirs in Panama are the molas, intricate sewn designs made by the natives.
One of our favorite little shops, where we bought some organic chocolate, was "Super Gourmet"-- and we couldn't leave without a picture.
We spent the night at the marina, then left early for the airport to fly to Panama City. Our Panama City pictures are still with Nonny and Bob, so I'll post those as soon as they send us a disc. We had some beautiful views of the islands as we flew over them in our tiny (23 passengers!) plane, and Nonny took a bunch of pictures. I'm excited to see them!
Panama City was really fun. The taxi drivers were fun-- everyone really uses their horns very freely there. And driving... well, let's just say that I'm glad I was a passenger and not a driver!
We ate at a Peruvian restaurant for lunch, then went to the Panama Canal. The canal is really amazing and it was fun to watch some huge cargo ships, called "Panamax", go through the locks. Our bed and breakfast was perfect-- clean, quaint, and in the beautiful canal district. We were within walking distance of a nature reserve, so we took a short walk before dinner and saw lots of birds and some interesting insects. An interesting tidbit-- Panama has more than 1000 species of birds, which is more than the US and Canada combined. The hotel staff had some bird feeders set up in the trees outside the balconies, so it was really fun to watch them so close. Later that evening, we enjoyed a delicious Italian meal in downtown Panama City, then spent the night at the bed and breakfast.
Finally, on Monday morning, we said a sad good-bye to Nonny and Bob and headed back to Salt Lake City, via Houston. Being on or waiting for a plane for 10+ hours each way did give me time to finish two novels, so I'll post some book reviews soon.
We had such a wonderful vacation! We were happy to see our cute boys (who had a blast at Grammuh's-- see her blog for details), but I definitely could have stayed in Panama a while longer. It's a great place and I'm incredibly grateful to have grandparents who let us visit them in such exotic places. Who else can say "I'm going to visit my Grandma", and go somewhere like this?!