Saturday, August 18, 2012

Panama Canal Time Lapse

This is back-tracking some, but I just want to share this because it's way cool.
When we took the Panama Canal cruise in Panama City, Tanner filmed the whole start-to-finish process while in one of the locks. In this instance, the watered lowered, then we went thru to the next lock. The whole process took about eight minutes, but he made a time lapse, shortening it to one minute. Check it out....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Last Day in Panama

After saying goodbye to our lovely beach in Las Lajas, we have headed over to El Valle for our last night in Panama.
El Valle is a pleasant little town nestled in the valley of a huge extinct volcano. The valley floor is about a 2000 foot elevation, high enough to make this area significantly cooler and fresher than the lowlands.
So we took the opportunity to see some beautiful scenery and do some hiking.
The Chorro El Macho Waterful was a beautiful hike through the lush rainforest, across bridges and streams...very cool and refreshing after our last two warm and humid days.
The waterfall hike is in the same area where they have the Canopy Adventure Zipline, a very popular recreational ride that takes you flying past the waterfall and over the tree tops....maybe next time.
So, we have about a 2 1/2 hour drive tomorrow back to Panama City where we board our plane home at 6:30 PM. This has been a wonderful 16 days that we were lucky to be able to share half of with our son Tanner and the other half just Mike and me. A fond farewell to Panama....until next time, wherever the road leads us next.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ready For Some Beach Time

So, this morning we said our good-byes to our good friend Randy at the Coffee Plantation...what a life he has. From there, it was about 1 1/2 hour drive to I believe one of Panama's best kept secrets...Playa Las Lajas. This 8 mile long, un-inhabited stretch of beautiful sand and clear warm water is a wonderful way for us to wrap up our trip to Panama. There is nearly no one on this beach.

Mike and I take long walks, partly to walk off our meals but mostly because of the quiet and beauty. During the day, it's low tide and the sand is so compacted that you can drive a car on it. Occasionally we see fishermen riding by on their scooters to check or move their nets that are set out to catch that delicious fresh fish we eat often.
There is only one resort hotel so far on this beach-ours-The Las Lajas Beach Resort. My understanding is this beach comes alive for spring break and during their summer with thousands of kids, camping and partying all along the edges. But for now, we enjoy the solitude and quietness during the off-season.
The sunsets are spectacular
Life is good!

Manana Madera Coffee Estate

The main house and guest suite

As I sit here, comfortable on the nice leather love seat in our guest suite at the Manana Madera Coffee Estate in Boquete, I watch an impressive show of lightening and thunder outside. Even though it is our summer, Panama is in the Southern Hemisphere, so it is actually their winter. Our weather to this point has been quite warm and humid. We are however at a 5000 ft elevation here. Even though there is more rain this time of year, the year round temperature stays between 70 to 80 degrees....fabulous. What's amazing is up here on the coffee plantation is we see pine trees growing next to banana trees, and the coffee, oh the coffee....just the right mix of elevation and temperature to make Randy's boutique blend one of the top in the region. He just roasted today and I have stuffed three wonderful pounds in my suitcase to bring home.

Even though Chubs, the residant pooch has a nice big covered porch to seek shelter, he is outside our big sliding doors, looking in with those soulful eyes. Mike says he's a mans dog and he is ready to take him home with us as well. Chubs greeted us when we arrived as if to say "nice to see you again...where have you been?" We were here this same time last year. Since then Randy, the owner has built a 2nd guest suite exactly like the other one, and he has opened it to us, even though this was a blank week for him since his son is visiting him from San Diego. We are honored and consider him a good friend. This is our 2nd day here and we've had some great visiting and conversation. It will certainly be hard to leave.

Welcome back greetings from Chubs

Randy harvests his beans when they turn deep red. They are shelled and bagged in burlap and are stored in a dark area for three months. They are then sorted and processed.

Living area of our guest suite


Once again, our stay here was wonderful. We look forward to another visit sometime in the future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monkey Island

Our guide today took us over to Monkey Island where a large group of White Faced Capuchun Monkeys live. We put fruit out at the front of our boat and they came right on board to fetch it then proceeded to climb around the boat.
Another highlight for Mike and Tanner was that they got to fish on the Chargas River for Peacock Bass. The fish were jumping all over the place and they caught 18 of these beautiful Bass between them. The driver of our boat was happy to take dinner home to his family!

On our way back, the driver gave the wheel to Tanner. Now Tanner can officially say he has driven a boat on the Panama Canal! It was awesome and a bit un-nerving to be alongside these huge container ships plying the canal.

All in all, this was a fun day and a great way to end the trip for Tanner, who flies home tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Panama Canel

On Saturday we took a half day Panama Canal transit cruise. Mike and I did this last year and enjoyed it so much that we wanted Tanner to be able to experience it as well.

Our transit went from North to South from Gamboa’s Pedro Miguel Locks to Minaflores locks ending in Amador Causeway at the Pacific Ocean. While our ship was in each chamber, the water lowered us down 57 feet. Still to this day, the Panama Canal is an engineering marvel.

After the Canal transit, we headed over to Casca Viejo, old Panama from the 17th Century. This is always a fun place to explore, with eateries, shops, outdoor markets with music and a lovely view of downtown Panama City.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tanner's Dive in Contadora

So Tanner bought a new camera-The GoPro-with all the gadgets and accessories right before our trip. One of the accessories is the underwater case, so he of course had to try it out on his dive. Here is a short video clip he put together with some of the footage:

Tanner got his rescue dive license in Thailand and doesn't miss any chance to dive wherever he can.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Contadora Days 3 and 4

Tanner did two dives today-that's him in the red shirt getting on the boat. Others on the dives included a family from Arizona that we hung out with the night before. The great thing about traveling is you always meet like minded folks with that commonality you get from fellow travelers. It makes for much fun and interesting conversation.

I have really enjoyed hanging with my son...when he's not disagreeing with "mom", he's an absolute delight! Being the social butterfly he has always been since a very young age, we have enjoyed the company of quite a few new friends...various island gals who just love this blonde kid from California and a fellow named Craig from Illinois doing a summer internship for college. Here they all are:

Dinner with Craig and his friend

Eylyn and Elizabeth

Playing with and saying goodbye to Stinkalay

All-in-all this island is beautiful. The people are warm and friendly, the scenery is lovely and the beaches are perfect for sunning, strolling or just doing nothing.
This afternoon we are hopping back onto the ferry back to Panama City. See you there....


The small island in the distance behind the boat is the island that was used as "Redemption Island" and also for the tribal councils in the Survivors that were filmed here.

So as I mentioned, there were three Survivor shows filmed in the Pearl Islands and numerous foreign Survivors as well. During production, the crews stayed at either the Hotel Punta Galeon or the Hotel Contadora. Hotel Contadora is just down a little road next door to the hotel we are staying in. It is situated on the most beautiful beach on the island, a long stretch of white sand with beautiful warm water. In it's day, the hotel was a beautiful, huge resort that could easily accomodate the large production crews, and during these times, it was usually booked for a three to four month stretch of time. Today, this hotel is one massive shell of a ruin, overgrown with greenery and completely stripped of everything-furniture, doors, fixtures, absolutely everything. The once beautifuls pools have all been filled in and are now just overgrown with switch grass. Even the pool pumps are gone.

                                                           Pool back then

                                                           Same view today

Most of the locals will have a different take on the same basic story, and it goes that the owner was killed in a plane crash. His heirs used the inheritance for everything except the hotel and so basically the hotel just stopped. Where the local stories got vague was what happened next. From what we could gather, there are probably few homes on the island that don't have a piece of the the story goes.

It was just strange walking through it and imagining how grand it once was, really not too long ago.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Day Two in Contadora

Tanner and I explored the island today by scooter and stumbled across this beautiful secluded little beach called Playa Ejecutiva. As we rode around, we discovered our little island had some not-so-little homes...probably owned by wealthy Panama City folks in need of a quick weekend get-away.

                                                 Not-So-Small home
                            Tanner and his scooter...the perfect way to get around

We are staying at the Hotel Geralds. This a quaint little hotel owned by a nice German couple with only eight guest  rooms. Their open air restaurant is the best on the island. One of the "guests" here is a four month old baby deer that was abandoned by its mother at two weeks old. His name is Stinkalay and he thinks of himself as one of the family's pet dogs. Tanner is ready to take him home in his suitcase. Here he is giving deer kisses....
This is where three of the Survivor shows were filmed...Survivor Panama, Survivor Pearl Islands and Survivor All Stars. The players were actually on other small islands but the crew and booted off survivors stayed at either Hotel Punta Galeon or the Hotel Contadora. After getting the scoop from numerous locals, the Hotel Contadora is quite a story in and of itself that I will reserve for a future post.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Panama On My Birthday

OK, so I won't date myself, or rather just don't want to be reminded, but today is my birthday and our second full day in Panama. Tanner came along on this trip. Last year he was bummed because he wanted to dive, so this year he gets his wish. After arriving Sunday evening in Panama City, we took a stroll on the Canal waterfront, had a nice fish dinner, then put our tired bodies to bed.
After an early rise the next morning, we hopped the ferry to the island of Contadora, one of the many Pearl Islands. It's beautiful here, very tropical, not a whole lot to do, but extremely relaxing, which is just what we hoped for.
                                  Contadora..........Tanner and a Pelican friend
Each day in the late afternoon when all the little fishermen and their boats come in, they sell their catch to the local restaurants and any locals who happen to be around. Our German friend who we met yesterday bought 3 pounds of the most incredible prawns for...are you ready?...$12.00. He had our hotel restaurant cook them up in garlic butter for us three, him and another couple we met from San Diego. What a feast! Panamanian beer, shrimp and good conversation until midnight!
This morning we saw our friend off back to Panama City from the little air strip near our hotel. As I write this, Mike and Tanner are off exploring the island on scooters...just kind of a fun day.
Till next time, stay tuned....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

For The Love of Charlotte

These amazing little dolls date from 1860-1920. During the manufacturing process at the doll factories in Thuringia, Germany damaged dolls were usually buried on the property, and had been long forgotten all these years until being unearthed and rescued. Little marks, chips or discoloration give them personality and character. I love them just the way they were found and I'm sure you will too.
How did Charlotte get her name? During the mid 1800's there was a story printed that later turned into an American folk song about Fair Charlotte. This tale spoke of a vain Charlotte who refused to bundle up on her way to the ball. She froze in her carriage and her escort is said to have died of a broken heart. This story was told to warn children to bundle up when going outside.
Charlotte's arms and legs do not move or are "frozen." Children used to play with these bisque dolls, and made clothes for them. They were sometimes called bathing dolls and were sometimes even used to decorate or were baked into cakes.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From Trash To Treasure

So, what do you do with the plain brown beer bottle when you're done with it? Most people would just throw it in the recycle bin. Check below for a great idea.....
This is just one of many designs I've done. The sky is the limit....
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