It’s a long way home!

Almost everything is easier when you live in paradise — cooking and cleaning aren’t as tedious, eating healthy is fun rather than feeling like a diet ,even work is better.  In fact, the only thing I can think of that a place like Boquete doesn’t remedy is the  longing to see family, so when a trip to the West Coast came up, I made sure that I’d be able to spend some time with my daughter Melanie,  in Oregon.  It was not a simple thing to do.  Getting there involved:

Walk to the bus station — 10 minutes

Bus to David (pronounced “da-veed”) — 45 minutes (old American school bus, no a/c or heat, but luckily, it wasn’t needed)

Bus to Panama City —  7 hours (fancy charter bus, comfy seats, bathroom, they played two movies, one English, one Spanish)

(At this point, I got a hotel in PC and stayed overnight.)

Taxi to International airport (45 minutes)

Plane to Houston – 4 hours

Layover in Houston – 4 hours

Plane to Portland – 4 hours

Drive to Eugene – 2 hours

Door to door travel time, excluding the night at the hotel: 21 hours and 55 minutes. About a third of the time it would take to drive there.

Not something to be taken upon lightly.  The airport in David is supposed to soon have direct flights to the US — I can’t wait! And it really doesn’t matter where it flies too — we have family in the NE, Midwest, South and NW. I’m hoping for Houston, since that would make for easy transfers to the cities I’d most want to fly to.

The way back was a little easier, because I was able to fly from PC to David, rather than take a bus. I got a kick out of the domestic airport in PC, which reminds me of the commuter airports you see the States. I was so certain the guy in front of me in line was a big wig mafioso. He was 60ish, dressed in ultra-hip Caribbean clothes — white linen trousers and a short sleeve, white Sinatra style shirt. I could see a gold chain hanging around the back of his neck. At least a dozen seemingly unrelated people, male and female, came up to greet him with big hugs and lots of kisses.  I was thinking he must REALLY be a bigwig, expensively dressed, knowing so many people in a public place, all of whom so obviously wanted to be on his good side. Then he turned around and I saw that the chain around his neck had a cross attached to it…he was a priest. How typical would that be in the US –being in an airport and having so many people know the priest who was waiting to buy an airline ticket??

Once I got to the David airport, I thought I was going to have to take a taxi to the bus station, then the bus to Boquete, and walk home. I asked a gringo woman my age who was traveling with her college aged daughter if she knew anything about transportation to the bus station…as it turned out, they had a private driver set up to Boquete, and offered me a ride. I joked that I was doing exactly what she and I would be telling our daughters not to — taking rides from strangers.  She is a travel agent from the Philly area, getting to know Panama.  They just spent a few days in Panama’s San Blas islands, which is considered a “must see” (although we haven’t yet). It’s very rustic there   – no internet access, no hot water, restaurants pretty much limited to the hotels, which are mostly “all inclusive” (in quotation marks because it’s not a luxury sort of all inclusive).  Their guide dropped me off right at my doorstop. Of course, Mark had considerately gone to meet me (even one bag isn’t that much fun to drag up and down these hills), and he has our only key.  He came back quickly though, and man, it was wonderful to see him coming up the walkway!

My visit with Lanie and her roommates was great, more on that later, with some photos, I hope!

MARK SAYS:

During Valerie’s  trip to the U.S.  I filled my time with some of my favorite activities; running, going to the gym, walking and eating!  Actually, I guess it wasn’t much different than a typical day when she is here.  Other than missing her company, of course!

I did venture out to a couple of local eating establishments that serve American fare.   At one I enjoyed a delicious cheeseburger with a couple of Panamanian beers.  At the other it was a reasonably good pizza.  Again, with a couple of Panamanian beers…… always good to re-load those carbs.
Speaking of carbs, many of you are aware of my addiction to bread.  Preferably,  French Baguettes and Crusty Italian.  However, during our stay in Panama we have mostly eaten Sliced Doble Fibra (Double Fiber) made by a company called Bimbo.  It is actually pretty good but I still had a craving for some tasty international style baked goods.
Luckily, we had heard great things about a bakery in town called Sugar and Spice.  One morning, after a pretty aggressive run I decided to stop in.  The second I opened the door it brought back delightful memories of my Sunday morning trips to Great Harvest Bread Company (GHBC).  You see, after mom was no longer able to easily make it to a diner, or diners (sic), we started a new tradition which included a stop at GHBC on my way to St. Mary’s.
The aroma of the various breads, muffins, pastries, pies, etc. at Sugar and Spice harkened me back to the great anticipation that both mom and I felt as we sat down in the cafeteria and began to unwrap that day’s treats.   I must say that Sugar and Spice did not disappoint.   So far I have only sampled a few of their delicacies but they have all been scrumptious.
So, from now on, when I prepare to bite into an item from Sugar and Spice I will toast mom and fondly remember our Sunday morning traditions.  But, don’t think for a moment that I do not realize that a toast with pastry would never, in her mind, substitute for a finely crafted Manhattan!
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