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Work, work, work . . .

Tool sign
My apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks - we’ve been spending most of our time working on the apartment and running around getting stuff we need for the new place. Not very exciting to write about, even when I’m not feeling worn out. Jane has also been very busy - chief decorator, painter and most importantly my “board holder” and “gofer.” Wags, of course, has been hanging around and most of the time staying out of the paint. Read more



Over the last ten days Casco Viejo has had several important visitors:

The most important (to us) was a visit we had from Panama Notes reader’s Merry and Don. They were on their sixth visit to Panama and are making final plans to build on property they own near Boquete. We walked around Casco a bit then went to dinner at Buzios - it was a very nice evening to eat outdoors, a little breeze and no bugs. The best part, just chatting about Panama and the choices we make and how this place has something for everyone. Had such a great time I forgot to take any pictures - next time guys.. Read more

Another Holiday

Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas)
Today was a big holiday in Panama, MOTHER'S DAY! Yup, Mother's Day is an official government holiday and it’s a big deal. Restaurants and florists do a booming business, but government offices and banks are closed up tight. It’s also what is called a “bridge holiday” here in Panama, most of us know it as a “three day weekend”. The “bridge” refers to either the Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas) or the Puente Centenario (Centennial Bridge) the two bridges that cross over the Panama Canal and which Panamanians use in great numbers to escape the city on these long holiday weekends.

Puente Centenario

Hope all you mothers had a great day. Take care.

Thanksgiving in Panama

Thanksgiving invitation español
Although Thanksgiving is not a Panamanian holiday, that didn’t deter a group from hosting the first annual Thanksgiving fiesta in Casco Viejo. Sounded like the perfect opportunity to meet some of our neighbors - so off we went, pretzel salad and pickled mushrooms in hand. What made the evening, and indicates the diversity of the community we’ve joined, were the people. Seniors were well represented (the host’s mother was Panama’s first female doctor), as well as the younger crowd (business owners and professionals). We chatted with people from England, Italy, Spain, Columbia, Germany, Canada, the U.S. and several “citizens of the world” who spend part of each year in Panama. Our host Panamanians (remember this is not their holiday) who were the majority of those attending, enthusiastically embraced the Thanksgiving spirit and welcomed everyone as Casco Antiguo Vecinos. Read more


City Hall
Without any explanation you might think the picture at the left has something to do with the Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday season. The colors may seem unique but the words (if you read Spanish) saying Happy Holidays lead to the same conclusion. In this case however the City Hall in Casco Viejo is all decked out for the nearly month long celebration of Panama’s independence from Spain and then Columbia. We’ve had numerous “official” holidays already with the big celebration coming this Friday, November 28th, with the celebration of Panama’s independence from Spain in 1821. Several big parades will take place - but surprisingly Casco Viejo will be eerily quiet with no government workers around and the narrow streets not very conducive to big parades. We will just watch the fireworks across the bay and avoid all the excitement.

Enjoy your holidays, whatever they celebrate and wherever you are. Take care.

THE door

Casa Urrutia front door

A while back I did a “note” about the doors of Casco Viejo. Today I want to show you what we think is the most important door in the neighborhood. You might also remember that I had briefly mentioned that Jane and I were busy with a little project and offered that as an excuse for the lack of posts lately. Well, the “project” and today’s door offering are related - Jane is standing in front of the door to our home we just purchased in Casco Viejo. Read more

You never know

National Theater
Last Tuesday I was out with Wags and noticed a long line of people at the National Theater. We’d been told the scheduled concert had been canceled, but obviously, something was going on - I’d never seen a line like this. So, back to apartment for a quick change of clothes and I’m off to see what’s happening. The line was gone, but lots of people were still arriving and I didn’t see any ticket takers (another freebie) so in I go. Turns out the canceled concert was indeed going to happen. Read more

Guest Writer

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Every now and then I plan to include “notes’ from special correspondents who may have a special viewpoint on life in Panama. This “note” is from our roving reporter who has had his nose to the ground over these last four months sniffing out aspects of our adventure that may be overlooked by us mere mortals. So, from the paws of B.G. Wags some observations - woof, woof, woof-woof, woof. Oops, forgot to turn the translator on, now that that’s fixed you can. . . . Read more

We’ve decided

After a lot of research, and a one month visit in 2006, we decided to make the move to Panama and were pretty confident that our decision was the right one for us at this particular time. What we were less sure of - where in Panama did we want to live? We arrived determined not to rush, to explore our options, talk to people, and gain some first hand experience within the country. We considered everything from Cerro Azul (east) to Cerro Punta (the far west) and lots of places between. Jane ruled out “high rise” living and our island experience left us with no great desire to reside in a beach community (Caribbean or Pacific), other than that we were pretty open. Read more

Night at the symphony

National Theater in Casco Viejo
Last night we spent a very enjoyable evening at the National Theater at a free concert by the Joven Orquesta de Centroamerica (the Youth Orchestra of Central America). Fifty or so young musicians from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Panama put on a stunning performance. They played a wide range of music and had a couple of adult guest soloists, but the youngsters were clearly the “stars”. It was also interesting in that they started the concert with just the brass section on stage, then the string section had their turn, then the entire orchestra. Read more

Friends visit

Buzios Restaurant
C.J. and Richard paid us a visit today for lunch in Casco Viejo and a little tour. They are new friends that we first met a couple of months ago when we were staying at La Cresta de Ore. They have made several trips to Panama working on visa issues and (like us) hunting for their place in Panama. They had just returned from a trip out West to Chiriqu Province and came back with good things to say about the area around Boquete. Jane and I had made a similar trip two years ago and although we liked what we saw it’s become apparent that we prefer the big city experience (Panama City) after our nine years on a 6 by 27 mile long island. Read more

Diabolical "Slasher" strikes again

Ancon Theater
Saturday night Jane and I ventured out to the Theatre Guild of Ancon for a performance of “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940”. The Theatre Guild (spelling intentional, as the organization was founded by British Expats in 1950) is like many small community theaters anywhere in the world - all volunteer, with budding actors/actresses doing their thing for a small but appreciative audience. The show was a comedy where the “Slasher” kept popping out of secret passages to dispatch his victims while the various cast members alternated between being the prime suspect, victims or less than great detectives. It was a fun two hours. Read more

Góngora was jumpin'

Casa Gongora
Stopped by Casa Góngora tonight to see what all the excitement was about. Upstairs a mariachi band had the packed house up and dancing. It was the usual diverse crowd for this place - young and old, smartly dressed and the blue jean set (me). A group of “senior” ladies was burning up the dance floor. Folks from the audience were joining the band to sing, with everyone having a great time.

Mariachi band at Casa Gorgona Mariachi band

It’s things like this that make living in Casco Viejo interesting and a lot of fun. Take care.

It's a . . . . .

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Jane and I are tied up on on little project but thought you might want to enter the “Guess what this is contest”. Grand Prize for the best answer (judges ruling is final) a treat at Casco’s ice cream shop when you visit - you are planing a trip, aren’t you? So if you want to enter . . . Read more

Rain Delay

Casco Viejo Map
Our walking tour of Casco Viejo was rained out, but the folks at the Casco Antiguo office offered to give us a special tour on Monday. They only have two English speaking guides and one offered to come in on a day when they don’t normally give tours. We’re both looking forward to learning more about the place.

Odds and Ends: Walked down Avenida Central the other day to shop. On our way back Jane decides to get two bananas. Asks the street vendor how much for two - he says 25¢. Jane leaves with six bananas, the price, still 25¢. Read more

Slow week . . .

Convent of Santo Domingo
Just thought we’d let you know all is well in Panama - nothing really exciting to report. Still looking at housing possibilities but most days we are just doing the “normal” things people do regardless of where they live.

In the meantime, if you missed this little slide show the first time around - hit PLAY and enjoy!

We are trying to catch the Saturday history tour of Casco Viejo tomorrow and hopfully come back with some pictures and information to share. Til then, take care.

One Egg

Casco Viejo Grocery
A few days ago Jane was one egg short for a batch of brownies. Out the door she goes to one of our little grocery stores (think convenience store with a little more character) a couple of minutes later she’s back with ONE egg. Cost 15¢. Brownies coming right up.

At the pharmacy if you want a single Advil, no problem. Need twenty - they’ll count them out for you. The same with most drugs, you only need to buy the quantity you want. Read more

Baseball Playoffs

The Ballpark at high tide

Today on the way to the monthly flea market at the plaza we stopped by to check out the baseball playoffs. No, we didn’t stop at the local sports bar (Casco doesn’t have one), we joined the crowd at the local “ballpark”. If you’re familiar with Casco Viejo you may wonder exactly where the “ballpark” is. Well . . . . Read more

Casco Festival

Casa Gongora
This week the Festival Internacional de la Cancion de Autor (International Festival of Singer Songwriters) had it’s final events. The festival was a series of free concerts - this year featuring the guitar and had performers from Panama, Spain and Mexico.

On Wednesday, Jane and I walked two blocks (stopped for ice cream on the way) to Casa Góngora for a small indoor event. Casa Góngora in a partially restored building that is the home to the Casco Antiguo Cultural Center. Read more

Birthday Bash

Definition: “Birthday Bash” for us = quiet night out together.

Jane and I have birthday’s exactly two weeks apart and for more than a few years we have forgone the usual “give each other a gift” thing and have opted for a quiet evening at a good restaurant. So, Monday night we went around the corner to Indigo, described as a “oriental-mediterranean fusion” restaurant - whatever that is. After settling in a a corner table in the bar (because it’s in a restored building the restaurant is comprised of several small rooms and a patio) I ordered a Mojito (mainly because I’d never had one - think I will stick with plain old rum and coke) and we picked up the menu. Soon thereafter, one of the owners stopped by and chatted with us about the various dishes - many of which seemed to have a Moroccan connection. We ended up having Shrimp Couscous and a cold Duck Salad (unusual and very good) as appetizers. Green Curry and Moroccan Chicken for the main courses and dessert. Bottom line - best restaurant meal I’ve had in looooong time.
Inside Indigo

If you’re ever in Casco Viejo, Indigo is located next to the Tourism Police on Avenida Central.

Postscript: No people in the pictures because I returned the next day before they opened for business to take these.

Behind closed doors

Casco Viejo Hello

Imagine what lies behind Casco Viejo’s many doors. Historically important events took place behind many. Others are vivid reminders that Panama almost lost a national treasure. They are guardians of the past and portals to the future. Side by side they tell us of the hard times, a rebirth and the joyfulness of Casco Viejo and it’s people. They make us smile and almost cry, protect the rich, provide sanctuary for the poor and always remind us that Casco Viejo is real. Walk with us and wonder.

Big Wooden Needs a door Fancy Door
Red and Blue Rainbow doors Sophisticated

Nueva Avenida Balboa

Avenida Balboa
Today we needed to run a couple of errands in the El Cangrejo neighborhood. A two dollar taxi ride, then we walked around and amazingly accomplished everything on our list. It was around noon and there had been a light rain that cooled things off a bit - so we decided to hike back to Casco Viejo. Besides, we had wanted to eat at Restaurante Boulevard Balboa which was at about the halfway point so we could always grab a taxi if our legs gave out. We had been once before (on our 2006 visit) when a Panamanian took us there. I had a “combinación especial”, Jane a Cubano and a chocolate shake - everything was great AND we took half home with us for dinner. Read more

Just another day, until . . .

Art class in the plaza
On any given day you can see just about anything in Casco Viejo. School kids on a tour. Art classes in the plaza. Police on their morning run. Vendors and craft sellers. Tourists. Last week our neighbors plunked a tent down in the middle of the street (albeit a side street) and two soccer goals for the kids - somebody’s birthday party. It was an all day festivity ending in the required fireworks. Read more

The Hill

Flag on Ancon Hill
From about any location in Panama City you can see a huge Panama flag atop a very prominent landmark - Ancon Hill, 650 plus feet high. While we had the rental car (between all those important errands) we decided to play explorer. The guidebooks said there was a road to the top of Ancon, the challenge was finding it. Off we went to Balboa (originally a Canal Zone town) and Quarry Heights, where the U.S. Southern Command was located. After finding a road behind the current headquarters of the Panama Canal Authority that looked promising up we went, until - we came to an imposing guard post. Oops, maybe we were not on the right road after all? Edging forward, we finally decided that it was just a leftover from the U.S. Military (you come across these things frequently in the old Canal Zone) and where once you would have encountered a serious MP we were greeted by a bored Panamanian guard waving at passing tourists. Read more

Playing Catch Up

Will try to get back on schedule after my little layoff - was very busy doing nothing!

Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Américas)
Last Friday we rented a car so we could do a little exploring outside the city and run a few errands. Our first trip was to La Chorrera to check out a small development. It was a thirty minute drive West on the Interamericana Highway to Brisas de los Lagos where the project engineer gave us a great tour. They have done a very nice job so far and we liked what we saw. Two big decisions we still haven’t made - city versus country and this project would require we build (something that I didn’t want to do - hassle factor, mainly) as they have no existing homes for sale. Still, it was impressive enough that it is on our “list” as the search continues. Read more

The Old Fashioned Way

Snow Cone The Old Fashioned Way

As you walk around Casco Viejo chances are you will eventually see one of these guys, usually under a shade tree in one of the plazas. They make snow cones the old fashioned way - from a big (but getting smaller) block of ice they purchased at the start of the day. We normally get cherry (rojo) with the “works”. Read more

Another look

With our hardhats in hand we made the short walk back to La Posada, a restoration project we looked at last week. As you can tell from the pictures, they have a little work to do. The agent says it will be ready by November. In a lot of ways Panama is just like the islands - when someone asks a question the answer is always meant to please - not be accurate. In the islands it’s the “don’t worry be happy” attitude, in Panama it’s "juego vivo" - live without hassle, that rules the day. Hey - “whatever works” does it for me. Read more

Budget Buster

Casco Viejo View

Because we are both now retired and on the infamous “fixed income” we try and watch our spending - we actually have a budget and a surprisingly (for us) effective way of tracking our money (will tell you about the “system” someday). But, as with all well laid plans certain things occasionally popup that were not planned for. In our case it’s . . . . Read more

Something Fishy

Mercado de Mariscos Restaurant at the Fish Market

Yesterday after shopping on Avenida Central we walked a couple of blocks to the Mercado de Mariscos (Fish Market). If you noticed the Japanese flag on the sign -the building was a gift from the Japanese government. Upstairs is a restaurant that overlooks the floor of the market where we had lunch. In addition to pretty good food you get the added benefit of the free show going on below. You can even buy your entree from one of the vendors and take it to the restaurant for preparation.

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Avenida Central

Avenida Central
Avenida Central is one of Panama City’s main avenues, originating in Casco Viejo just a few feet from the front door of our apartment and running to the edge of the banking district. Today we took a little walk down Central to the “peatonal” section (pedestrian mall) to check out the shopping. This area of the city is not on the “must see” list of most tourists (some guidebooks even say avoid the area) but if you live in the city and want to find stuff at reasonable prices, this is the place. Plus it’s just an interesting, not sterile, slice of life in the big city - with real people going about their daily lives. Disneyland cute and perfect it is not! Read more

Concert at Teatro Nacional

Teatro Nacional
Tonight we attended a jazz concert at the National Theater. One in a series of events in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the theater. The concert was free - a gift from Alliance Francaise (a French cultural exchange organization) to the people of Panama.
Concert at National Theater
The theater is a great concert venue, very good acoustics and ornate almost beyond description - they don’t build halls like this any more! Looks like it could accommodate about 600 if they packed the place, and you wouldn’t be more than 75 feet from the stage in the worst seat. Read more

Nothing Exciting

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Our major accomplishment for the day - we looked at another apartment that is for sale in the building next to our rental. Two bedrooms, nice view of the city, and some great inside architectural features inside - exposed “calicanto” walls and remnants of the very old foundation. It’s on our “maybe” list.

Casco Viejo Park
A trip via taxi to the grocery store (one of the amenities that Casco Viejo lacks) and several walks around Casco, took care of the rest of the day. What a life.

Special Note: I’ve upgraded the software used to create this site. If you see something that doesn’t look right or won’t display - please let me know.

Take care.

Sunday in Casco Viejo

Iglesia de la Merced
After church at Iglesia de la Merced we walked around the corner and past the Presidential Palace. The guards allowed us to walk right past the front door - didn’t see the boss.

Presidential Palace Flag in front of Palacio de las Garzas

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Looking at Casco Viejo

The plan when we moved to Panama was to rent and “test drive” the various living options available. Location (city, country, mountains) and the type (high-rise, low-rise, condo, single family home) - we saw no advantage in rushing and wanted to give ourselves a reasonable shot at finding something (somewhere) that meet most of our criteria. The only thing that has happened so far is that we’ve pretty much ruled out a high-rise - just not our thing. Read more

A walk around Casco Viejo

Tonight you get to tag-along on one of our late afternoon walks. We usually just wander around, get a snow cone from a street vendor, and explore.

Panama City from Casco Viejo Park
Out the door we go, turn left, and head towards this little park, with a nice view of the city.

Rubén Blades' house in Casco Viejo
Then it’s past Rubén Blades’ house (Panama’s Minister of Tourism). If you are a film buff or into Latin music you may recognize the name. Read more

Casco Viejo, a short history

Casco Viejo Park
Casco Viejo (also know as Casco Antiguo or San Filipe) is the old quarter of Panama City, founded in 1673 after the original Pacific settlement (Panama Viejo) was sacked by the pirate Henry Morgan. It is the oldest city on the Pacific Coast of the Americas and remained the center of Panamanian life for nearly 300 years, until the 1930s, when, like many old quarters in Latin America, Casco Antiguo declined as Panama's upper crust moved to the suburbs. Read more

Before I Forget

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A couple of “Extras” that will get lost in the shuffle if I don’t write them down.

Today (Wednesday) we went for our first major trip to the grocery store - up until now, we shopped almost daily for the things we needed. Now that we are settling in, it was time to stock up. Get a taxi and off we go. Load up a cart and head for the check-out lane (those dying for some cost of living comparisons will have to wait) and we are greeted by the usual “bagboys” - one unloads your cart for you, then joins his buddy at the other end to bag the stuff up. Then he rolls the cart to the curb and gets you a taxi, loads the groceries into the taxi and we are on our way. Service with a smile.

The taxi drivers continue to amaze. Going to the grocery we had “Mario Andretti” - thought Jane was going to jump out if given a chance. On the return, just a leisurely drive. Arrived at the apartment where our neighbors maid and handyman helped carry in the groceries. Then the amazing part. We had been inside the apartment unpacking the groceries when someone knocked at the door - it was the maid with a bag of our groceries. She told Jane we had left the bag in the taxi and the driver had RETURNED when he later discovered the bag. Maybe I’m getting cynical but I wonder in how many places that would happen. His total fare - a whopping $3.00.

Take Care.
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Tuesday Night Football

Free Kick for Tauro
Tonight we ventured out for a real football game (soccer to those of you in the U.S.), a Liga de Campeones (Champions League) match between Chivas U.S.A and Tauro F.C. at Estadio Rod Carew. This was the first time I have been able to see a MLS (Major League Soccer) team in person and anticipated a pretty good game because they were facing one of the better local teams. It was a good game, although Chivas had several serious defensive lapses - guess that’s why they lost 2-0. Read more

Sunday Afternoon Football

Varsity League Football
Looking around for something to do after church I found a little blurb on a “Varsity League Football” game in Balboa. Tried to find a little more information to no avail (was it soccer, rugby, “American football”) as the “Varsity League” had me a little stumped. But, what the heck - let’s just go and see. Turned out to be “American football” (if you’re wondering why I use quotes - it’s because in the rest of the world “football” is really soccer). It was the leagues opening day and
and the crowd roars
we saw the Jaguars vs the Falcons plus two other teams we never got the names of. The format, (don’t know if the do this at all their “games”) two teams play a quarter. Then the other two play a quarter and then they start rotating opponents. Lots of cheering (no cheerleaders), music, Spanish announcer with a little English. Had fun, and the football, although not the NFL, was entertaining. Read more

Just a couple of pictures

MultiPlaza MultiPlaza Train

Went on one of our little walks today - ended up at MultiPlaza Mall. Jane’s pedometer said we did almost two miles total. Nothing exciting happened so I thought I’d just post a couple of pictures and then watch a soccer game on TV.

Red Devil and Ice Cream

Take care.

What's Happening?

Little Dancers
One of my major complaints when we lived on St. Croix was the lack of information on upcoming events. There was always plenty to do - but unfortunately we often found out about a particular event too late, often after it had occurred. Living in Panama City has only magnified the problem where a LOT is going on, but learning about what’s happening is a real challenge - especially for those of us not yet tied into the local “network” and still working on our Spanish language skills. Read more


Irving Saladino
I suspect that a lot of you are watching non-stop coverage of the Olympics and cheering the efforts of the your home countries team. Our Olympic TV coverage here in Panama is nothing to rave about - language is not the problem, it’s the amount of coverage (not a lot) and trying to find it on the local channels. For those of you paying close attention who might have looked WAY down the medal standings list to those countries who have a single medal to their credit you would have seen Panama and maybe thought “that’s neat” or even “that must be a big deal” down in Panama where Steve and Jane are. Read more

We're back in business

Mac Store
Our Mac Mini returned from the shop today, fixed - sort of. For you techies out there our problem was no sound, but unlike most computers, the Mini has no sound card but a chip that is part of the “motherboard”. Short story version - No sound, replace the motherboard. The Mac Store ordered a new board, it arrived on time, they estimated three days and I could get it back - three days later I’m back in business. Read more

Dracula in the Highlands

Jane at Finca Dracula
Today has been one of those rainy, lazy days - sort of a Dracula type day, and I started thinking. Not about the Count from Transylvania but a finca (farm) in the Chiriqui highlands just outside Cerro Punta. Finca Dracula is a 22 acre farm whose focus is growing orchids, it’s namesake is the Dracula Orchid - and they have 124 species of Dracula alone. The greenhouses and surrounding gardens have over 2300 species of orchards in total - the place is one of the hidden wonders of Panama. During our visit we took these picture - hope you enjoy Read more

Back in the City

Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas)
We returned to PC yesterday. It’s a little warm (Jane says, hot) after our week in the mountains and will take a couple of days to readapt. Because our apartment wouldn’t be ready until late in the day we decided to tour a small development just West of Panama City, so we cross the canal on the Puente de las Américas (Bridge of the Americas) and head for the town of Arraijan, about a thirty minute drive. Closer to the city than Cerro Azul, a small development in Arraijan had all new construction - so we thought it might be worth looking at. The location was pretty good but the construction quality just wasn’t what I thought it should be, so it won’t be on our list for future consideration. Nice trip though - gave us a look at an area we had not previously visited. Read more

Cerro Azul - Our Observations

Altos de Cerro Azul

We are packing for our return to Panama City from Los Altos de Cerro Azul after our nine day stay and have a few observations to share. First, we are very happy that we changed our plans and made this trip. It was worthwhile and we learned a lot about Cerro Azul and the surrounding area. Is Cerro Azul where we want to live in Panama? Maybe, maybe not - it’s too early in our search to tell. We can tell you that Cerro Azul has moved from a place we where curious about, to one that is now on our list of possibilities. Our observations: Read more

The "Enigmo" Got Me

Why driving is so much fun in Panama

Jane and I went for a drive into the “city” today. Nothing special in mind - primarily it was OJT on how to survive while driving in Panama City plus navigation 101. Nothing really exciting happened, we ended up at Los Pueblos (think VERY big strip shopping center), walked around and then had lunch at TGIFridays. Heading back to Cerro Azul we stopped at El Machetazo (the Panama version of a Super Walmart) for groceries and dessert, a DQ Blizzard. Then back to the apartment where Wags was, not so patiently, waiting. Read more


Cerro Azul - The Tiny House

That was the sound of me hard at work today. Hey, us retired folk need a day of rest every now and then. Jane and Wags made it to the park for their walk - they both like that, and we did a little drive thru of a section of Cerro Azul we had not yet seen. But, for a goodly part of the day I made sure the couch did not move around on it’s own.

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A Sunday drive to Cañita

Church just outside Cerro Azul
After church I (notice that singular, Jane was a reluctant passenger on this expedition) decided it would be interesting to drive East into the province of Darién. The Darién has historically been seen as a foreboding, dangerous place, a wilderness into which explorers venture, never to return. I was quite certain we could pull off the “return” thing, as we were only going as far as the small town of Cañita - as long as we didn’t get another flat tire. The province in HUGE and contains Parque Nacional Darién, that alone covers over one million acres of wilderness that sprawl across the isthmus near the Colombian border. All I wanted to do was drive out to Lake Bayano, take a picture or two, grab lunch, and then return to Cerro Azul. A pretty modest undertaking compared to the explorers that had preceded us. Read more

Odds and Ends

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Nothing really exciting today - sun shined and it rained. But we . . . . (everyone knows to hit that pesky little “read more” link to see the rest of this insightful “extras note”, right?)

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Cerro Azul - Just Looking

Altos de Cerro Azul
Rained most of this morning, just another Rainy Season day - sun peaked out a couple of times, then the clouds rolled in. Quite amazing how fast the conditions change: rain, sun, clouds in the valley, clouds on a neighboring ridge and sometimes we are actually IN THE CLOUDS.

The sun pops out and we decide to explore parts of Cerro Azul a little farther off the “yellow brick road”. Away we go. If my earlier pictures gave the impression that all the houses are small, modest affairs - check these out.
Cerro Azul very nice house
Cerro Azul white house

and these.
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Cerro Azul - Wanderings

Cerro Azul - cloudy day
Got up this morning to clouds and rain showers (at least I did). Jane, who is the early riser, saw a little sun before the clouds rolled in and enjoyed a chilly 64° for her early morning walk with Wags. After breakfast I worked on a pot of black bean soup for later in the day (great soup weather here in Cerro Azul) and then went out for a short walk and got invited to a neighbors house to get a resident’s take on the area. Smitty and Rachelle have been living full-time in Cerro Azul for about a year and a half, have a great house, two Australian Shepherds and enjoy their new lifestyle. We talked about everything and certainly came away with a better understanding of what it’s like to live in Cerro Azul. Our visit with them also highlighted the obvious - you ALWAYS receive the best information if you can take your time, look around, make connections (planned or otherwise) and actually sit down with people that have already done what you are thinking about doing. No amount of reading (this blog or any other), research, or “experts” telling you what is best, can provide the kind of information you get when talking directly with everyday people, like you and me. Read more

Cerro Azul - Up and Down

Altos de Cerro Azul
Our first full day at Cerro Azul started with a quick tour by Paul. Just wanted to get our bearings so we could wander on our own without getting big time lost. No straight roads in this place, lots of dead ends, curves and hills - driving is interesting. One of the useful things (for us novices) the developer has done is use yellow paint for the dashed centerline on the Main Road and a white dashed centerline leading to the clubhouse/restaurant and pool.
Typical road in Cerro Azul
So .... you can follow the “yellow brick road” until you end up at the front gate or use the white line to the clubhouse - either place you can get directions to where you really wanted to go (maybe). By the way, the remaining roads in Cerro Azul have NO centerline marked - probably not a big issue, except for those of us that have spent the last nine years (or maybe a lifetime) driving on the left. “You’re on the wrong side again” is a frequent reminder I hear from my navigator. Read more

Nice and cool

Cerro Azul on a cloudy day
We’re in the mountains and a couple of things are strikingly different from the city - it’s cool and quiet! About twenty minutes after leaving Panama City we started the climb to Cerro Azul and arrived at our new (temporary) digs about forty minutes later. The changes during the hour long drive (total) were quiet amazing. - We left the city on the modern multi-lane toll-road (Corredor Sur) and finished on a winding two-lane country road that could use a little work. The high-rise towers of the city were replaced by towering pine trees. Paved streets by chicken farms. Honking horns by singing birds. Best of all, I can look out the window while typing this and see the lights of Panama City - it’s that close. Read more

Chocolate Overdose!

Extra Logo

After a day of hard walking we headed over to MultiPlaza Mall and decided we needed to reward ourselves. So . . . .

We stopped by Showcolate. Now, if you have something like this where you live, excuse my enthusiasm - we certainly didn’t on St. Croix. Fresh fruit with way too much chocolate and it sure was good.

Showcolate at the MultiPlaza Mall Chocolate at Showcolate

Will you need a Panama bank account?


Well . . . it depends. We have decided NOT to open an account with a local bank, partially due to the “hassle factor” but mostly because our “system” works just fine so far. Things may change, as we get more settled (have more local bills to pay) and become aware of the advantages of banking local - will wait and see. For now, we use a stateside bank, Panama ATM’s, cash and credit cards. Read more



Things happen to us all the time in Panama that are interesting, confusing, laughable, or unique - some might even be of interest to you, the reader. The problem is, although we (Jane and I) notice or comment to each other, there is nothing of real import that makes me run to the computer and whip up an “Note” for your perusal. If I do, make it to the computer, I then want to “tell a story” that maybe doesn’t really need to be told. So . . . . . today I introduce you to “Extras”. When you see this logo what you will get is a very short “Note” about? Something! It may be useful or funny (maybe both), but it won’t take much of your time. Read more

Feria Nacional de Artesanias

Centro de Convenciones ATLAPA National Handicrafts Fair

Jane and I walked down to the ATLAPA Convention Center to check out the National Handicrafts Fair. Tickets for us retirees (jubilados) - a whopping $1.00 each. Inside we saw a variety of arts and crafts which would have done a great job of giving any house a true Panama look. Alas, no house. After wandering around for a couple of hours Jane did buy a Molas decorated purse. The real highlight of the outing was the entertainment.

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Staying in touch

Jane and Friend at Albrook Mall
Whether moving or visiting you’ll want to stay in touch with those “back home”. Fortunately, the internet makes that much easier than in the old days - I remember touring Europe and having to seek out the local American Express office to get my two week old mail and then beating my post cards home.

Email: Today, it’s easier and faster - if you remember just a couple of things. If you’re a laptop user and are familiar with wireless access - problems should be minimal (just brush up on security issues and protocols). Hotspots are readily available, especially in Panama City. If you normally access your email from your desktop machine, you may find yourself out of touch - unless you are familiar with using a public computer (internet cafe) and accessing your email via your providers “webmail” interface. Read more

Panama's Red Devils

Red Devils (Diablo Rojo)
The “Diablo Rojo” of Panama are both famous and infamous. Their planned demise will either be a giant step forward or the death of a cultural icon - take your pick. These recycled U.S. school busses have been a fixture on Panama’s streets for decades. Given no viable (affordable) alternative, Panamanians crowd onto these vividly decorated, loud, exhaust belching antiques and hang on for their lives - literally. Read more

We're Moving (again)

Just so you know that our new life in Panama is not just non-stop excitement. Today we’re moving - for the third time this month. It’s a short (actually very short) move, from the upstairs small apartment to the downstairs “Villa” at La Cresta de Oro. Only three more moves until we settle into our long-term rental apartment in Casco Viejo. Can’t wait!

Why so many moves? The major reason is that it’s just very hard to find rentals that are pet friendly - especially in Panama City. By the time we knew our departure date from St. Croix we just had to coble together a “lodging plan” that kept us off the streets. The plus side is that we’ve now lived in two different areas of the city and will try out mountain living (Cerro Azul) next week. It does, however, get old living out of a suitcase. Read more

Come on down

Plaza de la Independencia - Casco Viejo
If you’re a visitor to this site there’s a good possibility you may be thinking about, wanting to, or wishing that you could visit or move to Panama.

For the tourist, the usual questions - will it be worth it, will it be interesting/fun, and better than (wherever). The best thing to do - buy the ticket, book the hotel - get off the couch and try something different. You will have a great time in Panama - guaranteed!

Thinking about moving? Bigger questions (and harder decisions) keep swirling around in your head. Might Panama be “your paradise?” It’s a foreign country, new language (most likely), new people, leaving family - the list of potential problems (I call them “deal breakers”) goes on. The ONLY way to find out if Panama is right for you is to make an extended visit and get a feeling for what “your Panama” might be like.
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Tonight, eating out at . . .

Restaurante Jimmy
Because our temporary digs lack a kitchen we usually eat one meal a day out on the town. Tonight it’s Restaurante Jimmy on Avenida Cincuentenario, it’s only six blocks - so you guessed it, we walk. We wait until a little after 6:00 (we will be eating early by Panama standards) and it’s a pleasant walk.

It’s not a fancy place, but offers both outdoor and indoor (with AC) options for seating. We head inside to one of the tables where we can watch the pizza and bread guy do his thing in the kitchen. Every time we have eaten at Jimmy’s it’s been the same young man and most nights it’s non-stop action. The menu is extensive (sandwiches to steaks - true Panamanian to Greek, and everything in between) and the prices (to us) very reasonable.
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Thrill Ride

Since our arrival three weeks ago we have intentionally been without a car. The first time that has been the case in over forty years. With our decision to try “city life” for the next seven months came the opportunity and we decided to give it a try.

Taxi on Avenida Porras
So, how do we get around? We walk a lot and we use taxis. Depending on your luck (or lack thereof) you will be given a ride by either a “laid back” driver (the exception) with a nice air-conditioned car, someone that thinks he’s a NASCAR driver (the rule) and is behind the wheel of something that is one stop away from the junkyard, or a combination of these two extremes. You may get music played at a reasonable level or VERY LOUD. With the latter usually comes a driver who is not inclined to turn it down despite your obvious discomfort. We’ve had taxis run out of gas. They often pick-up additional passengers on the way and may try to charge extra because “it’s raining”, they really don’t want to go where you want to go, or because you look like a tourist. Read more

Quick Observations

La Cresta looking toward Avenida Balboa
We won’t speak of first impressions because Jane an I visited for a month back in 2006 but some things from the previous trip and the first weeks of our move do come to mind. Most are just trivial observations, a few are serious - some may change over time and a couple will be featured in upcoming “notes”.

The people a very friendly and willing to help. When we got a little disorientated (I never get lost) a store clerk got on his cell phone to get directions for us - even got Jane a place to sit and a glass of water. The lady we were to meet then got in her car and picked us up.
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Visa Requirements?

Warning: This post has nothing worth reading unless you're thinking of moving to, or retiring in Panama. Of course, if you are really bored or have nothing better to do, feel free to Read more
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