Our Day at Valle de Anton was much too short

Our day started with a beautiful one hour drive into the mountains…destination Valle de Anton. We researched this place as a possible permanent home in our post of Today, Let’s Explore Valle de Anton in November of 2017. If you’re just joining the adventure, and want to catch up, it may be a great time to click the link and read about our research. When researching for our excursions we expected to find this wonderful place much further away. We chose to go on Sunday by design because the market there is called the Sunday Market. We now understand that it is open every day. This charming town is loaded with things to do and we didn’t know where to begin. The road led us to the mineral springs and mud bath. Our lack of fluent communication proved to be a small problem. We paid the $4 to enter only to find that it was only the mineral springs and mud bath, no paths to water falls. We embraced the moment and smeared mud on our faces and relaxed in the mineral baths for quite some time.

We decided after the mineral springs to visit the Sunday Market. We hadn’t prepared properly for the order of events. Perhaps it would have been better to go to the mud and mineral bath last. The Sunday Market was great. We found all the things described in our previous research. There were many cool paintings, granite figurines, and hats to mention a  few. Jen found a hat she liked, however she was unable to negotiate the price to where she wanted.

You may recall that the vegetables are not to impressive here near our beach home. When one drives to the interior of the country there is a climate difference which is more conducive to vegetable growth. We got some nice fresh vegetables that are not available in the grocery store here. We will be making periodic, future visits to this new found place to further explore and buy vegetables. We had a great, late lunch at Carlitos before heading home. If you remember our previous post, we did not explore the butterfly sanctuary, zoo, waterfalls, or see the square trees.

This morning we had our 3rd session with the Spanish tutor.Her name is Jasmine and she is a wonderful teacher. As it turns out, everyone around here knows Jasmine and she deserves to be mentioned. If you’re in the Coronado area, and want help with your Spanish skills, give us a message, and we will provide you her contact info. This afternoon we are hanging out at the pool on the roof, and relaxing. Tomorrow, we will be heading to Panama City. We have to be at the American Embassy at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning to start the drivers license process. We hope to have our Panama drivers license by mid afternoon Wednesday before returning home. With any luck we will be able to make our next post on Thursday.

It looks like we are getting about 100 hits a day on this thing and we are finding it humbling that so many are living our adventure vicariously through us. Please feel free to share any or all of our posts. We love the few comments we are getting and all the likes on Facebook.  Please, if you haven’t, subscribe by e-mail to get our blog delivered directly to your in box.

Chao,

Greg and Jen

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We take our first official adventure…

Heading out for adventure

…as if we haven’t had any adventures yet. Thursday we climbed in the car and took off for Peninsula de Azuero. This is the first adventure we planned in our adventure planning post of 10/24/2017 let-the-excursion-planning-begin. If you were not following back in October of 2017, feel free to click the link and go back to the planning stage with us. We reviewed our previous post before we left on Thursday. This excursion would take 2-3 hours of travel each way and appeared to be our shortest distance to travel. If we traveled to Pedasi the travel would be longer. We are in search of a place where we may one day consider living permanently. Our first stop was for fuel. We encountered nobody who spoke a bit of English. In fact, we didn’t find anyone who spoke English the entire day. In spite, we had a great time and used our new Spanish skills to communicate to the best of our ability. The natives love that we try to speak Spanish and help if possible.  While on the road we encountered a few surprises. This wind farm had hundreds of windmills. We also saw a solar farm of which we could not get a photo.

We passed through Penonome’, Santa Maria, and Chitre’ before arriving at Las Tablas. The feature picture today is Jen at the Las Tablas sign. It was about time for an early lunch and we chose to dine at none other than McDonalds. I do not think you can out travel McDonalds. We had a Big Mac and Crispy McPollo (chicken), both value meals, and our total bill was $11.20. We may have made mention of it before, but for those of you who may not know Panama uses US Currency. Only the coins are different.

Following lunch we made our way to the downtown area where there were some cool shops and sidewalk vendors. After wandering about for a short while we decided that we should look for the beach. We had visions of a possible condo project or some cute little housing project on the water. Our GPS app (Waze) was telling us that we could be to the water in 9 minutes. Off we went carefully following the suggested route. It wasn’t long before we ran out of pavement. Thank God for 4 wheel drive. The 2 track we followed for at least 4 Km and 30 minutes did eventually get us to a deserted beach. You could not see anybody or any sign of buildings down the beach in either direction. We were running without a plan and the SUV had a full tank of gas. We thought we may find civilization at Playa El Uverito, so off we went.

The road to the beach
The beach near Las Tablas Abajo
The road to the beach
The beach near Las Tablas Abajo
The beach near Las Tablas Abajo
The beach near Las Tablas Abajo

 

 

 

 

 

Playa El Uverito was another 30 minutes or so away. Signs along the way led us to believe there were a couple of Hostels and Bed and Breakfasts on the beach there. We found the beach there with about 20 very depressed and run down homes. Many appeared to be deserted. This area was just too far off the beaten path to attract visitors, and to us it was heartbreaking. Sorry, we didn’t take pictures.

By now it was too late in the day to journey another hour to Pedasi, so we made the decision to turn back toward home. We wanted to make a couple of stops an the way back. Our first stop was a local grocery store in one of the small towns. We found many grocery items priced much better than near the tourist area where we are staying. It was the same when we stopped along the highway for fresh fruit. $1 bought a watermelon, less than a $1 for bananas, and $5. for a big bottle of fresh honey. We made a quick stop for el helado (ice cream). It was wonderful and also only a dollar. Our last stop was for Mexican food. It was dark by the time we left the restaurant and I was happy that we were not far from home.

Yesterday we toured a couple of more local condo projects. RioMar was above our budget, but moved to the top of Jen’s list. After, we had lunch here locally, I got a haircut and Jen had some copies made that we will need at the American Embassy this Wednesday. While all that was going on we had the car detailed. It was necessary after our journey off road on Thursday.

RioMar
Car Detailed $9, Haircut $5. Life is good.

Our day ended with pizza at Picasso. Picasso is a local hangout. We have been there a couple of times because it is walking distance from our condo. The pizza was good, and not a bad price (special 5-7pm on Fridays), however, they have a long way to go to earn our praise.

Stay tuned in…we have great plans for adventure tomorrow in El Valle de Anton. Thanks, for once again reading and sharing.

Buenos,

Greg and Jen

 

 

We survived Carnival

As I write it is early morning, and I am enjoying the sound of the ocean surf and the cool breeze coming through the windows. We are in an area that it is really hard not to love. This time of year we have a lot of wind which keeps the humidity down. They call it Summer. Since arriving we have not seen a bit of rain, and we have enjoyed the pool or the beach every day. Our windows are always open and there are no screens. At first we couldn’t believe it, but there are no bugs here at ocean front. We absolutely love the balcony in the early morning and late evening, but it gets unbearably hot for a couple of hours in the afternoon when the sun is high, and to the West (our unit has a western exposure). People on the East side of the building say that theirs is hot in the morning. Both have advantages and disadvantages. This is all information valuable when looking for a beach front condo.

We did survive Carnival and hope none of you are expecting to see pictures of parades, floats, and scantly dressed people partying in the street. We did not venture to the activities. It is a party that happens across the entire country. The government closes down and many private business chose to close as well. Traffic is everything we have been told and just moving about during Carnival is near impossible. There were fireworks here in the complex and all our neighbors who own vacation homes were here. That meant that there were several predominant languages being spoken and a few families. The Internationale Highway is a 4 lane divided highway with limited places to cross from 1 side to the other. It is not limited access. When traffic gets heavy they close the places to cross. Just about anywhere you would go involves using this road, so mostly we stayed nearby.  Monday we ventured out to take a look at one of the places that may be nice to live. It was to our West and travel there and back was tolerable. I can’t say the same for yesterday when the Panamanians started heading home. We ventured out to see another place early yesterday morning and returning the traffic was gridlocked on the highway. The only way back for us was to get on the Highway heading east toward Panama City, with the traffic, and drive about 30 Km to the first place we were allowed to turn around. When we got back to our road we were not allowed to turn (cross traffic) which caused us to travel back several Km West before being allowed to turn around. When we got way West of Coronado we decided to take a look at another place before heading home. Every trip during heavy traffic has to be carefully planned. We were home by 1:30, had a late lunch and spent the rest of the day by the pool on the roof.

Everyone Heading Home
Everyone Heading Home

We are sure all of you are interested in what we have found as far as homes go. One thing everyone needs to know is that if you’re planning to move to Panama one should rent for at least a year. This will give time to make sure the place is right for you. It is a buyers market here currently and real estate prices are a little lower than they have been. The buyers market may continue for several years so if you buy now you may lose money if you decide to sell too soon. Many places can be rented out weekly or monthly to tourists, should you decide to move back home. Remember it isn’t easy to be a long distance landlord. All that being said, we are interested in finding out basically what our dollar will buy and learning what is important and not important to us. As we travel and explore the country over the next few weeks we will be taking a look at homes and condo’s to get familiar with the market in each area. If we settle on an area and decide to move we will rent in that area until we find the perfect place to buy. We are feeling like our own episode of House Hunters International right now. I embedded a YouTube video below, which is an episode of that show filmed right here near where we are staying. We met a delightful lady from Canada, who has lived here now for several years. She is a sales agent for the developer who built 2 of the condo projects where we have looked. One of the projects is Bahia and she was the actual selling agent for the guys in this video.  We will be touring the condo directly next to them in the next few weeks (it is occupied by tourists now). This video will give you a good feel for the Coronado area. Time will tell, but it may be too busy for us here. CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

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We hope you took the 20 or so minutes to watch the video. It really does paint an accurate picture of what we are finding on the ground here. We are continuing with our Spanish tutor today and heading out to the Azuero Peninsula tomorrow. It may a great time to look back at our post of October 24, 2017 when our excursion planning began.  On Friday we are planning another visit to a nearby condo project with a local agent. Our friends here are interested in buying there and the agent has come highly recommended. We will keep you all informed as we work through the process of looking for a place where we may one day live.

Thank-you for once again checking out our awesome adventure. We are still in awe of this whole thing. We hope you are all entertained and enjoying as much as we are. Please like, share and post questions. We love hearing from all of you. We just surpassed 2000 visits to our blog and we have new visitors signing on daily. Without all of you, it certainly wouldn’t be as much fun to write.

Buenos Dias,

Greg and Jen

 

 

We are about to experience Carnival full blast.

We have been hearing for several days that Carnival in Panama is quite an event.  As I was writing our last post, Carnival began to sound like a winter storm in Michigan. The stores run out of supplies, there is no gas and traffic is at a standstill. Carnival starts officially today and ends on Tuesday night. That’s a 4 day party across the entire country. Many people here call it a drunk-fest and “no place for children”. You all can probably imagine the kind of Mardi Gras type stuff that will be going on. We understand that yesterday they turned all the lanes of the Trans American Highway to head out of the city for a period of time so that all the people could get to their weekend homes. The condo we are renting is owned by an American, but most in this building are owned by Panamanian people from Panama City who come here for vacation and weekends. It seems that the building is full now and the party here will be mild compared to elsewhere in the country. We are comparing it to our home on an inland lake in Michigan where a large percentage the properties are owned by non-residents. We only see them on the weekends and 4th of July. This week is like the 4th of July; they call it high season here.  The fireworks started on Thursday night. We think it must have been some kind of kickoff celebration.  Needless to say, we will be staying put here until Wednesday morning. We went out yesterday morning to pick up a few last minute supplies and driving here was like demolition derby/gridlock.

The main reason we went out yesterday was to go to our 1st meeting with our Spanish tutor, Jasmine. We were interested in learning more Spanish and Jasmine came highly recommended. Jasmine was all business, and our 1 hour session was packed full of important Spanish that we are to learn before next time. We are already finding it helpful, and are attempting to converse with one another as much in Spanish as possible. The Spanish here has a bit of its own Panama flare and most people here know a little English which gets mixed into conversation. The more we get away from the tourist area the less English speaking people we find. While we were out, we also filled the car with gas and picked up our passports from the courier. We found them stamped with our multiple entry designation. This will make customs easier, because we will be allowed to go through the line with residents. We can also enter and leave the country on a 1 way ticket. Tourists must have a return ticket when entering the country or they will not be allowed through customs at the airport or any check point at the border. Once a person gives up the tourist designation they are required to get a Panamanian drivers license. That process starts at the American Embassy in Panama City and ends at the local version of the Department of Motor Vehicles. We both have appointments at the American Embassy 1 week from Wednesday in the early morning so that we will hopefully complete the requirement and have our drivers licenses by the end of the day. The last stop of our excursion was to grab a few last minute supplies. We were literally scared to try to pull into the grocery store. The street out in front and the parking lot were gridlock. We ended up at the corner grocery by our condo. We have compared it to a 7-11, but by no stretch of the imagination is it a typical American curb store. We found it to have an ample supply of anything a person may need and fairly priced. We thought that the vegetables were even better there than the grocery store in town. We wanted to stop for lunch, however that stop was as equally frightening as the grocery store situation.

We have shared our research on the Fonda and even visited one earlier in the week. We learned that the translation for Fonda is food. These eating establishments intrigue us and we love to try them. There is one at the end of the street by our condo and it is our new favorite place to go. We can walk there and it is tasty, cheap and friendly. Our first experience with it was Wednesday. The offerings were Pollo Fritas (fried chicken) and Pollo Salsa (broiled chicken with Salsa). There was also some kind of boiled meat that we did not try, and Sopa (soup). The soup offering was Sopa de Costella (rib soup). We did not try it but others around were eating it and it looked good. All meals come with rice, beans, salad, and plaintain. Jen had the fried and I had the salsa chicken, we both had bottled water and our bill was $9.60.

After we took care of our groceries we walked down for lunch yesterday and had a similar experience. Jen again had the fried chicken and I had the Cinta Guisada (steak stewed). The steak was tender and delicious like swiss steak. We brought our own drinks and our bill was $7.50. Don’t let anyone tell you it is expensive to eat out here. You must be open to new experiences, and ready for adventure. We will try this place for breakfast soon, and let you all know how it goes.

We have been guilty of not taking many pictures. We wanted to share a couple of more photos on the roof. It is absolutely beautiful up there, and where we will be spending the majority of the next 4 days.

 

Our next Session with the Spanish tutor is Wednesday. Thursday we are planning to head to the Azarro Peninsula about 2-1/2 hours to the West and South. This will be our 1st official adventure excursion.

The most important thing we have learned is:  me gustaria el cuenta por favor (may I have the check please). That is the simple Spanish lesson for today.

que tengas un buen sabado!

Greg and Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We Visit Our First Roadside Fonda

Our day yesterday started out as we planned with a walk East on the beach. The tide was low and we walked past some lovely homes. We probably did not walk as far as it seemed, Upon our return we went to the pool on the roof and enjoyed a nice swim. Every day we learn a little more about the area. The people here are really nice and forthcoming with information. We met a couple who has lived in this building for 3 years and they suggested that we may find better shopping West on the Pan-American highway about 45 Km. That was just the opportunity we wanted to get on the road again.

We ventured out around lunch time with the intention of stopping along the way at a fonda for lunch. We also thought we would, perhaps, check out some possible housing options on the beach along the way. We are trying to familiarize ourselves with the housing market here should this be where we would live. I am not sold on the area, but we are both in love with the beach. Our windows are open at night with the waves crashing and it is very peaceful just sitting on the balcony looking at the ocean. The highway is divided with limited places to turn around. Heading West, all the beach homes are on the other side of the highway so we located a few nice places but did not stop. Just prior to finding our shopping destination we stopped at a fonda for lunch. The menu was nicely written on a piece of paper and the proprietor welcomed us.

He spoke just enough English to make us comfortable and we understood enough Spanish to know we were going to get a decent meal.  Jen ordered a Chuleto BBQ (BBQ Pork Chop) and I ordered Bistek y Cebollas (steak with onions). Both meals came with all the accompaniments, arroz (rice), lenteja (beans seasoned with peppers), ensalada (salad), and tejadas (fried plantains). He offered up a limon con resperado to drink. We agreed and he brought the most incredible fruit drink that looked like iced tea but tasted very sweet and fruty. Our food was awesome and our bill was $12. $5 for each lunch and $1 for each drink.

After a wonderful lunch we took off toward the store. We wanted to shop ahead a little because this weekend is Carnival. They tell us that the whole country turns into 1 giant party and everything will be closed from late Friday until next Wednesday. We have also been warned that it would not be wise to be on the road and prior to the holiday all the stores will be out of everything (sounds almost like a winter storm warning).  We will report on Carnival as it happens, however we will be staying home and suffering through it in our own resort like accommodations. We are hoping to see fireworks from the balcony.

We picked up a few things at the dollar store, got a few groceries and headed back. We did not stop to check out any of the home projects, but we saw a few that we will check out on future excursions. We did make a couple of stops for fruit along the road. We hear that this can be the best way to get a Cantelope, Watermelon, Bananas, or Pineapple, but they don’t all have everything. You also cannot buy vegetables along the road very often, and I’m sad to say that the vegetables in the store are terrible.

I am planning to go to the gym on the roof and Jen says she will be going to aqua-arobics this morning. We are planning to relax by the pool for most of the day.  It is hard to keep track of time. It seems like every day ends much too quickly.

We have the name of a lady here locally who teaches Spanish. We are making arrangements today to get into a class. This adventure would be much better if we could better communicate. Please continue to follow along . We will try to keep it real and interesting.

Welcome to the roof at Coronado Bay
Roof Top Pool at Coronado Bay
Our view from the roof East

 

We thought you may enjoy some pictures from the rooftop. Dondequiera que erstes, esperamos que estes caliente. translated Wherever you are, we hope you are warm.

con un cordial saludo,

Greg and Jen

 

 

We are Settling Into Our Condo at Coronado Bay

 

Since arriving in Panama we have been crazy busy. Saturday we were picked up by the car rental driver who took us to our condo in Coronado.  The process was painless. We completed the rental documents and paid for our car then the condo rental agent showed us where to park and took us to our condo. We have spectacular views out every room,  and the balcony is awesome. The housekeeper was finishing up and we chose to get out of her way. We went for a nice lunch and bought a few groceries. We found the grocery store convenient and adequate. Many American brands were available next to the local brands at a premium price. We chose as many local brands as possible. When we returned to the condo we were able to unpack and take care of the groceries. The day passed much too quickly and we didn’t get much time to explore the area. We were able to cook our own dinner and relax for the evening.

Sunday we drove back to Panama City. Driving here is generally a challenge for the most experienced driver. Needless to say, we were a bit nervous to take our first drive. It went off without a hitch. We learned of a great app for navigating Panama called Waze. We downloaded it onto Jen’s phone and it took us right back to the hotel for the night. We had to be at Sevicio Nationale de Imigracion in the city at 7:30 Monday morning to complete the Visa process. We finished up the day Sunday in the hotel with a pizza and enjoyed the Super Bowl on Fox Sports Vivo which broadcast in Spanish (no subtitles). This is another great argument for learning more Spanish.

We were told to expect to spent the entire day at Immigration. I cannot say enough about how awesome our attorney has been. She has been there every step of the way and made the process run smoothly. She had us out of Immigration by 10 AM. The application process is complete, however, they retain our passports for 2 days for the multiple entry visa.  The attorney will courier them to us on Wednesday.  Now it is a waiting game while immigration decides to approve or deny our application.  We have appointments at the American Embassy in 2 weeks to get our Panamanian drivers licenses. As a tourist you can drive on your American drivers license for 90 days. With the Visa process we are no longer considered tourist so it is important to also get our drivers license. The attorney is walking us through that process as well.

 

This was the prize for all the time we spent at Immigration.

With the Visa application process complete we were free to return to Coronado. Although it was stressful getting out of the city, the drive wasn’t bad.  We were back in Coronado in time for lunch and a little exploring around the complex. We walked out to the ocean (the tide was low), then down the beach to the west a ways. We decided to walk east on the beach this morning. Upon our return to the building we relaxed by the pool and met some great people. Our lack of Spanish skills doesn’t seem to matter as much here at the condo. We swam and soaked up some sun for most of the afternoon. The sun is strong here and a little goes a long way. We  are so happy to be able to cook our own meals and we finished up the day by having a great dinner. We went to sleep last night with all the windows open and enjoyed the sound of the crashing waves.

Today we plan to explore the immediate area a little more. This area is pretty expensive. The beach, tourists and expats drive the prices higher. Ultimately, this is not probably going to be where we would live. We still want to immerse ourselves into the culture more. It is an honor that all of you are following with us. Please send e-mail or make comments if you have questions that we can answer. As always, like and share so everyone can find us.

Buenos Dias,

Greg and Jen

 

Panama City Day 2

Our day started early at Servicio National de Immigration. We met our attorneys assistant, Mariana, who walked us through the process of “opening a ticket” for the process of obtaining our Pensionado Visa. We started in a line to get a number like that one at the Secretary of State or DMV. Once we had our number we had to wait our turn. There were a lot of people in this room. We didn’t take pictures inside, as the people here are very insistent that the respect in government offices is maintained. We dressed appropriately for conducting business with the government. Jen wore a dress with closed toe shoes and I wore dress slacks with a button shirt and dress shoes. This initial meeting is so that the government can review the documents that we carefully prepared on Thursday. Once satisfied with our documents they then open our ticket and the process  begins. Our Passports were stamped that this process is underway. This is what ultimately will allow us multiple entry into and out of Panama. This is important if we retire here so that we can travel in on a one way ticket. As a tourist, to come to Panama, you must have a return ticket. We then had to wait in another line to pay $5. The real work will be on Monday. We will lay out our Monday experience after it happens. Having been to Immigration and having had Mariana explain everything, we now know what to expect from this process. Monday will be the last day we have to spend in Panama City.

Panama Immigration Building

We will be going to our condo in Coronado Saturday and returning to Panama City on Sunday afternoon for our Monday meetings. We will, also be picking up our rental car. We are going to be brave and drive back on Sunday afternoon. As of now, we will leave the car at the hotel while we go to immigration. The short taxi ride will cost us less than parking at the Immigration Building. The drive back to Coronado is what scares us the most. Traffic out of the city is basically gridlock 24 hours per day. Once out of the city, it should not be a bad drive back to Coronado. This will be our biggest test.

Having completed out business for the day, we decided to explore in Panama City. Our research told us that the best place to discover in the city is Casco Viejo (Olde Town). It is the original site where Panama City was settled, and we found it charming but areas were depressed and run down. There are buildings everywhere being restored, and the restored portion of Casco Viejo reminded me of New Orleans. We wanted to take a tour, however the tours that interested us were limited to Thursday, Saturday, and Tuesday at 5 pm in the afternoon. We made our own tour and visited most of the things that interested us. Our first stop was a coffee shop at the American Trade Hotel.

By the way, taxi drivers will take you anywhere, but seldom know your destination. Be prepared to communicate a nearby landmark. We have been negotiating the price for our cab ride in advance and that has worked well even if the driver has a difficult time finding the destination. We have learned, for instance, that to get back to our hotel we have to tell the driver that it is near the Do It Center (hardware store) in El Dorado. There are very few street addresses to identify location. We got out of the taxi in front of the hotel, and after having coffee we walked back toward Cathedral Metropolitana and the Plaza de la Independencia. We were having a bit of trouble getting our bearings so we ducked into a small shop and bought a map. We were disappointed to find the Cathedral totally tarped for restoration. The Plaza was nice and surrounded by Museums for everything Panama. We may find some of those interesting on another visit when we have more time. We were in search of the famous organic chocolate shop, which we did not find.

We found a beautiful old church, which was not yet being restored, on the walk.

The walk was quite hot and we worked up an appetite and thirst so we went into a sidewalk bar that was very unique. We were seated at a table near the back in front of an open door/window. The breeze coming through was quite nice and we enjoyed a fresh seafood appetizer. We didn’t want to eat much, because our ultimate destination will be the seafood market. We noticed through that open window, a huge gate with a guard. We soon learned that the gate was the drive leading to the presidential palace. We asked if we could walk there and were told that this was as close as we could get without a guide and a prior reservation. Our table was actually inside the gate.

Our walk led us along the waterfront and down to the fish market. Based on what we had found in our research, this wasn’t completely what we expected. It was very interesting and there is no shortage of fresh seafood if you are hungry. We saw the seafood market, the harbor where the fishermen bring in their catch, and found the place where you can eat about any fresh catch. We enjoyed some fresh Ceveche and a cold beer before heading back to our hotel.

Gracias for following along. Please like and share if you find this all interesting. We are getting ready for our journey to Coronado. Please stay tuned for more.

Greg and Jen