Would You Believe I Was in Panama?

After scheduling several posts up, my husband and I secretly slipped away for a two week vacation in Panama. Yep, I have been gone this whole time, but didn’t want to leave the blog nor my website hanging. The trip was wonderful, but I think we both need a vacation from our vacation! Planes, buses, taxis, trekking, serious concentration to speak and understand Spanish … whew, I am exhausted … and not surprisingly, I came down with a bad cold at the end of our trip. I am still battling with it, but didn’t want to wait any longer before going through our pictures. 

While not foodie related (the food was good though!) … I am posting up a few pictures of our favorite things in Panama, just to tempt your curiosity:

Coffee Farms – We went hiking on the private jungle/forest of one coffee farm, and took a coffee tour of another. Since I am not a coffee drinker, I had no idea that Panama was known for producing some of the best coffee in the world.

Gorgeous flowers on our hike (gorgeous flowers were everywhere in Panama, they were like weeds!)

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The view of the coffee farm as we emerged from the hiking trails.

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Very cool handmade birdhouse was a wonderful added touch, and almost necessary in this bird-rich country.

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A coffee plant up close. Did you know that coffee beans are actually the seeds of this berry. We each tasted a berry and it was surprisingly sweet.

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The production of coffee beans was far less automated than I thought it would be. These are beans (many with the berry still on) drying in the sun on a large cement slab. After drying, they are moved through a series of simple machines for cleaning, sorting, etc, but they also go through three series of hand selection where people literally pick them off on conveyor belts one by one.

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My husband enjoying a fresh mug of coffee the next morning on the balcony (yes, he finally got a haircut today!)

Enjoying Panama Coffee

Paradise Gardens – This small wildlife refuge was started by a retired British couple in a town called Boquete. They came to Panama for the birds, but fell into animal rescue. The grounds are beautiful and it is a wonderful way to see and learn about the many types of animals native to Panama (they really aren’t easy to just spot in the wild), without fearing for their welfare or feeling sad that some are in cages (all of which were extremely clean and spacious). Once healthy and ready, they reintroduce most of the animals back into the wild, though a few are too domesticated when they arrive at their refuge. We saw several types of monkeys, wild cats, tons of different birds, and a baby anteater (they stick their tongue out when they yawn, so cute!). I couldn’t get a picture of Indie, the Jaguarundi (a member of the puma family) my husband (he is a cat-aholic) had fun playing with because he just wouldn’t sit still even for a second. We loved this place so much, we went back a second time while in Boquete. If we had stayed longer we would have loved to have volunteered. You can read more on the Paradise Gardens website.

A couple of Toucans wandered the greenhouse gardens and loved to attack shoelaces.

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 I was disappointed when my first picture of this beautiful parrot came out a bit blury …

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… so I snapped a second shot, but it seems my subject became a bit camera shy …

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Tamarin Monkeys are quite common in Panama. Unfortunately, people tend to capture them for pets, leading to sickness and abuse of these little guys. Luckily, quite a few have been turned into Paradise Gardens where they nurse them back to health and re-release them when possible. They are funny monkeys because they have claws rather than fingers and they love to race up on you. Cute little gremlin faces too … but they do bite.

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 I forget what type of monkeys these guys are, but they were very intelligent and fun to watch and interact with. Here is one giving some love to the camera …

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And of course, there were the Japanese-style gardens, beautiful … 

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The Panama Canal (Miraflores Locks) – The Canal is set up for tourists to come and view with a big observation building, museum, etc., at one of the Locks. It was definitely fun to visit and learn about.

I loved this picture because the train looks like a little toy. These trains actually pull the ships (we are talking massive freighters, cruise ships, etc.) through the Canal locks. The ships are not allowed to use their own power while going through these channels (which take them up above sea level to transit the channel, and back down to sea level when the reach the opposite ocean), but four of these trains guide the ships by attached cables (two in the front, two in the back) …

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Casco Viejo – I cannot tell a lie, we were both disappointed in Panama City. It had a lot of potential, but it was one of the dirtiest and most rundown major cities we have visited. Granted, it was our first visit to Central America, but we have been to a few major cities in South America. However, the Old Town section of Panama City was full of color and beauty. It was awesome for a daytime stroll …

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I hate having my picture taken, but thought I needed at least one “I really did go to Panama I swear” shot …

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While I don’t have any pictures of the local Panamanians, I do have a snapshot of their artwork. After an exhausting day touristing about, we returned to our hotel room to discover a wonderful sampling of the staff’s talents. Behold, the sleeping towel cow …

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On that note, I am off to catch some zzz’s and sleep off the rest of this cold bug!