Here’s what we’ve been up to since our last post.
El Explorador — Last Friday, Holly invited us to join her and the entire membership of her newly-formed Jaramillo Gardener’s Club to tour El Explorador — the remarkable gardens of a lovely señora who has been building her eco-themed gardens for more 25 years — and more than 50 years building their coffee finca before that. The gardens cover more than 5 acres with spectacular mountain views everywhere you look. She strongly believes in recycling and repurposing everything imaginable and has turned old tires into staircases, old tv’s into terrariums and glass bottles into planting beds. Her GIANT swingset has legs built of camshafts … and typewriters, sewing machines, perfume bottles and paint brushes are all integrated into the scheme. She has flower gardens, rose gardens (with almost NO black spot in spite of the humidity here), edible gardens and no less that 200 beautiful bonsai! Throughout her garden — literally everywhere you look — she has placed placards with whimisical, witty and poignant sayings to emphasize the lessons she hopes her garden teaches … to respect the land … to love one another … to smile and laugh!
We were very fortunate to have Luana (and her Spanish fluency) with us, who gave us multiple treats most visitors would never enjoy … including a translation of the placards and an opportunity to connect with the woman who calls these gardens her home and her life. While we certainly didn’t expect it, the señora walked with us a good part of the tour and took us into parts of her gardens she doesn’t routinely share. We were even welcomed into the señora’s home for a glimpse into the way the locals live — and it was as warm and comfy as anyone could ever want.
Holly’s World — After the garden tour, Holly invited us on a very different tour indeed … a tour of her and Scott’s construction site WAY up into the remote hillsides of Jaramillo Centro. Holly and Scott are building a casita, a large workshop and a home in an area that Indiana Jones would find a challenge to get to! Seriously, once they’re done, it will all be a modern, paved and smooth trip to the top — but during this construction phase, it’s definitely for sturdy 4-wheel drive vehicles and courageous drivers ONLY! I really admire Holly and Scott for tackling such a challenge and I marvel at the vision they have. It’s impressive now … and sure to be spectacular when it’s finished. If you want to see more pictures and learn more about their adventure, be sure to check out Holly’s Blog.
Lunch at Big Daddy’s — Following our tours, we all headed over to Big Daddy’s for fish tacos and margaritas. YUM!! Mind you, MY intention was to head over to the gym after lunch … but you know how that goes!
Nap Time — Maybe it’s the fresh mountain air … and maybe it’s the margaritas, but we’re really perfecting the fine art of the siesta. As we’ve said in several posts now, the mornings here are clear and beautiful and the afternoons are rainy and stormy … perfect weather for a little snooze.
Art Show at the Boquete Library — After our naps, we got ready to check out the art show at the Biblioteca de Boquete. The library was built by the Lions Club and modeled, both architecturally and functionally as a cross between the classic U.S. community lending library and Barnes and Noble. The library is staffed by Peace Corps volunteers, specializing in literacy and in training local librarians — as well as some 20+ expat volunteers. The library is also Boquete’s public art gallery and hosts a monthly art show featuring some of the work of the many talented local artists — expat and Panamanian, children and adults alike. The reception must have had 100+ people in attendance and the art was top notch!
Newcomer’s Dinner — We had less than an hour to explore the art before we needed to head over to the Paladar Restaurant at the Hotel Valle del Rio for the Newcomer’s Dinner. What a GREAT event that was! The expat community has people from everywhere you can think of … Los Angeles, Grand Cayman, Switzerland … we lost count of the wide variety of people who have come to call this little community home! The restaurant gave us all a complimentary welcome drink, free appetizer and free dessert — and we just ordered what we wanted off of the regular menu. It was a very nice way to meet more people — including the woman who owns the Curvas Bonita gym Linda wants to try out AND the gal who owns the artisanal chocolate company, CHOX, that focuses exclusively on Panamanian-grown cacao beans.
Yoga — On Saturday morning, Linda went to her second yoga class — but rather than joining the ladies for breakfast after the class like last time, Linda brought along some of her favorite Jasmine Pearl tea, the hostess brought out some of her finest china and they had a lovely tea party instead.
La Posada for Pizza and Music — Saturday evening, we joined our new neighbors in the adjoining casita for pizza and live music at La Posada. We mentioned we were planning on going to one of the expats and he warned us that the music was going to be VERY loud — and he wasn’t kidding! We started out sitting where the musicians were setting up — but once they began, we moved to a different dining room where we could still hear the music (which was really good) and STILL be able to have a nice conversation. La Posada’s pizza is VERY good — but actually rather expensive by US standards at $20 for a large, including tax and tip. I suspect the culprit is the cheese, since, for some reason, dairy products are very expensive in Panamá.
Flea Market — Sunday, we planned to check out the monthly flea market at Chiriqui Storage. The flea market itself wasn’t anything to write home about — and I genuinely doubt we would ever go back to it. The stuff for sale was priced at or above what we’re selling our things for at home — and our stuff is much better quality. Nevertheless, it gave us another opportunity to learn more about this community and that is an inherently good thing.
The strangest thing about the flea market was finding the place. The directions said that Chiriqui Storage was at Kilometer Marker 17 on the northbound side of the David/Boquete Road. So we headed down the mountain from Boquete and the numbers started increasing … 14 … 15 … 16 … 17 — but there was NOTHING there, so we went even further … 18 … 19 … and still nothing! We assumed we must have missed the place, so we drove a bit further until found a “retorno” so we could flip back the other direction. Well, once we were heading northbound again, we noticed the numbers were INCREASING … 19 … 20 … 21 — and then the realization hit us: the numbering system going northbound starts at “1” in David and the numbering system going southbound starts at “1” in Boquete!! I always promise myself to accept things as they are no matter where I travel … so I’ll just say, “Isn’t that interesting?” So we flipped around again and kept traveling south until we saw the place, which was, in fact, quite easy to find since both sides of the road were just PACKED with parked cars!
Los Molinos — On the way to the flea market, we passed a development called Los Molinos (that’s The Windmills in Spanish) and decided to check it out. Like the other gated communities, Los Molinos has several models of standard homes and condos to choose from, lots of custom homes, a hotel and a restaurant. We liked the development MUCH better than Valle Escondido and FAR better than the Boquete Country Club. Only problems are 1) it’s further from Boquete than we would want to be, so there’s not much in the way of stores and services around it; 2) it’s built on a flat mesa (that’s redundant, BTW) that gets to be quite windy; and 3) the view is far in the distance and easily blocked by the houses around you. So as lovely as it is, it’s just not for us. We did want to find the place though because Linda’s friend Trish’s boyfriend, Malcolm Henderson, is speaking there next Thursday and we want to go and hear his presentation and spend some time with them. Trish moved to Panamá a few months ago from North Carolina and she’s had quite an adventure!
Casa de Montaña — Between our casita and “downtown” Boquete is a brand new Bed & Breakfast Inn called Casa de Montaña, which is owned and operated by Manzar Lari and Terry Richmeier. Holly had told us to send them a note and stop by and see their place, which we did — and what an impressive place it is! These guys have thought of everything a traveler needs and, based on their reviews on Tripadvisor, they’re getting it all right in the eyes of their guests! We had a lovely tour and conversation — and were quite flattered when they invited us to come to the celebration of their recent wedding (they just returned from Minneapolis where they got married) this Thursday! I’m sure it will be quite the fiesta!
Linda’s “Easy” Hike — Monday morning, Linda decided to join one of the expat hiker’s groups for an “easy” walk around Boquete. I didn’t go because I have a weekly webinar series on Monday mornings I’ve been conducting for the past few years — “Building a Career That Matters.” So just before my webinar began, I got a call from Linda saying that the walk was just fine until she was half-way up a flight of hundreds of steps and felt like she was going to pass out right then and there. One of the leaders sat with Linda while she recovered and walked her back to the spa we joined — The Haven — so she could lounge around and get re-hydrated while I was conducting my webinar. By the time I was finished, she was feeling a bit better, so she walked back to her car and drove up to our casita to lay down. She’s much better now — but we have both realized that while we thought we were in good shape, we need to do a LOT more conditioning before we tackle what the locals and expats consider “easy.” We can’t imagine what “difficult” translates into — but we know we’re not ready for it!!
First Apple Pie in Boquete — We’ve been invited to Luana and Bond’s home for dinner Wednesday evening along with Holly and Scott and another couple who joined us for the garden tour, Cynthia and James — and Linda has offered to bake an apple pie for the occasion.
Most of you reading this blog know that Linda comes from a long line of champion apple pie bakers (a fact that she doesn’t like me to bring up, but I’m proud of her so I’m gonna brag a little!) Boy, can she bake a pie!! Now one thing I learned very early on in her competitive career is that baking a blue ribbon pie is more about science than art — and more about technique than the recipe. In fact, people will often ask her for her recipe and she’s happy to hand it over — but we know the chance of them duplicating her pie is remote at best. You have to have the right ingredients, equipment, organization, technique, temperature and timing — or you’ll be lucky to earn an honorable mention.
So before baking the pie for Luana’s dinner party, Linda decided to bake a test pie — and let me tell you that making a pie here threw ALL of that to hell in a handbasket!
Linda’s pie recipe originally came from her grandmother and the secret to the perfect pie is one thing … Mazola Corn Oil (it’s all about viscosity). No can find here! Our casita doesn’t have a pie plate or a rolling pin, so we bought something pretty close at the local department store (think Oleson’s Mercantile from Little House on the Prairie) but ultimately borrowed a proper pie plate and rolling pin from Luana. We also borrowed her oven thermometer since we’re cooking here on a propane stove with temperature settings in Celcius (like THAT system will EVER catch on!!) The milk is strange … the flour is strange … the oil is wrong … the humidity is high … the crust fell apart … and the oven was a guessing game and took 25% longer to bake than usual due to the altitude — but bottom line … it tastes just great — and what we learned today will guarantee an even better result for tomorrow’s soirée.
That’s the update for now … there’s a piece of pie with my name on it waiting just a few feet away!