Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day 1 Orlando - Panama

From Trip
Well, our journey begins today and - for once - we feel we are organized! The alarm at 6:30am got us going and by 9:30am we were packed and taking care of last minute details like changing phone messages, etc. Our limo picked us up at 12 noon and, on our drive to the Orlando airport, we realized we had forgotten the majic jack phone and our guide book!! Oh well, we had our passports, tickets and some money so we figured we were set!

Copa Airlines flight (a 737) was on time and excellent. Since I am on crutches nursing a broken foot, I joined 5 other wheel chair cases, boarded first and settled in to a bulkhead seat. Initially we were seated at the back of the plane and Bill tried to get bulk head seats confirmed before we left, however, due to a loss in translation, he was told there were no bulkhead seats on the plane! When he printed our boarding cards, he found 5A&B open and changed our seats. On boarding the plane we found these to be bulkheads seats and enjoyed the row to ourselves! After a nice snack, a Panamian beer and the movie "Julie & Julia" we arrived at Tocumen Airport around 5:30pm (a 3 hour flight).

We are booked at the Cadiz Tower in Panama City for 3 nights. The 7th floor of this building is owned by an American and has 5 rooms ranging in price from $60 - $140 per night, including a continental breakfast, use of a cell phone, free wifi and a caretaker on property. We had booked a room at $60 per night but were upgraded so that we could have an ensuite bathroom (there are some advantages to being on crutches!). The owner also arranged for a taxi to meet us at the airport on arrival. This was great because not many taxi drivers speak English and explaining where we wanted to go could have been a problem.

Being last off the plane and no wheelchair waiting (although we filled out paperwork in Orlando to make this happen!), we figured our bags would be waiting for us! Not so - in fact it took about 20 minutes for them to arrive. We made it through customs very quickly - again thanks to the wheelchair! - and found our driver, Antonio, waiting for us. A smooth drive to the condo ($27 plus a $3 tip) using the toll road got us there in about 20 minutes. Taxi drivers in Panama do not expect tips and a taxi fare across the city can cost as little at $3.00 or $4.00 - unless you look like a Gringo and then the price goes up!!

Bill found the condo on Craig's List and we chose it because of the location. It is right around the corner from the Marriott, also a Casino and lots of restaurants. We decided to go out and explore the area a little and found a great, busy, noisy Lebanese Restaurant called Beirut, where we enjoyed a combination platter consisting of 8 small plates of different Lebanese dishes - from hummus to a moussaka type dish - Delicous! We people-watched as we enjoyed the food and a rum and ginger ale. There were a lot of people smoking hookahs (a middle eastern water pipe) and we learned that different fruit flavors are available at a price of $14 and up for half an hour. The fruit is rendered to a pulp and mixed with 5% tobacco and heated. The place was filled with a mixture of nationalities and was a great way to get in to the spirit of Panama! As soon as we sat down we realized that we had left the cameras behind -- what were we thinking?! We'll do better from now on!

It would have been nice to wander around a little more but I must confess it is an effort using the crutches, even though I can put some weight on my foot. If you are thinking sidewalks like we have in the States, forget it! The pavement is uneven, with steps down and up all over the place. Cars zoom down the streets, horns blaring ---! Anyway, it had been a long day and we headed back to our room to watch Larry King on our LG Big Screen TV and go to sleep! More tomorrow!

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