Well, its 7:45PM and I just got back from my nefarious attempt to steal an Internet feed to load yesterday’s blog but everyone in the house was out and the Internet was turned off. I guess you will just have to wait! I will try again tomorrow morning. I’ll just pour myself another glass of this excellent 2009 Chilean Carmen Valley Central Cabernet Sauvignon and tell you what happened today.
Now, it seems that my descriptions of us being up in the hills and in a somewhat remote location has earned us the new title of Hillbillies from some of our friends. Perhaps my descriptions were a bit too graphic but I can assure you this is not Hillbilly country. Its much too upscale and almost all of the residents we have met still have all their teeth and don’t hold their pants up with a piece of worn rope. We also haven’t seen a shotgun anywhere. The house next door has a driveway containing a very new H3 Hummer with very expensive looking custom wheels and a chrome winch and cow catcher affair on the front that looks like it could stop a train. Today we decide to get away from the crowds and head downtown.
As we approached the main gate leaving the park, we saw something on the road. It was brown and furry and moving at the speed of a turtle! We pulled over and, sure enough, it was a sloth making his way painfully slowly across the road. Traffic is pretty busy here today so he was lucky he didn’t get run over. They move so deliberately, as if in slow motion, dragging their body across the terrain one slow step at time. I grabbed the camera and got out of the car, thinking that I probably had a victim that I could get some close up shots of because he couldn’t move fast enough to get away from me. I didn’t even have to rush. Now I can imagine what was going through his slothful mind… what is this idiot tourist going to do to me with that camera? Now, if I could just go a little faster… Well, other than a couple of glances my direction, I got complete ambivalence. It kind of reminded me of trying to ask girls out when I was in high school! He finally got up the bank and up the closest tree, where he promptly went to sleep after all the exertion.
On the way down the hill, outside the park, we pass a beautiful lake that was busy today. I snuck through the fence and got a couple of shots for you.
Because this is Sunday and Cerro Azul seemed pretty busy, we decided to take advantage of the lack of traffic and head to the downtown core, which would be really busy if we tried to do this on a weekday. We guessed right! Traffic was light. From our driveway to the downtown core takes about an hour, using the new toll road Corredor Sur (Corridor South). Traffic was light and most of the way it is a speedy 110K. There are two tolls to pay of $1.40 and $1.25, at different locations. We guess that using the toll road shortens the trip by about an hour due to traffic, lights, jambs, and just the general insanity of going the old route and driving in Panama.
Us being Hillbillies and all, we decided to head for the high rent district to spend some of Grannies money (Andrea wanted to be called Ellie Mae but you and I both know the real truth here!) in Punta Paitilla which is a little peninsula into the Bay of Panama right off the downtown core. There are several very, and I mean very nice residential towers. The new Trump Tower is just one. We picked a tower and approached it, thinking I would get some nice shots in the lobby, but the sharp-eyed security dude headed us off before we could even start up the front stairs and politely stymied our access attempt. We turned around and thought we would have a look at the Trump Tower. First stop was the gift shop, thinking I would pick up a Trump something golf shirt or such. The young guy in the shop was the owner (from Pittsburg). We got talking and found out that his shop had only been open for about three months and it was going well. He pays $40 per Sq.M for rent. I asked about the Trump shirts and he said they are trying to bring them in from the US but any merchandising with the Trump name is heavily protected legally and he was still going through the legal hurdles. He said the hotel was averaging only about 25% occupancy and then told us something that surprised us. Trump apparently has nothing to do with the building, except lending it his name for a price. There is your useless factoid for the day!
We prowled the mall in the Trump building and found only a couple of stores actually read to open. There was a very cool wine tasting bar that we have to go back to and a gelato bar that we couldn’t get by. Gelato for two was $9.35. Remember we are in the Trump tower!
We wandered the obviously high-end neighborhood and found a beautiful little park, right on the ocean. It was shaded by huge canopy trees and there were a few locals sitting or playing with their kids on the well manicured grass. It made for a beautiful sight with the ocean in the background! We found a Super 99 store in the area and stopped in to pick up a couple of things. Just like Co-op at home, they adjust their stores to the neighborhoods they are in. This store was much different from the Super 99 we bought supplies at before going up to Cerro Azul. Marble floors, wide aisles, neat shelves and staff who spoke some English were all noticeable differences. Just like at home for stores like this, you pay a small premium.
We thought we would grab a late lunch before heading back and selected a little restaurant in the mall with the Super 99 called Marina Marina. This is a combination restaurant serving bistro/fusion type food. Attentive English-speaking servers, good service and tasty food made this a great experience. Lunch for two $27, including fresh juice, sandwiches, and cappuccino.
We had planned to leave downtown with enough time to get back up the hill in daylight. With so much local traffic up in the Cerro Azul area we knew that there would be lots of traffic coming back to town on the road and didn’t want to deal with the unpredictable Panamanian drivers in the dark on a narrow winding badly lit road. We managed to get home in tact but wonder how many of these drivers survive driving here. They drive with headlights off in the dark, they don’t stay on their own side of the road even when oncoming traffic is obvious. If they have to stop for some reason, they just stop in the driving lane and get out of their vehicle forcing everyone else to go into the other lane to go around them. They pull out right in front of you without warning. We find driving here in Cerro Azul during the week just fine with only the few permanent residents around but need to be on guard all the rest of the time.
Our activities for tomorrow remain undetermined. Let it be a surprise!