Panama City, Panama

The three-day, three-flight homeward bound extravaganza included 12 hours in Panama, so we took the opportunity to book a 5-6 hour private tour to check out Panama City.

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This first batch includes airports and some highlights, including the Frank Gehry Biomuseo, the bridge of the Americas (connecting the continents), a monument about the canal and the people of Panama, etc…

 

Once Gonzo our guide picked us up at the airport, our first stop was the Panama Canal and the Visitor’s Center at the Miraflores Locks. (We did it up, including the IMAX movie narrated by Morgan Freeman.) Amazingly, rather than a huge cargo ship, we watched a US nuclear submarine go through the original locks. (A huge cargo ship did go through the expanded system above – see videos below.) We also went through the four-level museum and exhibits, thus some of the pix of ships…

 

Timelapses of the submarine and cargo ship going through the old and new locks respectively…

 

 

 

Unfortunately the Biomuseo and the Nature Center were closed on a Monday, but Gonzo insisted on looking for sloths in the trees adjacent to a parking lot. And sure enough he found a couple (and an iguana). Some pix of the harbor, the skyline, and the old town…

 

 

More than one church, including the cathedral which Pope Francisco visited, so we had to go in to cool off. (Crazy huge nativity scene in one of ’em.)

 

 

Some of the old colonial buildings were burned or otherwise destroyed, but as the area is now preserved as a UNESCO site, the walls remain…

 

 

For lunch we went to Diablitos, and here are some of the festive masks they had up on the walls. Part of a syncretic tradition in Panama, at least according to Gonzo (who recommended the soup, but ML had the ceviche in a coconut)…

 

Last batch of our 2019 summer vacation: the PC skyline, map of old town, frolicksome architecture, and Copa Airlines (who did not lose our luggage on the way home.

 

 

Special thanks to Bob Meehan who dropped us off and picked us up, way past his bed time! And thanks to anyone who has read this far and looked at all my posts! You rock!

Ciudad del Cielo, Part 2

The rest of the family was either sick or sick & tired, in any case not willing to adventure forth – as I am oft compelled to do. This set, mostly a return to Plaza Murillo and Calle Jaen, a charming street on the tourist list lined with museums…

 

Just off Calle Jaen, at the end of the street, is the (Bolivian) Museum of Musical Instruments

 

At the lower end of Calle Jaen, across from the Museum of Musical Instruments, is the Mamani Mamani Gallery…

 

Speaking of art, on my ramblings about La Paz I encountered lots, purposeful, guerrilla, and incidental…

 

In conclusion, here’s some miscellany, including street performers, folkloric dancers, mysterious colonial buildings, Andes, Incans, and a lovely coffee house we found around the corner from our apartment.

 

Our way home was long. Starting with a check out time of noon and first leg departure of 7:00. Then a five hour layover in Santa Cruz, followed by a six hour flight to Panama City. The twelve hour layover there allowed us to take a little tour of the town and the Panama Canal! We’re not home yet…

Ciudad del Cielo, Part 1

“Ciudad del Cielo” was an apt slogan I read somewhere about La Paz, likely because of the altitude. But it also applied to our AirBnb and the relatively new (2014) public transportation system – sky, heaven, definitely up there.

After the end of our Intrepid tour, we moved into a high-rise (20th floor) AirBnb in the center of La Paz. In fact, the Edificio Santa Isabel was a prominent fixture just south of the plaza of the same name. Pablo, our host, could not have been a nicer, nor more accommodating host. He gave us many great tips about La Paz and the surrounding neighborhood. Views of, from, and hereabouts…

 

On our first full-day on our own we took an impromptu city-tour on the gondolas (the cable cars) around the city of La Paz. Some time-lapse clips (don’t miss the third one that goes over an “art community”)…

 

Some art in a museum at the top of the white line…

 

Some pix from above…

 

We went back to the Witch’s Market to buy some souvenirs and negotiate some great deals (or not such great deals) with some nice folks…

 

We went to the Magic Cafe, or a restaurant with heavy Harry Potter theme…

 

“El Valle de la Luna” (Valley of the Moon) was not a valley, and perhaps more about sand castles than lunar geography, but it was an interesting diversion nonetheless…

 

Stay tuned for more of La Paz…

La Paz, Bolivia

After a heartfelt goodbye to Giscard, we motored via bus (lux again) on to La Paz with our new Intrepid guide Wendy (she had a tough act to follow and we were only with her for an afternoon walking tour). Strange itinerary really, to spend one day in La Paz after over two weeks in Peru? In fact, it was a “let you down slowly” plan that we had already anticipated and enhanced by a three-day AirBnb-stay.

La Paz is in a big hole, geographically. Somehow, people decided to populate a deep valley that is now completely coated with bricks & humanity. The snaggles of electrical lines (similar to parts of India), the labyrinths of social connections to which they speak, added a contemporary splintering to a layout – a scene – much older. Snipets of colonialism, traces of older, eclipsing newness…

 

 

This clip of pix contains important murals in downtown La Paz, displays in a shop in the Mercado de Brujas (Witch’s Market) in the old section, Wendy our guide, pan-patterns…

 

 

The church, the mall, the plaza, the government buildings in our City Walk with Wendy…

 

 

This is the famous San Pedro Prison that used to be a tourist attraction in La Paz. Families live together (?!) and there’s a line of people coming and going in front all the time. Photography not allowed, but I was told after a few snaps, others are from our hotel room window which looked – lovelingly – upon the adjacent prison…

 

 

On the 4th of July, our 20th Wedding Anniversary, Mary Lynn & I & the kids said goodbye to our crew – Team GC. We’d had a great time in the English Pub near the Witch’s Market and took our leader Giscard’s decision to go to a nice restaurant near the center, the plaza, the public entertainment zone in front of the big church.

 

 

Special thanks to Giscard Condori, our fearless (intrepid!) leader.

Vicky from Australia, Mona from the UK,

Kirsten & Charlotte, and Andy & Paul (Pol?) from New Zealand.

What an experience? What a moment!

You are forever welcome to come visit us in California.

Much love, the Vail family.

 

 

Lake Titicaca & Puno, Part 2

After our volleyball games (round 1), we dressed in the local finery for some photos. We also perused potential purchases. Then, we went to the dining room to help chop veggies and peal potatoes, but were not compelled to help out in the kitchen. Another great dinner, and then off to bed for one of the best night’s sleep ever. There’s something about the weight of four heavy handmade blankets, cold, clear, and very thin air, the exhaustion of another busy day, and perhaps the primordial purity of our surroundings…

 

The next morning I woke up early and walked around. Calixto made an oven and was cooking lunch long before breakfast. After breakfast, we made our own ovens in a sort of competition. Both teams were winners, one for speed, one for quality. Then, it was time for round 2 of the volleyball tournament – good times again (no pix ’cause I finally got to play). Eventually, we had the lunch that had cooked all morning – various potatoes and calabasa with several tasty sauces. Afterwards, we bid farewell to our gracious hosts & hostesses, and once again set out upon the lake…

 

Our next destination was one of the “Floating Islands” of Lake Titicaca. Now, kind of tourist thing, but once upon a time, a necessity to avoid the Spaniards, etc. There are dozens near Puno, but we were further out on the lake when we encountered the Uros people. Not only did we learn some of their history, but also techniques for building a floating islands out of reeds – actually everything is out of reeds: boats, houses, clothing, even edibles. The wind was getting the best of our reed boat, so a modern, motorized one pushed us back. Then, our more modern, bigger motored boat took us back to Puno…

 

On the way back to Puno, Charlie got sunburned on the roof of the boat. We had an afternoon to poke around Puno, and I stumbled upon a protest in front of the main church. Hundreds of indigenous, mostly women were seated, flanked by riot police. Not sure what the kerfuffle was about.  That night, Giscard took us to dinner show featuring all kinds of music and dance routines depicting Peruvian culture, and a fried Guinea Pig (I sampled, but too squirrelly for my taste). The next morning we were up early for the bus to La Paz (and our farewell to Giscard at the border).

 

At the Peru-Bolivia border, our farewell photo with Giscard and the crew of “Team GC.” It really was a great group to travel with, and GC was a great guide – his equanimity, knowledge, and presence made for a wonderful experience in Peru.

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Puno & Lake Titicaca, Part 1

After a lovely day in Cuzco, and another laundry maneuver, we hopped on a very deluxe public bus for the long trip to Puno (Giscard’s home town) on the shores of Lake Titicaca. In between two nights in Puno, we took a long boat ride on the lake, did a homestay in an indigenous community, and visited two others.

First up, the trip from Cuzco to Puno with a bunch of pix of Juliaca (a boomtown on the way). Also in this set, another dinner extravaganza, and the pedi-cab (bicycle tuk-tuk) from our hotel down to the docks on the lake…

 

Our boat on the lake took us out to Taquile Island (owned by a colonial Spaniard who made everyone wear traditional Catalonian dress – the black shawl headwear being related to the Muslim rule of the Iberian peninsula). Reluctantly, I passed up a swimming opportunity (mighta froze to death), but we walked almost the length of the island and had a nice lunch (local trout!) with a spectacular view…

 

After lunch we boarded the boat again for a ride to our homestay. Everyone had a different family, but the kids and I were with Calixto, the leader of the group and father of the best volleyball player. After helping out with a few chores to learn the nature of their lives (managed some sheep and beans), we learned what awesome athletes these folks were…

 

Just a few clips of our super-fun volleyball games…

 

…enough for now. More in Part 2…

Back to Cuzco…

After our morning in Machu Picchu, we took the train back to Ollantaytambo, then got on a bus back to Cuzco to our same hotel for a “free day” the next day. This batch shows the Plaza de Armas from the church across the street, Cuzco Cathedral, modified skulls (some with trepanation), mummies buried in fetal position, and some other artifacts in the small but interesting Inca Museum.

 

This next batch is entirely from the Qorikancha, an eclectic museum, the Convent of Santo Domingo, and originally an Inca Temple destroyed by the Spaniards. Lots of art, new & old…

 

This final batch is the last of Cuzco, and the first part of our bus ride (on a super nice public bus) to Puno (Giscard’s home town). Some fun shop displays…

 

No Homework…

Machu Picchu

“Bucket List” is a selfish term, but Machu Picchu seems to be in everyone’s definition of it. The long story of Machu Picchu is so much more than mine. But I am pleased we made it. The Place, Pachacuti, the no-Spaniards, and then Hiram Bingham. (While I am posting this after the fact due to computer issues, etc., please note that we were there on Friday, June 28th 2019.)

This first batch of pix is the approach: from the train from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes, around town, at the visitor’s center, etc.

 

So satisfying that the very first encounter is the iconic perspective. It had been raining hard at the hotel in the early morning before we drove up in the bus. But there was no rain, only mist rising up and floating across the citadel…

 

Before we began our tour of Machu Picchu, we did the little hike to the “Inca Bridge,” a very precarious path along a sheer cliff.