Not that that was a hard choice to make. Right after the New Year, it really settles in for me that winter is well and truly underway, which means I have to summon all the willpower I possess to not go into full hibernation mode.
So instead of bundling up, I decided to strip down.
Into my bikini, that is.
Panama is located in Central America between Costa Rica and Colombia. It's most famous for the Panama Canal, a key conduit for international maritime trade.
Some compadres from Nomadness and I found a low airfare to Panama City, Panama, and hopped planes bound for the sun.
I landed late at night, and was sooo pleased to see a car waiting for me with my name on it! After a short ride through the city's metropolis, we arrived at the Royal Sonesta Hotel Panama, which would be my home for the next few days.
Arriving at my room, you have no idea how instantly I fell in love with this bed:
As well as the view the next morning!
I awoke in a sea of fluffy, million thread-count sheets and pillows, the sparkling sun shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows.
The view from the dining room on the 26th floor was even lovelier.
Treating us diners to a view of Panama that I would've never guessed existed, bookended with lush green mountains on the horizon.
Most of my fellow travelers were arriving over the next few days, so I had time to myself to unwind and explore. After a quick breakfast (fresh papaya!), I threw on a sundress and pounded the pavement.
Let me just say, I came to Panama without doing much research. At least I knew that the money was US dollars, but that was about it. I hadn't looked up things to do or booked a single excursion; this trip was the definition of playing it by ear.
Luckily, several years of Spanish classes in primary school came back to me and I was able to function fairly decently.
After chatting with the concierge for a bit, I found myself headed to the Seafood Market via Cinta Costera, a beautiful walkway along the bay in the middle of the city. In fact, it literally translates into "coastal beltway".
Its beauty, purpose, and impact on the city reminded me of projects like the Atlanta BeltLine. According to Wikipedia, Cinta Costera is a 64-acre land reclamation project completed in 2009 at a cost of $189 million. Sounds familiar!
I kinda like it!
Found my way to the seafood market and the music lured me into one of the shacks, press PLAY ►:
At which I ordered the frostiest, most satisfying cerveza I've ever had in my life, and also had my first fried fish with the head still on:
I chose not to eat the head and eyeballs, but the rest was delicious.
I took the scenic route back to the metro:
and copped beautiful views of the city as I crossed over the road:
and stumbled upon some nice street art!
As well as a building that is pretty artistic in and of itself.
Visions of the jacuzzi began to swim around in my mind, so I hopped the metro and headed back to the hotel.
When the doors of the elevator opened... I found myself looking right into the eyes of a Facebook friend!
I don't think I've ever been quite so surprised. He and I met at the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival a few months ago! So to meet up again, completely unplanned, in a whole other country, in an elevator, was absolutely astounding.
We'd become Facebook friends due to our shared love of dancing, but neither of us had posted anything about coming to Panama, so this was truly a surprise! Abraham was here with friends and family for a baby's baptism, and he invited me to join them for dinner later at a nearby restaurant, so I said sure!
An hour later, after a soak and a sauna, I headed down the street to Beirut, a Turkish restaurant. The food and the mood were fantastic.
Especially when the belly dance started! Press PLAY ►:
Oh yes, there were plates thrown!
And the guys joined in, too!
It was a fantastic, high-energy meal and I loved it.
Since I was headed to the beach at the crack of dawn the next day, I had to call it a night soon after this. But I couldn't have asked for a better first full day in Panama.