When times were slower....
When people didnít have a car and
walked more? Or rode their bikes ?
When you actually talked to your
When you said good morning or good
afternoon as you passed people on
When you went into a local
restaurant and the owner came out
and sat and chatted with you ?
My husband and I just got home from such
a place. It is El Valle in Panama. This
turned out to be one of the best
vacations we have ever experienced. Not
because of the things we did but because
of the people we met.
Our trek started in Panama city. We had
the fortune to have met Tom and Donna
through their web site. Two of the most
likeable people you would ever want to
Tom and Donna volunteered to meet us at
the air port and take us to our hotel.
Without them I am sure our trip out of
the airport to the hotel would have been
very harrowing. If you donít know it the
traffic in Panama city is horrendous.
Tom and Donna made it easy for us.
I am not sure they knew what they were
in for. Our plane landed on time. That
was the good news... the bad news was
that our gate had another plane at it
and we had to go to a holding area. The
Captain said it should be 20 min. Well
20 min turned into 2 hours. The engines
were turned off and it got pretty warm
on the plane. Well we never expected Tom
and Donna to stay that long. I figured
that we would get a cab... but no as we
came out of customs there was TOM ...
what a relief. Once we walked outside
there was Donna and Cricket (their dog).
We loaded up the bags in Toms car and
off we went to the hotel. After the full
day of travel we were tired and we went
The next morning we were up early. We
went to the restaurant in our hotel and
ordered coffee. Well this was our first
experience with caffe con leche. The
coffee in Panama is very strong and we
learned real fast (from Tom and Donna)
to add leche. Once we did that we were
Tom and Donna once again met us at the
hotel and helped us get out rental car.
Once that was all done off to Gamboa
Rain Forrest along the Panama Canal. We
followed Tom and Donna to Gamboa. What a
treat! Tom and Donna had the foresight
to share their walkie talkies and it was
like we had our own private tour guide
as we drove along the canal to Gamboa.
Along the canal we saw several ships
loaded with hundreds of containers. What
was a delight. We started with a very
nice breakfast buffet. Then off to the
Tram tour of the rainforest... the views
were breathtaking. Once you get to one
end of the tram ride you get off and
hike up to the tower where you can see
the canal and the country side .... it
was breathtaking. Then the hike back to
the tram and again back in the canopy of
the rainforest ... we saw a howler
monkey.... and a couple of sloths. Not
to mention all the pretty greenery,
flowers and birds. What a treat!
Once we had done all that we were on way
to El Valle.
We parted ways with Tom and Donna and we
were on our own. Tom got us on the
Panamerican Highway. Off we went.
The country side was beautiful. As you
came into towns you do see the poverty.
There is a bit of culture shock as you
drive. Well I should say there was for
me. There are tiny little homes
scattered all over the country. The
stores are just square building with
some kind of advertisements painted on
them and in front the locals all hang
Panamanians are crazy drivers. Something
we didnít know before we came. We were
told but we didnít believe it till we
saw it. They are crazy drivers. It is ok
you just have to be a bit more careful
and expect that there are some crazy
drivers out there.
After maybe 90 minutes to 2 hours (not
sure here was too busy looking around)
we arrived at the turn for El Valle. Up
the mountain we went.
At the 11km mile marker we stopped at
Mary and Matts home. A beautiful home
perched on top of a mountain with a
fantastic view of the mountains and you
can see all the way to the pacific
ocean. We sat and visited with them for
We met Mary on her website about Panama.
They also were very helpful and
instrumental in helping us get our trip
put together. Like I said it was not the
things we did it was the people we met.
off to El Valle. As you come around the
mountain you come into this quaint
little town. Streets lined with
Little/big homes... Little street side
restaurants...and the local grocery
stores. El Valle is where a lot of
Panamanians come on the week ends for
pleasure. We definitely found out why
they enjoy it so much.
At the far end of town we came to our
destination. Anton Valley Hotel. A very
pretty hotel in town. Gardens all
around. A lovely patio in front to sit
and visit or to sit and have breakfast.
We had breakfast on the patio each
morning we were there and it was an
wonderful experience. In the mornings
you would see all the locals head in one
direction either on foot...on bikes ...
in buses...and a few in cars headed for
their jobs. In the evening you would see
them headed in the opposite direction
after their day at work headed back home
after a day at work.
From the hotel is a lovely view of La
India Dormida (the sleeping Indian).
There are mountains all around and
fantastic views. El Valle is in a crater
of a inactive volcano so there are
mountains all around it.
El Valle is one of the most charming
towns we have ever been in.
Walking into the hotel we were greeted
by Les and Earl. We fell in love with
these two and their staff. You cannot
understand why until you experience it.
First class treatment all the way is all
we can say. You have to experience it to
I am not going to go into day by day but
try to sum up the experience.
We sat on the patio each day and had
breakfast. A lovely breakfast... You
could have an American breakfast of ham
and eggs and hash browns or a Waffle or
a Panamanian breakfast and at the end
the bill for 2 was approximately $6.00
depending on what you had. That is not
$6.00 each that is the entire bill. We
tried each thing on the menu and loved
It was either the first or second day we
were there. One side of the hotel was in
sun and on the other side you could see
it raining. All of a sudden I realized
there should be a rainbow and sure
enough Rudolfo (one of the Panamanians
that work there) pointed it out to us.
That was the one and only rainbow we saw
the whole trip. It was BEAUTIFUL and
such a treat.
In the evenings we would walk into town
and have dinner at one of the little
roadside restaurants. They donít look
like much at first glance but once you
go in and sit down and have a meal you
understand. It doesn't have to be fancy
or beautiful to be good. The food was
delicious. The service was phenomena.
The people were the friendliest you will
I am not a fish person but the fish here
was REALLY REALLY GOOD. The first night
we had Corvina (a Sea Bass) YUMMMMMMMM.
Through the week we had several fish
dinners and they were all delicious. We
tried several different restaurants and
all were good we were not disappointed.
In the evenings after dinner we would
sit on the porch and chit chat with
whoever came out. Sometimes it was Les
or Earl and sometimes it was other
guests. It was delightful.
During the day we wanted to see some of
the properties in the area that were for
sale. We hooked up with Rachael and
Giovanni who own El Valle Real Estate.
Well I don't know where to start. They
are one of the nicest couples you would
ever want to meet. They took us out in
their 4 wheel drive and showed us El
Valle like not many ever get to see. We
went places you could not imagine.
One stop was Las Nubes which means The
Clouds. Yes the mountain road goes into
the clouds. It is a beautiful area. We
stopped at one lot that over looks El
Valle and I got out to take a picture
and when I reached the edge of the
property I felt like I was in heaven. It
We spent a couple of days going around
El Valley with Rachael and Giovanni
looking at different properties all over
El Valle it was extraordinary. If you
are in the area and want to look at
property we highly recommend El Valle
We also visited El Macho waterfalls.
WOWOWOWOW beautiful. Well worth the
$3.50 they charge for the guided tour.
There is some hiking here. There is a
hanging bridge you have to go across and
there is a small river you have to cross
(on rocks) to get to the other side.
One day we took the 20 minute ride to
the beach and we ended up in Santa
Clara. We parked the car and walked the
beach. On the beach there was this line
of people pulling on a cord. There were
some people camping on the beach and we
asked what was going on and they
explained that they were fishermen and
that they had put the net out the night
before and now they were pulling it out
to see what they had caught. There had
to be over a dozen people pulling on
this rope... we didnít stay long enough
to see what was the catch but it must
have been a lot for all the pulling they
The beach had lovely bohios you could
sit under if you wanted to.
We met many Americans that were either
building their retirement homes here or
had all ready built and were living
here. Everyone was so very nice..... as
we said before it wasnít the things we
did (that did help) but it was the
people met they made the trip!
Well this pretty much explains our first
experience of Panama. Our trip back was
This was one vacation that we were not
anxious to come home. Usually after 10
days away we cannot wait to get home
....this time we had mixed emotions. We
wanted to get home to see our dogs but
we were not anxious to leave Panama.
Panama to us is a great and friendly
country and we will be back to