Monday, October 01, 2018

Update #8 - European Summer Vacation

October 1, 2018

hey there folks.....i am sorry it has taken me so long to get out an update....but school this year is a bit more work...some good reasons behind that, some not...but i felt i really needed to now get the summer update out, as i have been in panama for two months and have already had a long weekend in costa rica....more on that in the next update.....but on with my amazing, friend-oriented summer vacation....i was in the states for a short time before heading to europe, but then was there for about a month....stops included my first time in belgium, and repeats in france, portugal and spain....mostly to see people, but of course it was lovely to be in europe where things work more smoothly than central america...and during WORLD CUP!!!! so on with the update.....1st stop brussels, belgium.....


the main square of downtown brussels is where all of the government buildings and guilds are located....amazing gilded buildings....at the time i arrived, belgium was still in the world cup....so the town was covered in flags and excitement filled the air....


one peaceful spot i found was in the town hall, as the square was busy getting ready for a historical pageant...i just loved the wheel barrow and the flowers....


did you know belgium was where the smurfs originated???? i had no idea...and was really confused when i started seeing them everywhere....statues, murals, fountains.....wild to see 


while in belgium i of course did a beer and chocolate tour....quite possibly one of the best things i have done in a long time....the building you see above is a very famous chocolatier's place...pierre marcolini...the chocolate was to die for and extremely creative....the beer houses were interesting too and we tasted quite a few different types of beers and chocolate....but i loved the way he decorated the whole building, for the summer season, in windmills....


so brussels has a mascot of the city....the manneken pis....and yes, it is a little boy peeing....but this statue is impressive in that they dress him up in a different outfit for important days...he actually has 999 different outfits and special dressers....the people of brussels are quite excited for his 1,000th outfit and it has been a secret of what it will be....can you even see him at the top of the hillside of sheep????? he was dressed like this for a historical festival concerning the farmers of belgium....earlier in the week he was wearing the belgian national soccer team's jersey.....too funny....


one of my favorite parts of visiting belgium was stopping by the huge sculpture from the 1958 world's fair....yep....its an atom...called the atomium......perfect for a science geek....


and even better...i got to share this with a friend of mine from HIGH SCHOOL...we have both gone into the world of international teaching and have tried connecting before...but this time finally, heather and i got to hang and catch-up...she and her family are currently living in brussels...and i caught them in between summer travel....lucky, lucky me...so cool to catch up and hang out.....


from brussels i jumped a train to die, france (that's the name of the town, honest), where my friends rick and thalia live in the summer....a quaint little town that i have visited before (remember the running of the sheep a few years back?)....but i love their bi-weekly market....i have not found something like this in panama as of yet....love this aspect about france....the cheese!!!!!


berries were also in season and i loved how this was almost the french flag...if only the red and the while were switched....but i had not seen the white berries before.....


this time around we made it to 2 different parts of rivers to go swimming....not a bad swimming beach on a river in france...stunning backdrop....and as we were leaving a mountain goat decided to stop by and say hi.....


while i was visiting i read a book about the french resistance during world war 2....and the museum was a few towns over from where they lived....so we went to check it out....the french feel one of the reasons normandy went better than expected, was because 10,000 SS nazi troops did not make it to the beaches, as they were engaged by the maquis, french resistance fighters, in this valley....this is the view from the museum honoring the men and women of the maquis....


once again it was lovely to visit with rick, thalia and sadie in france...where the air is clean, the wine is flowing and the living is easy.....


i, of course had to take a picture of the bloomin' lavender for my mom....love the blue sky, stone farming building and the rows and rows of lavender....i do not like the smell....but it sure is pretty...


from france i headed to lisbon, portugal to have a reunion with friends from romania and china....the graffiti in parts of the little town on the edge of lisbon, carcavelos, was amazing....


while in lisbon, we went to an exhibit of m. c. escher...this is one of his most famous self portraits of himself....but if you look closely you can see madelena, greg, dianne and myself...i have no idea how they did this, but it was sooooooo cool.....


we also went to the museum of art, architecture and technology.... it seems these types of signs are everywhere these days...so of course we had to have a shot with it....interesting place...might have been a bit to modern art focused for me...i missed much of the meaning... 


of course we had to try and find an indian meal while hanging in lisbon, as that is our go to meal when traveling together....and how funny that dianne and i each wore a nasa shirt....no, we did not plan it...we just both have really good scientific taste in clothing!!!!!


from lisbon i was off to see kelly and ed in cebreros, spain...i arrived the day of the final game of the world cup....of course wearing my croatian ice hockey shirt...in the bar they had a world cup statue replica....so i had to do this....the men of the bar did not really like all of our cheering, but we did it anyway....


the area they have a place is stunning....beautiful hills, olive groves, blue skies and it was perfect weather....


we took a day trip to avila....the town of saint teresa...and walked the fortified walls of the city...it was a spectacular day and the walk was amazing....


we also stopped in the main cathedral of avila....simply beautiful...i was lucky to catch this shot of the sun coming through the stained glass windows...


on our way out of town i caught a good shot of a stork chillin' in it's nest....they were everywhere...and are considered good luck....so of course i had to take the shot :)


from spain i headed to paris for one day before jumping a flight back to the states....i stopped by a church i had not visited, but had read about in one of dan brown's novels...saint-sulpice....loved the fountain outside of it....


and the area i stayed in was an amazing location with some incredible street art....loved this one of the two kids at a corner....


this final picture is not from my trip....it is from panama....so panama is now going trough "pope-frenzy"....he is coming for a week in january...and let's just say people are very excited....this is the logo for his visit....i figured some of you might enjoying seeing it....do you see the country of panama, the canal, a pilgrim cross, the virgin mary and her crown containing the five continents???? i have to be honest, when i first saw it, i saw none of those things....i saw an elephant....sorry to be a bit sacrilegious....just being honest....so this place is getting all prepped and ready for his visit and celebration of world youth day...i am planning to be out of the country, as we have a week off during the visit.....more on that in the next update.... 


of course there is one more shot of me and beer....a beligian, trappist beer...from a traditional dinner spot....the person i was with had mussels, from brussels...i did not....but the beer was sure tasty....

so there you have it....my european tour this summer....again, i am so sorry it took me so long to write this, but school is uber busy this year....new classes, new teaching partner, new curriculum, new schedule....and i am having to decide if i am staying by oct 12th....so some thought is taking place right now....we have lots of other stuff happening....so i am not sure what i will decide....there are definitely positives and negatives about being in panama....but one of the positives is how many people have already come to visit....so consider this your invitation once again....this may your last year to do it...i promise to let folks know what i decide....and folks should let me know when/if they want to come on down....

as always....if you have any questions, please ask....and i hope you have all had a good start to your fall or spring, depending on which hemisphere you are in.....until next time....

peace out....dani

Monday, July 02, 2018

Update #7 - Taste of Panama

June 30, 2018

hi there folks....trying to get out one more update about my year before my big european summer vacation trip....i decided i needed to get out the last few months of panama, as i traveled a bit with friends visiting and just on weekend trips to fun beaches, the mountains and the canal.....so below you will see some of the adventures i had on my weekends from the past few months....hope you enjoy them.....on with the show....



the first beach stop we hit these past few months was chame....this is located on a point, out in the pacific ocean and is about 90 minutes southwest of panama city.....the day we went was beautiful, and the beach was deserted......as was the water....which was a bit suspicious.....but then we got closer.....


the beach was covered by three types of stinging jellyfish....the biggest ones were the type above (i actually have no idea what they are called)....but they were massive blobs that were about the size of a dinner plate or bigger....these did not have tentacles....so we were not 100% sure if they stung....


the second type looked like man-o-war jellies....and had very long tentacles.....and these definitely stung....they actually left stingers all over the beach and as you walked through the water you could feel them...but again...i am not really sure what they are called....


the last type we encountered were these blue ones....i think these are a type of perseus jelly....not sure if these stung as well....and there were not as many of these types....these were about the size of person's forearm....and very pretty....also quite weird.....i was very sad we did not get to be in the water, but it was a lovely day to walk around and check out the jellyfish....


as i said before, we were in chame....which is a beach location on the pacific side of panama (which is south of the city by the way)....these cool signs have been put up every where in panama...and i am trying to get as many of them as i can....you'll see another one later in the update.....


one of the other locations in panama i visited a few times before the end of the year was el valle....i was there with friends that visited and on two get-away weekends....their market is one of the fun places we always stop....you can find fruits, veggies (like the peppers above), plants and work created by artisans.....and across the street is a bakery with some of the best coconut macaroons i have ever had....i love the colors of the market...


these are some of the crafts and trinkets you can find in the market....always license plates....why??? well, you have have to buy a new one every year....not just the registration sticker....the whole plate, because each year, as you can see is a different color....talk about a way to make money....


one of the malls i go to for the movies had a cool art installation for the start of the rainy season....there had to be around 200 umbrellas in the space....loved all the colors...but the rainy season is a bit crazy in my opinion....lasts for 9 months...and really, it rains...with lightning and thunder, almost every day....i have never seen lightning storms like i have seen in panama....hopefully i will catch some strikes in photos in the coming year...its a goal....


this is the oldest catholic church in the city - located in casco viejo - the oldest section of the city that was built in old european city style....this part of the city was destroyed and then rebuilt after 1671, when it was attacked by pirates....i have not seen the spires of this church (to the left and right of the center building), without construction materials around them....however, i love the central part and newly added artwork/graffiti on the front....the name of this catholic church is iglesia felipe neri and can be found in one of the main squares in casco viejo....a tourist stop for sure....


the bus you see above is a diabolo....it is a converted bus from the time when the US Navy was in panama....these used to be the mode of public transport here....but as you can see from the large tail pipe, huge polluters....they are now not supposed to be used in the city, unless they have been converted...and now in the city they are used as party buses....they are all painted by the owners as well....loud and crazy is a way to describe them....i have not been on one....yet....


panama city is a port city and has quite a large amount of fishermen....this is the giant country flag flying down in the fishermen's port...also where the fish market is and where you can find the freshest ceviche....as you can see, the sun is shining, but the clouds are coming....when this picture was taken it was soooooooo humid.....we were hoping the storm was coming soon....


i love many of the signs in panama....many times it looks like the person crossing is getting ready to salsa....and some of them have bigger butts poking out, like they are already dancing....this one's butt is not poking out....but it is getting ready to dance....


panama had two really big things happen last year and the countdown was on for these two happenings.....the first, is that the pope is coming to panama in january 2019.....the clock you see above is the countdown clock to his visit....261 days with 18 hours, 6 minutes and 23 seconds....they are very excited for this visit and expect approximately 3 million people to come to panama....there are only 4 million people in the country....so this is a HUGE thing....i am really hoping not to be in panama for this visit....as i think it will be way too crowded for me....


the second big happening was that panama qualified for the world cup last september/october....we even had a national holiday because this happened....if you have been following world cup, you know that they did not progress from the group stage, but that they scored their first ever world cup goal...a huge deal for a country that has never qualified before this year....when this picture was taken, there were forty days to go until the start of the world cup....at this point i am cheering for croatia and belgium, as panama is now out!!!!


another beach we made it to recently was playa blanca....we did an all-inclusive adventure....it was a crazy experience and one i do not really need to have again....but they really did take care of their beach front....


they also had an aviary on the grounds and it was cool to see toucans up close and personal....i have seen them in the rain forest, but never this close.....


this is carla and i at one of those signs....for the all inclusive place we stayed at on playa blanca....i do love the colors and that they had a start fish on their placard... 


and the third beach i made it to this spring was farallon....i stayed at a friend's villa at the same resort manuel noreiga used to go to....the resort is a bit tired, but the villas are quite nice and you get access to the beach and pool and beach club, so this is the view at the beach....a beauty of a day :)


i also stopped at a beach place on the way out for lunch.....they had this great artwork of jellies....maybe i should have asked them what the jellies on chame were....maybe next time.....


there was one more quick weekend trip to el valle in the mountains and the place we stayed had an artist from austin living there....she has a dog, which you can see above, that has the same colored hair as her owner.....wild folks in wild places....this pup reminded me a lot of dogs in china.....


one of the things you can do while staying in el valle is hike up the sleeping maiden....can you see her??? she is lying down in this shot....the peak all the way to the right is the tip of her nose...then moving left you can see her lip...and then her chin....now can you see her?????


the end of the school year of course was very busy...as it is for all school teachers....but we also took the time to celebrate and say goodbye to colleagues who are moving away and retiring...in this picture you can see some of my middle school colleagues....



well....so i realized i do not have a good picture of me having a beer...and wish i had one with this particular beer can....so you will have to enjoy the beer by itself and me by myself....as you can see this is a national beer brand in panama...balboa...and it is a world cup can.....the celebration for panama making it to its very first world cup....so exciting.....


this last shot is of me with some wings created at our school during arts fest....at this moment in time i was drowning in work and tying to get everything done....but as all teachers do, i survived and got it done....and am soooooooo happy to be on vacation.....

i hope everyone enjoyed this glimpse into my every day world and panamanian world....it is a lovely place to visit...the beaches, the rain forest, the canal, the mountains....so think about coming on down and let me know your thoughts....i hope every one has a lovely summer/winter, depending on your hemisphere....i am off to europe for a bit and then will be back in panama...if you have any questions, feel free to send them my way...although i may take some time in returning an answer.....

have a fab day :)
dani