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Monday, April 15, 2013

Panama Canal Cruise: Panama

Well, my entry about going through the Panama Canal was so long that I did not want to keep writing about what we did at night. But to celebrate going through the Panama Canal, we went out to eat at one of the 2 restaurants onboard that charge an extra charge of $25 per person. We usually don’t do this but it was a special night. Our choices were the Bayou CafĂ©, which is a steakhouse serving Cajun style steaks, and Sabatini’s, and Italian restaurant. Since I don’t like Cajun food, we went to the Italian restaurant and ended up having steaks there! We were given a window seat and although it was dark, it was still nice. By the time we had an appetizer, soup, salad, and the side dish of mushroom pasta, we were stuffed and I could have done without the steak. First they served us bread with vinegar and oil for dipping. Chuck had fried calamari as an appetizer and I had a mushroom torte which was delicious. I had a salad and they brought Chuck and amazing seafood tomato soup which he really enjoyed. I wouldn’t have liked it because it was very fishy, and you could taste the fish even in just the tomato broth, but I am sure that soup is a favorite in parts of Italy. They then brought us each a small plate of pasta in mushroom sauce which was so delicious I could have had it as the main course. There was an option to do that, and I should have stuck with that option. Chuck loved his steak, mine was just okay. For dessert, I had a white chocolate mousse torte which was very good. Unfortunately, Chuck can’t remember what he had for dessert. We only know that when we left, we were stuffed! The whole meal for the most part was delicious and the experience was wonderful. We shared a bottle of wine from Italy as well, but I don’t remember the name of it at the moment. The next day, we were in the port of Fuerte Amador, which is just outside of Panama City. We took a bus through Panama, starting in Panama City to get back to the first locks we had gone through. We had booked a tour of the Gatun Locks and a boat ride on Gatun Lake, which was basically a boat ride to find wildlife. We backtracked back to the start of where the Panama Canal begins via bus, and then were able to climb up onto a viewing building next to the Panama Canal’s Gatun Locks and we were able to watch a huge ship traversing the lock and it was really a different experience watching the ship from the land. Out near the entrance to the tourist viewing area, there was an example of a “mule” from the opening time of the Panama Canal (1914), and one from present day. The one from the 1914 time period has a GE symbol on it, so I made sure I took a picture of Chuck with that since he does some work with General Electric and I thought that would be fun to have. After we viewed that ship, we got back on the bus and headed to a small, family owned Botanical Garden and Nature Center where we were given life jackets and loaded onto a small boat that fit 20 people to motor around on the lake and look for wildlife. It was a bit scary doing this because if you remember I told you in an earlier blog entry that the islands that now stand in Gatun Lake used to be hilltops and mountaintops? Well, a lot of trees from that original time of the flooding of the lake are now just stumps sticking out of the water by anywhere from a few inches to a foot. The guy steering the boat had to be very careful not to crash into any of those. It was a nice ride around the lake and I was happy to get Chuck back on a boat since he still misses his boat. Some of you may be wondering what I could possibly be talking about since Chuck and I are ON A BOAT for 2 weeks during this cruise. But this is a different type of boat than motoring around close to the water on a lake. During our one hour boat ride, we saw 1 lone howler money sitting in a tree, 2 sloths, a few butterflies, and once again, many, many birds. The guide we had today was named, “Roberto” and he was very interesting. During the bus rides, we learned all about the history of Panama and the country’s economy, exports, etc. After returning to the bus, it was a 45 minute bus ride back to the boat. It was sad to see the way many people in Panama live. There is a lot of poverty, both here in Panama and also in Columbia. The one thing I like about taking a tour that involves bus ride is the chance to see the homes and yards of the people who actually live there. We got back to the ship, had a late lunch ( at 4 p.m.), worked out, relaxed a bit and then went to dinner in the Horizon Court buffet in time to catch a Movie Under the Stars. The movie they played was, “Parental Guidance,” starring Billy Crystal and Bette Midler, and it was one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. I haven’t heard much about this movie and don’t even know when it came out, but it made me laugh and it made me cry and I came away from this movie feeling fortunate to have seen it! Tomorrow is a day at sea so it will give us a chance to relax and stay out of the heat.

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