A Rude Welcome to Panama

This is Lambeau Field in Green Bay.  My hotel, while working, was across the street.

This is Lambeau Field in Green Bay. My hotel, while working, was across the street.

Our flight arrived at the gate in the Panama City, Panama Airport a little after 10 p.m. last Wednesday evening. After clearing customs and immigration, collecting our bags, and a 2.5 hour taxi ride across the Panamanian isthmus from south to north, we arrived aboard Beatitude just before 2 a.m., extremely tired and ready for sleep. Unfortunately, we were greeted by a mold and mildew convention which had taken up residence on almost all of our ceilings and walls. One of the crew members (I’ll name no names) left a window cracked on her side of the bed which, because this is Panama’s rainy season, means our mattress was soaked and somewhat mildewy, as well. We were too tired to address at at that time, so I slept on a couple of foam mattresses in the other hull, while Cindy tried to sleep on the salon settee. The bulk of our Thursday and Friday were spent scrubbing and cleaning the walls and ceilings with vinegar and/or bleach. It was a chore requiring abundant elbow grease, but we finally got Beatitude’s interior back into reasonable shape. Friday evening, we rewarded ourselves with our first Christmas movie of the season: It’s a Wonderful Life.

Beatitude is still afloat!

Beatitude is still afloat!

Mold!

Mold!

Pillows. :(

Pillows. 🙁

Yuck.

Yuck.

We drug our mattress in and out of the boat and onto the foredeck for five straight days.  I think it is finally dry!

We drug our mattress in and out of the boat and onto the foredeck for five straight days. I think it is finally dry!

Are we done yet?

Are we done yet?

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That's better!

That’s better!

On Saturday, we took the marina shuttle into town (ColĂłn) for some groceries, since we had virtually none remaining on the vessel. The trip into town has turned into a colossal undertaking since the bridges which allow one to transit the GatĂșn locks at the Atlantic opening to the Panama Canal are closed for some reasons. That means all vehicles must take the ferry across the canal, which turns a four-mile (as the crow flies) journey into a 1 or 2 hour trip each way. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our trip into Cuatro Altos (a shopping complex in town) where we bought some Christmas lights for our tree, some much-needed groceries, and a few other odds and ends.

Sitting on the bus on the ferry crossing the canal on our way to ColĂłn.

Sitting on the bus on the ferry crossing the canal on our way to ColĂłn.

Cindy in the parking lot of Cuatro Altos.

Cindy in the parking lot of Cuatro Altos.

The shopping plaza Christmas tree.

The shopping plaza Christmas tree.

Mold all gone... Now it's time to decorate for Christmas!

Mold all gone… Now it’s time to decorate for Christmas!

Our lovely tree.

Our lovely tree.

Salon decorations

Salon decorations

More Christmas decorations with my icon of the Nativity taking center stage. ( I purchased it last year in Bethlehem!)

More Christmas decorations with my icon of the Nativity taking center stage. ( I purchased it last year in Bethlehem!)

On Sunday morning, we joined three other Christians for a brief time of scripture reading and devotions in the cruisers’ lounge. In the afternoon, Cindy painted a Beatitude memorial on the side of the sail-loft here at the marina. This is a tradition found in various places where cruiser’s can leave a token of remembrance, so that other’s may know that they have been this way before. In the evening, we joined 20 or 30 other cruisers for a potluck on the “cruisers’ patio before returning to Beatitude for the second installment of our Christmas movie watching, White Christmas.

The Cruisers' Lounge.  Nice!  (And it has very good wifi!!!!)

The Cruisers’ Lounge. Nice! (And it has very good wifi!!!!)

The blank canvas for Cindy's memorial painting of Beatitude's visit to Panama.

The blank canvas for Cindy’s memorial painting of Beatitude’s visit to Panama.

Artist at work!

Artist at work!

Beatitude's place among the others who have come this way.

Beatitude’s place among the others who have come this way.

The final product.

The final product.

Sunday evening pot luck.

Sunday evening pot luck.

The most important task before us here in Panama is the repair of our vessel from the lightning strike sustained in the San Blas Islands. Due to very poor communication (primarily on the part of the insurance company), nothing was done while we were away for four weeks. Nothing. Fortunately, I was able to get the ball rolling again upon my return. Today, Julio, the surveyor hired by the insurance company, met with a couple of electronics surveyors, Erik and Francisco, who went over Beatitude’s electronics once again. I still need to get someone else to come look at the engines, generator, and water maker. Julio is apparently my go-to man for moving forward. All estimates and invoices must go through him and he must approve any decisions I make in regard to repairing the vessel. Anyway, hopefully the initial reports will be filed this week and perhaps I can start getting estimates next week. Then, the work can begin when the parts are in. I am hoping (although not holding my breath) for a late February departure. Time will tell.

Erik, Francisco, and Julio surveying the damages to our vessel.

Erik, Francisco, and Julio surveying the damages to our vessel.

Beatitude, at her slip, among the other vessels of Shelter Bay

Beatitude, at her slip, among the other vessels of Shelter Bay

Days 14-15: The Return to Madrid, Our Time in the States, and Our Return to Panama

We checked out of our hotel in Granada and drove four and a half hours back to Madrid. The drive was beautiful as we drove through the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains before entering the plains of Castile and La Mancha once again. We were awed with the miles and miles of olive trees for as far as the eye could see in every direction. They seemingly covered every mountain and every valley. As we entered La Mancha, a few vineyards were interspersed among the olive orchards.

Driving through the Sierra Nevadas (Olive trees everywhere)

Driving through the Sierra Nevadas (Olive trees everywhere)

More Sierra Nevada shots

More Sierra Nevada shots

AndalucĂ­a, the land of olives!

AndalucĂ­a, the land of olives!

Finally, we arrived in Madrid. I dropped off the ladies at the hotel and returned the rental car, catching the subway back to the hotel. We went for lunch at what was our favorite restaurant of our entire trip, Juana La Loca. The food was wonderful and it was always crowded with locals. That evening we walked over to the Plaza Mayor for some last minute gift shopping and dinner at the busy, congested Mercado de San Miguel just off the plaza. We wandered from booth to booth, eating tapa-sized portions and drinking excellent Spanish wine. (Well… Christy enjoyed the excellent Spanish Coca-Cola Light.)

Our ride for our trip through La Mancha and AndalucĂ­a

Our ride for our trip through La Mancha and AndalucĂ­a

Birthday girls at San Miguel's Mercado for dinner.

Birthday girls at San Miguel’s Mercado for dinner.

As we were about to leave the hotel for the airport on the follow morning, I was notified that our flight from Madrid to JFK was delayed for 2 1/2 hours. We only had a 2-hour layover in New York which meant we would miss our connection. We were not happy! But, we went ahead and took the taxi to the airport as planned at 7:30. When we arrived, we we happy to find out that we had been rerouted. We would fly direct to Atlanta, instead of having two layovers in both New York and Atlanta, and then we would fly on to Akron/Canton, Ohio. This new routing would mean we would have a layover in Atlanta of eight hours, but we were just happy to be back on American soil without further delays.

Now that's a burger!  (One of my Spanish meals.)  :)

Now that’s a burger! (One of my Spanish meals.) 🙂

Cindy has remained in Ohio with her family over the past week, while my stay in the Buckeye State was only a few hours long. The next day, I flew to Green Bay, Wisconsin for a 84 hours of work in 8 days at the Bellin Health Emergency Department. The winter gods showed mercy on this poor man who has acclimated to the Caribbean. The highs were in the mid-upper 40s on most days, and the lows were in the mid-30s on most nights. I survived my shifts in this new-to-me hospital and boarded the plane this morning for Atlanta, where I would once again rendezvous with my lovely wife for the flight back into Panama. We’re scheduled to arrive around 10 p.m. tonight, after which we’ll face a 1-2 hour ride back to the marina where Beatitude awaits. In spite of numerous emails, texts, and phone calls, the repairs to Beatitude have hardly progressed. One month down since the lightning strike, and not much accomplished in getting Beatitude ready to cruise again. Hopefully, once we are on site, things will progress more swiftly.

An elevator selfie.

An elevator selfie.

Day 13: The Alhambra (Granada)

Our second day in Granada was dedicated to visiting the Alhambra, the last and greatest Moorish palace. To see the splendor of the previous Moorish civilization, this is the place. Cordoba was reconquered by the Christians in 1236 and Sevilla in 1248. The Nazarids, one of several groups of Spanish Muslims, held out in Granada until 1492. There are four groups of sights clustered atop a hill. We visited them all on Friday afternoon.

Ready for a full day at the Alhambra.  Heading for breakfast before the uphill trek.

Ready for a full day at the Alhambra. Heading for breakfast before the uphill trek.

A beautiful, yet tiring, uphill walk to the Alhambra

A beautiful, yet tiring, uphill walk to the Alhambra

The birthday girls stopping on the way up the hill for a little recuperation and recovery. :)

The birthday girls stopping on the way up the hill for a little recuperation and recovery. 🙂

The Justice Gate, through which we entered the Alhambra complex

The Justice Gate, through which we entered the Alhambra complex

We first visited the Alcazaba, a fort which is the oldest and most ruined part of the complex. The present structure dates from the 13th century. From this fort, soldiers defended the entire Alhambra which had 2,000 Muslims living within the walls.

The Alcazaba

The Alcazaba

A view of the Albayzin (you can see the St. Nicolas bell tower that I climbed the previous day to view the Alhambra) from atop the fort (Alcazaba)

A view of the Albayzin (you can see the St. Nicolas bell tower that I climbed the previous day to view the Alhambra) from atop the fort (Alcazaba)

Looking down inside the fort and on the ladies from the tower

Looking down inside the fort and on the ladies from the tower

A view of Granada from the tower of the Alcazaba

A view of Granada from the tower of the Alcazaba

Cindy doing a little drawing/sketching from within the Alcazaba

Cindy doing a little drawing/sketching from within the Alcazaba

Part of the fortress

Part of the fortress

A cool look at the Granada Cathedral from atop the Alcazaba

A cool look at the Granada Cathedral from atop the Alcazaba

A view across the fort

A view across the fort

Leaving the Alcazaba through the gardens (snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains visible in background)

Leaving the Alcazaba through the gardens (snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains visible in background)

A view from the Alcazaba Gardens

A view from the Alcazaba Gardens

The ladies in the Gardens

The ladies in the Gardens

Next, we visited the palace of Charles V (the Holy Roman Emperor). He built a modern Renaissance palace within the complex which he used for official functions. He used the Palacios NazarĂ­es (which we’ll come to momentarily) as his royal residence in Granada.

The entrance to the Renaissance Charles V Palace

The entrance to the Renaissance Charles V Palace

You'd never expect to find a circle inside the square exterior of the Charles V Palace.   Great acoustics inside - it's used for musical events.

You’d never expect to find a circle inside the square exterior of the Charles V Palace. Great acoustics inside – it’s used for musical events.

Cool fixtures on the Charles V Palace exterior

Cool fixtures on the Charles V Palace exterior

From within the Palace, we looked out across a pool to witness a wedding.  "You may kiss the bride"

From within the Palace, we looked out across a pool to witness a wedding. “You may kiss the bride”

Thirdly, we visited the Generalife Gardens, which lie outside the protection of the Alhambra walls. These gardens served as the sultan’s vegetable and fruit orchards. It was also a summer palace retreat. There is also a beautiful, small palace located in the gardens.

The "baths" of the Alhambra.   We passed these on the way to the Generalife Gardens

The “baths” of the Alhambra. We passed these on the way to the Generalife Gardens

My lovely bride putting the beautifully-colored vines to shame.

My lovely bride putting the beautifully-colored vines to shame.

Walking through the Generalife Garden, which was filled with these sculpted Cypress shrubs

Walking through the Generalife Garden, which was filled with these sculpted Cypress shrubs

One of the fountains in the Generalife Gardens.  The small palace in the background.

One of the fountains in the Generalife Gardens. The small palace in the background.

The walls of the Moorish palace

The walls of the Moorish palace

View through the palace windows.

View through the palace windows.

Fountains/Courtyards of the Generalife Palace

Fountains/Courtyards of the Generalife Palace

Leaving the Generalife Gardens

Leaving the Generalife Gardens

Finally, we visited the Palacios NazarĂ­es, for which we had to buy tickets weeks in advance obtaining a reserved time during which we were allowed to enter the palace. The palace, which consists of royal offices, ceremonial rooms, and private quarters, was built in the 14th century. Many of the rooms were decorated from top to bottoms with carved wooden ceilings, stucco “stalactites,” molded plastic walls, and ceramic tiles.

Interior walls of the Palacios NazarĂ­es

Interior walls of the Palacios NazarĂ­es

Beautiful

Beautiful

More interior shots of the Palacios Nazaries

More interior shots of the Palacios Nazaries

Pool/Fountains inside the Palace

Pool/Fountains inside the Palace

Walls of the Palace

Walls of the Palace

Traces of the once beautiful colors remain

Traces of the once beautiful colors remain

More Palace shots

More Palace shots

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The walk up and down the hill to and from the Alhambra just about did the girls in. We did manage to find an excellent place for tapas before returning to the hotel.

Tapas for Dinner at this cozy place!

Tapas for Dinner at this cozy place!