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Weekend Getaways Reinvented in Panama

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Written by Matt   
Friday, 31 October 2008 11:31
Isla Taboga PanamaAs a child, cialis weekend getaways were epitomized by long car rides which left us so tired and cramped that, diagnosis by the time we arrived at our vacation destination, none of us wanted to speak to one another. Our trips were long because, in suburban America, nothing is close. Close was the diagonal drive across the empty parking lot from Linens 'n Things to Best Buy. The trip to the beach took four hours. We'd usually break up our trips up by stopping at convenient stores where cheap sunglasses, beef jerky, and the burley men who bought both of them at once acted as exotic distractions if only for a few minutes, before we realized that we still had three hours to go. Our trips would take us on big highways where the only scenery was a blurry mass of metallic exit signs and generic forested wasteland.

Forbidden from owning a Gameboy, my brother and I resorted to various intellectual games as methods of self-diversion. We enjoyed word puzzles, brainteasers, and the popular road trip game I Spy, our contents of which were a tribute to America's trashy consumer suburbia. "Something red..." I'd ponder. "Is it the Red Lobster sign? How about the McDonalds drive through overhead?"

Somewhere on one of these trips, I learned there were roughly nine million people that live in the sixteen main precincts of New Jersey, which meant that, if my family and I planned it carefully, we could visit all of them before we turned twelve hundred years old. Weekend trips required so much planning that, before we knew it, Monday would arrive and we'd be left another week to yearn.

In Panama, the concept of weekend getaways is reborn.

The amount of interesting destinations within a several-hour drive of almost anywhere in the country is enough to keep any tourist or local entertained for some time. One of my favorites is the literal hop over to Isla Taboga. Ridden with stories of pirates and conquistadores, the island of Taboga was founded back in the 1500s and is as rich in history as it is in sublime relaxation. It's a low-key vacation option, located about 12 miles off the coast, which reinvents, for a kid from penny loafer New Jersey, the concept of a weekend escape.

The city has a way of depleting you. Traffic, pollution, noise, phones: it's a hodgepodge of activity common to any large city that, over time, slowly sucks the energy and innovation from your bones leaving you robotic and dull as if just going through the motions. It was the kind of sunny weekday morning that inspired me, upon waking up around seven, to drive to the Amador Causeway and catch the Calypso ferry to Isla Taboga ($11 round trip) to get some of my mojo back by the beach.

I arrived on Taboga and was greeted by the caretaker- chef of a local hotel where I'd made a last minute reservation. The man, a longtime local named Aristedes, offered to take my backpack which I told him (citing the relationship between wit and leisure) was better left on my back considering it was filled with a team of baby turtles.

He walked me (and my turtles) through the town of Taboga, a narrow labyrinth of cobble-walkways and dangling bougainvilleas, then up an inclined path to B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical, my new favorite Taboga hideaway. The hotel itself is situated on a hillside higher than most establishments on Taboga and, while within walking distance of town, is blessed with its own serene Caribbean-like mountainside quietude. Cerrito Tropical is a beautiful retreat with a Creole ambiance offering both bed and breakfast rooms and vacation apartments: not the sort of thing that'd be out of place in Martinique or any other Caribbean isle. The place oozes relaxation.

Isla Taboga PanamaMy days on Taboga consisted of rigorous activities such as eating fried fish, downing cold pineapple juice, and relaxing on what amounted to my own private beach which was once a pirate´s hang out . I wandered up to a clifftop lookout that afforded a spectacular view of the same Panama City skyline I left not long before. I even went for a snorkel on the opposite side of the island, which is protected and offers a much improved water quality.

Aristedes, who I took to calling "A" (which in Spanish sounds more like "Ah"), is also the private Cerrito chef who prepared everything from ceviche to grapefruit salad from scratch. When I wasn't eating his food or hanging out on the beach, I took full advantage of B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical's wireless internet connection (having brought my laptop) and picturesque upstairs balcony which I converted into a temporary office complete with breezy palm fronds and lazy hammocks. Although work wasn't something I had planned on accomplishing during my stay, to say that the atmosphere was conducive to intellectual stimulation would be an understatement.

The weekend jaunt to Isla Taboga was a far cry from the over-planned vacations I used to take as a child. There was comparatively very little organization and the trip in its entirety cost less than $150.

Cerrito Tropical Bed & Breakfast Inn: Vacation Apartments
Tel: 507-390-8999: Cell: 507-6489-0074

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Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2008 12:28