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I’m looking forward to this post because it’s the first day since we got here that we didn’t do much but drive and play on the beach! Even so, I think these will be the best pictures taken so far… at least the most beautiful. As we drove, though, I could tell that our trip was about to become breathtaking!

First in line: breakfast. OK. We’re really getting tired of the 4 breakfast choices here at the Saba Hotel. Mostly because the refined grains don’t give us the energy we need for the day. Kristian doesn’t even finish his meager portion. The eggs and fruit are really the only thing worth eating. Looking forward to something different!

We got a late start on our day due to the self-inflicted difficulty when it came to renting a car to take to San Carlos… and everywhere else. We had heard that certain car rental places were worse than others (apparently they try to scam you for hundreds of dollars worth of insurance.) So while Kristian spent hours on the internet and phone getting all that figured out, I had the opportunity to Skype with my family in Washington state. Can’t get enough of that action! (Hi, Mom and Dad! Wanna Skype later?)

Panama City

After a couple of hours of getting that figured out, thanks to some friends of Kristian’s who hooked us up, we decided to grab a “quick” bite to eat on our way to the rental place. I say “quick” because nothing is really quick here. We’ve been to Kauai twice and thought that they were a laid back crowd. Panama is even more relaxed. It’s just their way and we’re getting used to it. We may wait for 15 minutes before someone even comes to our table to take our order. But once that happens, the food usually comes promptly. Then, if you want something after you’re initially served, you must ask. Even if you just need an agua refill.

We set out on foot for Cafe Suzette for crepes, umbrella in hand (it’s forcasted to rain today,) just a block or so from the Saba Hotel. It seems like it’s a popular hangout, with it’s outdoor seating right on Via Argentina. The boys and I ordered ham and cheese crepes, and Kristian ordered a ham and cheese omelet and small coffee. Notice what their version of small is in the picture below! This, I hope, is our last processed food meal for awhile. I really could do without it entirely.

san carlos crepes

When we finished, we set off down Via Argentina and hung a left on Via Espana. It’s not quite as crazy today – traffic seems lighter everywhere! Navigating our way to Jolie Car Wash, where we will rent our car, is tricky because there are virtually no street signs and if there are crosswalks, they are worn off and barely visible. We stopped and simply asked some pedestrians, “Via Borres?,” and they were able to point us in the right direction. Here is a couple of examples of the shambles that the city is. Disrepair like this is everywhere!

san carlos disrepair

We finally made it and were greeted warmly by Alex, who is English-speaking and extremely friendly. Yay! Did I mention that I love these people? After a short transaction, we hopped into our Hyundai Tucson (they pronounce it “Tuke-sahn”) and nervously drove away as we would be avoiding a collision until we left the city.

Drive from Panama City to San Carlos

We checked out of our hotel and hit the streets, kind of, sort of, knowing where we were going. We took several wrong turns before figuring out where we were and rejoiced when we knew we were finally on the Pan-American Highway! We headed over the Bridge of the Americas where we could see the ships all lined up to head down the Panama Canal! What a sight! I wish I had been able to get a picture, but I think you can see it in this video:

[Video coming soon!]

As we drove, the views just kept getting better and better! Here are some of the shots I took during our 1 1/2 hour drive to San Carlos:

san carlos collage 2

Above: a massive tree that looked like a cartoon, a department store, houses right off the highway.

san carlos collage

Above: planters in the medians, a shopping mall, women walking alongside homes right on the highway (not uncommon to see)

San carlos collage 3

Above: Coronado area – a popular place for ex-patriots to reside, a little outdoor decor shop

san carlos collage 4

Above: a cram-packed housing development, a Red Devil bus, the Pan-American Highway

The drive was beautiful and we made it to the Manglar Lodge, our hotel for the next 2 or 3 nights (depending on how it goes,) without incident.

Manglar Lodge, San Carlos

san carlos exterior

Manglar Lodge is a 4-room B&B style place just inside the jungle that lines the Pacific coastline. You can barely see the ocean from the lodge itself, but if you take 20 steps into the jungle, you’re there!

san carlos rabbit hole

Above: the gate you must walk through to get to the beach, a river that flows into the ocean.

The lodge is run by a couple of younger Panamanian men. Omar seems to be the head honcho and runs this place immaculately. He speaks a decent amount of English and has been very polite and helpful. The lower level is a medium-sized restaurant and the upper level has all the rooms off of one small hallway. Our room is a very good size with it’s own bathroom and a large shower. The maid will do a garbage bag full of our laundry for $4! Highlight of my week! Well, maybe not the highlight of my whole week, but it definitely takes a load off. Literally.

san carlos bed

We didn’t but park our luggage before heading to the beach.

El Palmar Beach! BEACH!!! (San Carlos)

san carlos view

We had the entire beach to ourselves and I’m not exaggerating at all! Where was everybody? It was Saturday and the temperature was perfect. All I know is, we had a blast out there. And oh, the shells! The shells that we found made all our Galveston shells look like a joke.

shell san carlos

The boys didn’t stop running for the entire time we were out there. How long were we out there anyway? I have no idea. All I know is, we stayed out there until it started getting dark and my stomach was eating itself from starvation.

san carlos play

The mosquitoes are many here, so insect repellent has been a 2-3 times/day routine. Pretty much at every meal, we take our bottle of spray and some Melaleuca oil for the 1/2 square inch spot that we missed.

We were pleasantly surprised by the variety on the menu at the little Manglar Lodge restaurant! Filet mignon, grilled fish, shrimp, pasta, chicken parmesan – something for everyone, and at reasonable prices. I ordered a chicken caesar salad, Kristian ordered the filet mignon and we ordered tortellini for the boys. Look at the lovely presentation! Oh, and we polished it off sharing a big bowl of cherry and vanilla ice cream! Everything was delicious and such a welcome change from the processed/fried food we found in the city.

san carlos food

I’ll leave you a few more pictures from the Manglar Lodge. The boys love it here!

san carlos manglar

Buenas Noches!