Our canceled day trip became a mini getaway!

Hey there! Hope all is well. Today we are going to hang out in Panama City, Panama! Before I get into this amazing trip, let me tell you how it all went down. We were blessed to visit this place unexpectedly, and even on a strict budget, we had a great time!

My husband, Ejuan, is a travel addict! Honestly, after being married to him for many years, I can say that I am also. Hi, my name is Toni, and I’m a travelholic. However, my desire to travel pales in comparison to him. Years ago, he started booking day trips. He’d ask me if I wanted to go on a date for a day then say you have to be up at 4 AM tomorrow. I didn’t like the idea of being up extremely early in the morning, even more so on a Saturday, but I would always oblige. I would ask what type of attire I needed to wear and prepare for the next day. After that first time, it became a thing that we did. We have now had several #DayDates.

This past Christmas, one of my gifts was a piece of paper with information for the Trap Museum in Atlanta. I saw a few posts on social media where people had visited the place, and I was curious. Each time, I would ask Ejuan if he knew anything about it. Now, my husband is not into rap music, so I wasn’t sure if that’s why he didn’t make it one of the spots for us to visit since we’d been to Atlanta at least three or four times in the past year. We went on a day trip a couple of times and took our sons there for a family vacation one year. I saw the posts within months of each other, which led me to think that the place must have been new. Although it’s not Ejuan’s choice in music, he’s into landmarks, museums, history, and sightseeing, so it still boggled my mind that he never mentioned it as a place for us to see. After I saw the third post about it, I messaged the person and asked how long it had been there. When they told me it was somewhat new, that explained everything. Based on the timeline I was given, it wasn’t built/ready for any of our visits to Atlanta.

Now, my curiosity was just that, curiosity. I didn’t want to take a trip there only to see the museum. However, my asking persuaded my husband to purchase tickets. As I stated before, for Christmas, I was gifted with a surprise day trip to Atlanta, and the Trap Museum was one of our stops. He told me we would go the following month. As the days drew closer to leave, the weather was not cooperating. The night before we were supposed to fly out, we had severe weather locally and in other locations. Because of that, our departing flight was canceled. A short time after, Ejuan received an email with an apology for not being able to take our flight as expected. Although it was a force of nature, Spirit Airlines allowed us to not only reschedule that trip but permitted us to go anywhere that they flew, at the same low cost. Oh, Mr. Ejuan Bowman could not contain himself. He immediately jumped online to see what other options were available. From there, Ejuan curated a list of other places we could visit besides Atlanta. At that point, he was convinced that Atlanta would always be there, and supposedly the museum tickets would not expire before we could reschedule.

Ejuan gave a list of places where we could travel. Some were locations where we’d been and I wasn’t too thrilled about revisiting right now. There were a few countries and states we had not visited, so we began a process of elimination. Because there was a difference in flight arrival and departure times, and considering the amount of time we’d get to stay in each location that worked with his schedule, Panama was the best fit. We booked this trip for the following week after our flight was canceled. Because it was a new country we hadn’t been to, I jumped on Google and began searching for appropriate wear in that area. I always try not to stand out, although being a foreigner is usually simple to spot, I at least try to dress the part as a local. However, I read in different articles that women in their country mostly wear skinny jeans (the tighter, the better), and the top depends on where they were going. The men also wore jeans a lot. It didn’t say anywhere that you’d see a local in shorts. When it gets hot in Texas, we want to wear as little clothing as possible, so I couldn’t imagine walking around touring their city in tight skinny jeans during a warmer month. Therefore, I picked some leggings, a cover-up type shirt/dress, and a simple pullover dress and top so I could swap out my looks. Since it was going to be a short trip, I especially wanted to pack light. I figured those were the closest options where I could have both a sense of style and comfort.

We hopped on our Spirit Airlines flight to Ft. Lauderdale, and then we flew from there to Panama. We landed and caught a cab to our hotel. The check-in was quick and easy, and they handed us two cookies from their warmer. Such a lovely welcome! Ejuan was looking forward to the cookies, but I didn’t know to expect them. He told me that he and the boys were getting these same cookies each day during our stay at a DoubleTree hotel on a previous family vacation. If and when I have coffee, it’s typically in the morning. However, the warm, gooey cookie convinced me to make a cup of their complimentary coffee. We finished off our cookies, showered and hurried to bed so we could be well-rested for the next day.

The next morning we got up and prepared for a tour of the city. We used Uber for the remainder of the trip because it was cheaper than the cost of a cab ride. We pulled up the app, and someone from Uber was there to get us from the hotel within a short time. Ejuan had asked the driver to take us to a location with a Panama sign. We drove about twenty minutes away until we reached Amador Causeway. While passing through this area, I spotted some cool buildings that were very eye-catching. One was very brightly colored and had piqued my interest, but we were only passing by. When we reached our destination, we had to wait for a few others to finish with their pictures, and then we had a photoshoot. The driver was kind enough to snap several photos for us, but my goodness, it was so freakin hot. We quickly hopped back in the car, rode a few blocks away, and then got out for more photo ops. We had more shots taken of us with a backdrop of the city. Ejuan said it reminded him of Miami, and I couldn’t agree more. From there, we got back into the car and headed to see another sight. Of course, I had to snag a few shots of that interestingly colored structure. If/when we visit again, it is most definitely going to be on my list of things to see!

Next, the driver took us to Casco Viejo, the old town. We mostly wandered around the area, just taking in the character and colonial construction of most of the buildings. The surrounding water had receded, so we looked out upon a lot of dirt and stones as we circled the area to check out the street vendors. We found some interesting pieces for keepsakes and souvenirs to bring back to our sons. Also intertwined in this small section of street vendors were multi-colored murals that screamed for attention. Once again, we took the opportunity to use the paintings and surrounding areas as backdrops and captured some fun images of them as well. As we left that area, we turned the corner, and what was before me made my eyes light up like I was surprised for my birthday. The exact cover-up I was wearing (purchased in another country a couple of months prior) was on display. My twin, a mannequin, was a comical sight to see. Initially, I felt like a trendsetter until I realized that every other shop had the same cover-up. Then I felt like the tourist that bought something there and couldn’t wait to wear it. YIKES! Nonetheless, it was funny.

After walking for a while, we took a break to have some lunch. We asked around about traditional Panamanian food, and luckily, it was only a couple of blocks away. Although I convinced myself I would find something I could stomach since I was feeling dehydrated and famished, we checked out the menu first and then headed inside. We spotted some items that sounded tasty and placed our order. While we waited for our food to be prepared, we discussed how we felt about the place. The structural design and atmosphere reminded me so much of Colombia. We both agreed that it was a place we could see ourselves frequenting.

Once we’d gotten hydrated and felt more energized, we took off to see more of the town. We made our way to Independence Square, and I paused to rest on one of the benches while Ejuan captured the essence of the space. You could see the twin towers of the Metropolitan Cathedral across the way. We headed inside, and what we saw was jaw-dropping. It’s incredible to see the beauty and design of older structures. The black and white tiled flooring was arresting to the eye. It immediately captured your attention and led you directly to a magnificent marble altar at the center of the cathedral. There was minor construction happening, but overall the place and its displays of history were beautiful.

We left there and walked to El Arco Chato, also known as Flat Arch. It was built in 1678 at Saint Dominic’s Church and once supported the choir. In 1756 the woodwork in the church was damaged by fire, and the arch was the only thing that remained. In 2003, the arch collapsed unexpectedly. The landmark you see today is reconstructed and lined with its original bricks.

After a long and exciting day, I was exhausted. We set up Uber once again to retire for the day and freshen up to prepare for our evening. There is usually a point in every trip where I get tired, so Ejuan does some sightseeing without me. Once we arrived back to our home away from home, I didn’t feel I could walk much further or be outside. At this point, I was hot and over the day. He wanted to see a building off in the distance. It looked incredibly exciting, but I just couldn’t muster up the strength to get there. Ejuan made the trek from the hotel to capture this structure, and during this time, I spent about ten minutes at a fashion store across the street. Since it was only about ten feet away, I could handle that. I can always spare a few more minutes and energy to check out some fashion. LOL!

For our last full day in Panama, we began with a tour of Miraflores, one of the three locks that form the Panama Canal. We started inside with the museum. We skimmed the exhibitions on each floor, then went outside to look at the canal. We began up top to get the best view of the movement happening out on the water and near the lock. There were pockets of people standing around, so we found a clear spot near the railing to get some selfies with the canal. A man announced that ships would be passing through soon, so we went down to the main entrance level so that we could grab a bite to eat before. It was scorching hot, but we were lucky to get the last available table in the shade. We shared the table with an older couple from Europe and had an enlightening conversation with them. We headed back up about ten minutes until the start time, and unfortunately, everyone else had taken heed to the announcement. There wasn’t any space around the balcony walls to look out for what was coming. Being small, I tucked into a space behind someone until they no longer wanted to stand and wait. I moved up to the ledge and looked on, although nothing appeared to be happening.

Far out, you could see a large ship and a couple of small passenger boats. The announcer began to give history about the process of passing through the canal. During this time, both small vessels and the ship started to creep towards the entrance to reach the lock. When I say creep, I mean it was like the boats were crawling. It was so hot, even standing under the covered balcony. I was becoming irritable, and the heat was energy-draining. I thought this was going to be a 15-20 minute process, and we’d be on our merry way. It was more like an hour or so. Honestly, it had become so long that I stopped paying attention to much of anything. I was just ready to go. (Should you ever make this trip during the hot months, be sure to pack your patience for this).

I know how much Ejuan wanted to see this happen, so I tried to be patient and just chill out. As all vessels made it inside the passageway, the water began to recede. I was thinking, FINALLY! It was fascinating to see the water lower on one side as it filled up on the other. Once the water had dropped to a certain point, the lock started to swing open slowly. Now, the action was happening. Both passenger boats and the ship passed through, and the lock slowly closed again. Once it was all over, I was glad to have had the experience. Right after, I did some speed walking to beat the crowd back down to get a drink.

That night we dined at Tinajás, a local restaurant a few blocks from our hotel that the bellman had suggested. He told us that the food was excellent and their dance show begins at 730 PM. We went around 7 PM, and it was just about empty. I wanted to sit in the more open area of the restaurant, but that section was reserved for dinner and the show. The dance show started later than we were initially told. Unfortunately, we had a 2 AM flight going back home, so we didn’t want to be out too late. I will most definitely put that on my list of things to do for a future visit.

We took a seat and looked over the menu, and found some intriguing appetizers to try. From the menu shown above, we ordered a fried Panamanian appetizer. For my entrée, I always search for something that sounds familiar to what I would eat at home. I selected the grilled salmon fillet in butter sauce. YUM! He, on the other hand, is usually a bit more adventurous. Fried seafood is his favorite, and since Colombia (I’ll write about that trip soon), he’d fallen in love with how they prepare and serve the whole fried fish (bones, body, and all). The moment he realized Panama served it this way too, that’s all he wanted to order. He chose the red whole fried snapper caribbean style. The menu options are à la carte, so we ordered a side of arroz con pollo, rice with chicken. One of the entrées did come with salad, but I wasn’t interested, so I gladly gave that to him.

Although our trip was short-lived, we visited several places and checked off some of the more popular sites within a couple of days. As usual, there were many other things that we did not get to experience, which always gives us an excuse to revisit someday.

Until we meet again, I’ll leave you with this…every cancellation is not forever. Sometimes you’re just postponed while God is getting you prepared for an upgrade. In life, everything will not always go as planned, but try to find the bright side in the setback. As the saying goes, you are delayed, not denied. You never know what the purpose of a halt or change in your life is about and where it may lead. If that flight hadn’t been canceled, we would have gone to a place we’d been before. While I’m sure we would have enjoyed ourselves, I appreciated the opportunity to experience a new location. This post was about a one-day canceled flight that became a mini trip. However, I want you to take a moment to replace our adventure with your experiences in life. Think about a time where something was taken from you. You had your ideas together, and just like a snap of the finger, it changed. How did you react to that? Did you get upset or question God about it? Now, think about what happened in its place. What was the result of that one thing that didn’t occur or that one relationship that didn’t work? When you run into unexpected changes in your life, take a moment to see where that shift leads you. You may find out that you like the alternate route much better!

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