Tuesday, July 27

Central America

My good friend Jason and I are in the middle of writing a treatment to a script. We meet weekly at our favorite bar The Federal, during happy hour; we sit out on the back patio and we hash out ideas for our script!

So we are both vaccinated! And I had not been on an airplane in over a year, because I did not want to fly until I was fully vaccinated. But as we both sat there, discussing our script, we realized how bored and antsy we were becoming, tired from quarantine fatigue.

So….we decided then and there that we should book a trip somewhere and continue writing on some beach in Mexico. But after much research, we finally decided on Costa Rica!

We found an amazingly inexpensive flight on Copa Airlines, that had a 17 hour layover in Panama! I had been to Costa Rica before, since I have an acquaintance who lives there, but I had never been to Panama before…and even though we would be there for only a few hours – I was beyond excited!


Panama

So first thing you need to know about Panama [at the time of me writing this blog] is that you need a negative PCR Covid test 48 hours before you can enter the country. If you do not get one, you will need to take one at the airport. It costs $50 American dollars and takes about 30 minutes to get your results.

We found this out the hard way. We got our tests 72 hours before because we thought we needed our RESULTS with 48 hours of leaving. That is actually incorrect. They need the actual test procedure done 48 hours before you leave. It makes sense, we were just trying to be thorough, so we had to take the test again when we landed in Panama!

Also, because of Covid, Panama presently needs the exact address of where you are staying as well as a phone with a Panamanian number. This is for contact tracing. ALSO, parts of Panama have a curfew at 9pm [the part we were in had a curfew until 10pm.]

For more information about visiting Panama visit their site. Visit Panama

We also had a fun little AirBNB that was right across from the National Theater and the Iglesia de San Jose Church. It was quaint and had a locked gate and security. Everything was within walking distance!

So Tocumen Airport is about 20 minutes from Panama City, actually Casco Viejo (Old Town) where we were staying, so we set up a taxi service through our AirBNB. The gentleman who picked us up from the airport [and ultimately drove us back a few hours later] was a man named Allan! Allan speaks very good English, will show you the best places to go while taking you to your hotel, and is a bit more cost effective [and perhaps safer for those traveling alone] than actually hiring a local taxi.

When we first arrived at the AirBNB, we dropped off our carry on bags and headed to walk along the cobble stone streets of Old Town, Panama. The weather was slightly humid with storm clouds approaching.

My friend and I were instantly charmed by Panama. As we walked along the streets we could see glimpses of ships out in the Panama canal.

We found an amazing rooftop bar at the Tantalo Hotel, which afforded us the most breathtaking view of the city, as well as the canal and the churches. When traveling to a new place [especially a different country] I always suggest going to a rooftop bar. I did that in Macau, China when attending Sky 21 which was on the 21st floor of a building in downtown Macau.

We ate dinner – I recommend the salmon – and the local beer, Balboa. I really enjoyed the beer, and it is coincidentally named after their currency. Okay, so my understanding of the currency of Panama is this: it is called the Balboa and it is tied to the American Dollar. Panama does not print its own paper currency, however, and since it was a US territory until 1903 it uses the USD as its legal currency.

After we finished our dinner we walked around some more taking in the beautiful town before the curfew went into effect. Literally across from our AirBNB there was a little bar/restaurant called Restaurant Casablanca. We decided to end the night there with another quick balboa [like I said, it was my favorite local beer.]

CHEERS from Jason
CHEERS from Michael

After that we went to our AirBNB for a quick nap before heading to the airport for our 8am flight to Costa Rica!

I definitely plan on going to Panama again. It was such a quick trip and I cannot wait to explore more of the beautiful country.


Costa Rica

After a very uneventful hour flight from Panama City, Panama we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica. So….in order to travel to Costa Rica during the pandemic, you need to get travel insurance and you have to show proof of it when entering the country. This is for Covid related expenses should you contract the virus while in the country!

Check out more about visiting Costa Rica here: Visit Costa Rica

Costa Rica, at the time of writing this blog, has a 9pm curfew because of Covid, and they are very strict with this guideline, at least in the main city. I would imagine, for now, that this guideline is strict throughout the whole country.

Also, check with your airline as they may require a Covid PCR test at least 72 hours before you leave the country. We had to get one for JetBlue and it is mandatory. You must have a negative test or you will be denied boarding! [hence why the insurance is so important to get before entering the country]

So the San Jose Airport was about 25 to 30 minutes from our AirBNB. We stayed near Sabana Park, which was a nice quiet little part of San Jose. Uber is widely used in Costa Rica, especially in the city, and it is VERY affordable there.

When I went for my 40th birthday, I stayed with an acquaintance of mine in San Jose and we traveled across to such places as Manuel Antonio beach on the Pacific Ocean side and went white water rafting on the Pacuare River – which I highly recommend!

Since we were only in the country for 3 days, we sadly did not get to explore the. country itself that much. But Jason and I are both resourceful and found amazing restaurants in which to eat/drink!

Our AirBNB was amazing. We had a 3 bedroom penthouse on the 10th floor overlooking the city. Talk about spoiled. BAM! But we totally deserve it. Besides, it provided a great backdrop in which to get some writing done!

We did spend our first morning there walking around the area and taking in the sites. We sadly were not aware that we were on top of a very steep hill…so that was…um….fun, to say the least.

But when we finally made it up the hill to the other side of town, we were rewarded by finding this quaint little restaurant/bar called BAR CHUBBS. And the best part of our trip, really, was the weather. It was never really too humid, and dark storm clouds usually rolled in by 3pm. In fact, our first night in Costa Rica it began to rain around 3pm and rained ALL NIGHT! Complete with thunder and lightning

So our first night we ordered food/drinks from Uber Eats and sat on our balcony eating and drinking and enjoying the rain! Listening to the rain is so cathartic for an artist – and here in Los Angeles, we do not have weather like this. Summer storms? I wish!

The following morning – with the sun shining, and the wonderful smell of fresh air after the rain – we ended up at a local coffee shop Juan Valdez Cafe, which incidentally was down the street from where our Covid testing site was! So we were able to get coffee and take our test. Nice productive morning!

From there we made our way into San Pedro to look around and do a bit of shopping. In our Uber, we passed this amazing cemetery, with massively ornate gravestones. I knew I had to go back and take photographs!

So, here we are walking around and enjoying the day when we notice that there are big storm clouds above us! And guess what, we didn’t have any umbrellas. So we bought some and decided to sit down and grab a beer and wait out the storm!

So we had to go back home and clean up [and take a quick disco nap] because Jason had found this Irish Pub called Craic in San Pedro, that we wanted to check out.

Plus we wanted to meet some of the local people. That is one of the best parts of traveling – meeting new people! And that is what we did. So one really cool thing about Craic Irish Pub, is that it sits just off of the rail road tracks, so we sat outside and watched the rain AND watched as trains drove past us, while eating and drinking. The trains were SO CLOSE!

We made friends with the bartender Alex, who spoke good english and was able to offer good choices in both the food and libations! He also brews his own beer and we were able to try a few samples!

Thank you Alex for being such an awesome bartender – and now friend – and helping us to enjoy your amazing city, and even more amazing beer!

After we finished at Craic we made a quick stop at Steifel Pub before curfew hit. The waiter was cute – so that was a plus – plus there was a gay couple there. Also, they had turned an empty beer keg into the sink. We both thought that that was rather clever.


The next day, which was our last full day in Costa Rica, consisted of taking a nice walking tour of San Jose, provided by Intrepid Urban Adventures.

We were able to see some of the main architecture, but also explore the local markets and try new fruits as well as Turtle Egg Shot. [We did NOT try the turtle egg shot – since we were unsure how our stomachs would react]…but yeah, that seemed very interesting!

Perhaps on a future trip to Costa Rica I’d be brave enough to try it!



The last part of our adventure was being able to make it to the Cementerio Obrero, nestled right in the middle of downtown San Jose, Costa Rica. Thank you to our tour guide Jason for making sure we made our way there.

Let me tell you, this place is beautiful, and there were more storm clouds rolling in in the background. Those dark clouds made for amazingly ominous photos! Truly stunning. So I had to run around and just take as many photos as I could take before the storm hit!

We finished up our final evening in Costa Rica seeing our friend Alex again at Craic Irish Pub, trying new beers, and enjoying a bit of rain. This evening it did not rain as long and it was quiet.

We finally grabbed our last Uber, made it home, and started to pack, as our flight left at 8am the following morning! We did a lot – but it went by so quickly! So there is definitely another trip to Costa Rica in my future – but I most certainly need to explore more of Panama first. Maybe in February for my birthday…..maybe…..


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