Hooray for Coco Mango!
Coming back from Guna Yala we were dropped off at the airport in Panama City for a cross-country flight to David. David is the biggest city in western Panama and the gateway to the highlands around Volcan Baru, the tallest mountain in the country at just over 11,000 feet in elevation. Because we were all in need of a night of air-conditioning and a comfy bed, we opted for a room at the new business hotel near the David airport where we got a great deal on a family room with breakfast. Our birding guide had suggested that if we wanted a more Panamanian experience, we should go to the foothill town of Volcan on the western side of the volcano instead of the American expat haven of Boquete on the eastern side. We headed out in the morning!
We arrived in the Chiriqui Highlands in the early-afternoon. By the time we had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, rented an SUV that could actually hold a family of four, and navigated our way through the sprawling town of David, it was a bit later than we had expected. Instead of heading to Boquete with it’s lively ex-pat scene, we went straight to Volcan, on the south side of the volcano, Volcan Baru. With just a few “upscale” restaurants and tourist attractions, we expected Volcan to provide a more authentic Panamanian experience. And it did! After settling into our hostel, we were eager to see the mountains and the coffee before our entire day evaporated into logistical doldrums.
There isn’t a sign or map to be found in Volcan. A faded poster at the hostel indicated that there really was a coffee farm and, with the loan of a cell phone from a women who just happened to be nearby, we reached Leif at Janson Coffee Farm. It was getting late he said, but if we hurried we could get a nice view and quick tour.
He provided some minimalist directions and we were off. Through town, to a side road, a fork in that road, and then a long stretch of smooth dirt road sloping gently upward.
Colonial Williamsburg has to be America’s quintessential educational family travel destination. It’s like Disney for the NPR-crowd. Kids have fun and think they are on vacation. Almost accidentally, they learn about American history by watching and interacting with characters in costume. We had a great time but found it challenging to get our arms around the entire experience. There is too much to do in a short visit and yet I’m not sure parents or kids are likely to enjoy more than a few days at a time. Based on our recent visit, here are a few insider tips to help your family have a blast.
Colonial Williamsburg might also be one of the most photogenic places on Earth. We hope you enjoy a small sample of the five zillion photos we took while visiting. Read more
“Low in a vale, by wood-crown’d heights o’erhung,
Where fir, and larch, and beech are careless flung,
With silver Thames slow rolling at her feet,
Lies Henley-Contemplation’s calm retreat.”
Opening lines of a poem detailing the charms of Henley-on-Thames, published anonymously in 1827. The poem is attributed to Mr. Richardson, a temporary resident of Henley. Though I’ve never, technically, resided in Henley, I’ve visited regularly for over thirty years and consider myself perhaps an intermittent resident. I’m lucky enough to be here again.
Just 40 minutes from London, Henley-on-Thames was a medieval market town and river port and is most famous for the Henley Royal Regatta, which it hosts on the first weekend of July, Wednesday to Sunday. The race is 1 mile and 550 yards, finishing just downstream of the town bridge. Every room in town is booked at least a year in advance for the event (I speak from frustrating experience); the streets, trains, and riverbanks are backed with Pimms-drinking, hat-wearing spectators young and old. The regatta is not as Read more
Zoey is right about the wildlife in Alaska, it’s right there for the viewing. One day we’re on a tour boat out of Seward and through the fjords to the glaciers, and two days later we’re jumping off a bus in the middle of Denali National Park and climbing through the tundra. And between them it might be easier to list the wildlife that we didn’t see. Read more
Everyone we’ve spoken to has asked what I don’t like. So far there are only three things. One is ordering in restaurants with our kids. There just aren’t always choices that make them happy and we’re getting a lot of sudden outbursts: “I hate hotdogs” or “I hate pizza” but this is getting easier every day. Last night, I gave in and made macaroni and cheese – they were very happy!! Then we watched Ratatouille after ice-skating at the Rathaus (town hall). The second is the toilets. The system of a WC and a sink in a separate room is fine but in old buildings (such as my office), it means that there are often only 3-4 Read more
Life is great. I know this is the least interesting part for everyone else. Who really wants to get a postcard from Hawaii saying ‘It’s beautiful here!” I should begin anyway with what a big success our Austrian Adventure has been so far. We’ve seen opera and ballet, visited Eastern European countries, gone skiing in the Alps, and eaten an enormous number of pastries. An unexpected bonus has been the family time. Since we are somewhat isolated here, we spend a lot of time just the four of us and this is wonderful. We have some new family traditions now – heading to a “heurigan” (wine house) after school on Fridays if we are in town or taking the tram whichever direction comes first. We’ve maintained the weekend pancake tradition but it has metamorphosed into Swedish pancake/crepes with Nutella and “schlag”(whipped cream). The girls are growing and learning so fast it’s hard to keep up. Logan goes on exciting field trips for school, is loving piano lessons, and can say “fart” in several languages (I know I know). She plans to be reading before we leave Austria. Zoey can ride the public bus, transfer to the Read more
We just got back from a long weekend in Budapest. We took the kids out of school on Friday, caught an early train across the Hungarian plain, and were standing on the train station steps in Pest before noon. Unfortunately for us, the city transit workers decided to strike, which left us with a city map from the tourist kiosk, the address of the apartment rental agency I got from the internet, and a four-subway-stop walk. On the way I was impressed by the amount of graffiti and the boldness of the taggers to autograph just about anything. We by passed two Burger Kings on the way to our first Hungarian meal at an Italian restaurant, choosing the comfort of pizza for hungry and tired kids rather than new culinary discoveries. Our apartment is only a few hundred meters from the rental agency, on a Read more