Last Day Before Snow

Tomorrow we head home. I know that several feet of snow are waiting for me in the yard, so today I did my best to enjoy the flowers here in Panama.


As you can see, the haze from earlier in the week has cleared, leaving a lovely blue sky.



Many of the “flowers” are actually flowering trees, creating wonderful opportunities to use the blue sky for contrast.





Over the next few weeks I’ll try to provide a bit more context as I post additional pictures of San Felipe – the “old city” or Casco Viejo in Panama City.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Second Last Day

Our second last day in Panama. We’ve been taking it easy and enjoying the chance to relax in the warm weather – sort of “chilling in the heat”. We haven’t even seen the canal yet, and everyone says it is one thing you absolutely must do when in Panama. So we decided to start our day with … a self-guided walking tour of every church in Casco Viejo ( Panama City – the old city).  Hey – it seemed to make sense at the time.


Many of the churches have been destroyed, and rebuilt over the centuries, but this ornate pulpit dates back to colonial times.


But sometimes I find that the less obvious features are more impressive – like the post supporting the roof in this small church dating back to 1673 – simple, rustic, and yet very impressive in its own way.


Several of the churches also had the stations of the cross, something that brings back memories of my childhood. Of course, if you have been following this blog, you may also recall that the fourth station has particular significance from my visit to Jerusalem. The first example from our Panama walk is glazed and enameled dating to the 19th century.


Here are a couple other examples.



Of course, along the route we enjoyed the beauty of Casco Veijo.  The bougainvillea in this picture was covering half the facade of a building, creating a wall of flowers.  Interestingly, even though it came from a single root, it had a mix of white and pink flowers.  I’m told this means that two different strains must have been grafted onto a single root stock.


Don’t you wish that was your balcony?

I also came across this tree.  It almost looks like the tree grew to avoid the street light – though I’m sure that isn’t what actually happened. Still…


And here we go back to churches, in this case ones that have long been in ruins. This example is known for the flat arch shown here.  Apparently it collapsed, unexpectedly, a few years ago, but was rebuilt using the original bricks.

Note the clear blue sky.  It has been hazy the last few days, but not today.


I started this post talking about the Panama canal, and I eventually did make it to see the Miraflores locks.  But here’s the thing. The Rideau canal runs through Ottawa, with a series of locks right beside parliament. They are tiny compared to the Panama canal, but you can get much closer to watch the locks in operation.  I’ll try an analogy here.  I’ve been able to see great musicians play in arenas, and the concerts have good. But the best concerts I’ve ever seen have been when not-quite-so-famous artists perform in much smaller venues.  The chance to be “up close” makes all the difference. So by all means, see the Panama canal. But if you ever have the chance, you absolutely must see the Rideau canal locks in Ottawa.

With that, here are two pictures from the Miraflores locks.


What I like about this picture is the small boats in the lock as the enormous ship pulls up close to them.  I know that everything is controlled, but this has got to be unnerving.

And this picture shows a supertanker pulling through the locks.  The clearance on either side of the boat is less than two feet. It’s difficult to see where the ship stops and the lock begins…


That’s all for today.  For tomorrow – who knows.




Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


We’ve all seen pictures of Mayan ruins completely overgrown by jungle.  This is what happens if something is abandoned for hundreds or thousands of years. But I’ve often wondered just how long it took for the jungle to reclaim these ancient cities. Just how aggressive is the jungle?

Panama City’s Casco Viejo is a city in transition. I’m told that twenty years ago virtually all the buildings were run down or abandoned. The UNESCO World Heritage site designation started a process of restoration that is still ongoing. Scattered in among the “gentrified” buildings you can still see a number of abandoned buildings. Some are mere shells – stone walls with no interior structure.


Others are showing decay, but still functional, or at least integrated into functional buildings.


But everywhere you look, if the building is not being actively maintained, you can see clear signs of the jungle fighting back. Note the trees growing over, and on top of, the wall above.

Some of these trees are quite large, even though they are on top of two or three story high walls.


From another perspective, you can see just how tenacious this tree must be to survive, much less thrive.


In some cases the trees grow on the side of a wall, without any visible horizontal surface for an anchor.


I’m not sure about this one, but who knows.


I’ll close with a picture of the Bridge of the Americas at sunset.


Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Picture This

No pictures today. You will need to use your imagination.

We’re in Casco Viejo (the old city) in Panama at an intimate Latin Jazz club in the American Trade Hotel. If ever there was a recipe for cognitive dissonance, this is it.

We’re at the back of the club, where they seat the “old white couples who arrive without a reservation”, but we’re still within 25 feet of the stage. We’ve arrived early, thinking that “show starts at 8:30” means the show starts at 8:30. Silly us.

Two tables directly in front of us are empty until a middle aged couple arrives. Bald guy and blonde woman.  They are younger than us, but old enough to know better. Unfortunately it appears they don’t.  We reconcile ourselves to having to watch them neck for the entire show.  Little did we know we would eventually wish they would start necking again. They’re joined by heavyset guy and sparkly woman and the necking stops. Relief. The show starts (most definitely not at 8:30) and by this time blonde and sparky are having an animated discussion while we are trying to listen to the music. It was fantastic. The music, that is. And then sparkly, who has not been listening to the music until now, decides it’s so wonderful that she must record it on her phone. When sparkly starts recording, blonde decides she’s very interested in heavyset (not the one she came with) and gets all touchy-feely.  This continues even after sparkly returns from recording the band. At this point we kind of missed the necking – until it started again. Very confusing…

Meanwhile to our right, young man sat down and saved a seat for his wife. He promptly focused on his phone until wife arrived near the end of the set. She  promptly ordered a water and focused on her phone until she left 15 minutes later. I really hope I’m missing some critical detail here.

A guy our age, with a young woman and an infant, tried unsuccessfully to get a table at this point. I’m thinking grandfather. I’m hoping grandfather.

Just as the band started playing, a large group of young people arrived. My first instinct was “rich entitled young Americans” but perhaps I was being unkind.  Of course, it’s also possible I nailed it.

Immediately in front of the stage a man sat alone at his table, focused on the music and ignoring all the fascinating action going on just behind him.

All in all, probably one of the more enjoyable/interesting evenings I can recall.

Posted in Travel | Tagged , | Leave a comment


We all know the sun is far stronger in the tropics than in The Great White North. You must wear sunscreen – lots of sunscreen. Yesterday, one of us was very careful applying sunscreen. The other was negligent. So it came as a shock when at the end of the day the responsible one had sunburn. We’re blaming the rooftop pool. It sounds like a marvelous idea when the snow drifts are several feet deep, but in the heat of the Panama sun things are not so black and white. Why am I telling you this? To explain why today’s post will be a random series of photographs taken while I wandered around the old city, alone, with no particular objective in mind.


I’m sure there is a story behind this particular section wall in the ruins of the Jesuit church. I’m equally sure I cannot imagine what that story might be.

I admit I’m fascinated by ruins. In part it’s because I grew up in rural Saskatchewan where the oldest buildings were maybe 50 years old. But there’s also something about the process of weathering. It isn’t uniform. Most of these buildings began with perfectly smooth surfaces, and over time some parts degrade faster than others, exposing the weakness and strength in the original construction. And it isn’t always obvious how things will turn out.  In this picture, some, but not all, the bricks are crumbling like soft sandstone, while the mortar has remained true.


The next picture shows a niche in the cathedral, probably originally housing a statue, but empty now. It isn’t clear if the coloured stones were a visible part of the original design, part of the structure originally covered with plaster, or a recent addition.


At the end of the day, I was left with a sense of contrast and conflict.  The never ending war between humans intent on building, taming, (some might say destroying) and nature intent on reclaiming. Clearly humans have the more powerful tools in the short term, but I am constantly amazed at what nature can achieve with steady persistence. You see signs of this everywhere in Panama, but I’ll illustrate with this picture showing a mature palm tree growing inside the ruins and a young tree literally growing on the wall of the cathedral.


The contrast between humans and nature is everywhere, but it’s equally apparent there is conflict between humans – between the old and the new.  I’ll dig deeper into this in another post (the implications aren’t obvious), but for today I’ll simply show this picture of a newly renovated (gentrified?) building adjoined to one that is, shall we say, in need of repair.


And finally, since this is a random walk, here is where we had lunch, just a block from our hotel.


Postscript: Now that I’m (mostly) retired, I have more time. With more time comes the opportunity to rethink things.  Over time, this blog seems to have evolved into pictures, sparsely connected with uninspired text. I’m toying with adding more detail in the descriptions. More colour. I know I’m doing this for me, but an audience helps. So if you like more context, please do let me know.  (Silence will be interpreted as “I only look at the pictures, so I didn’t even read the question, especially as it was tacked on at the very end of the post that already had too many words.”)


Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

What A Difference A Day Makes

This is what we saw as we left the house early yesterday.


Last week’s storm deposited another foot and a half of snow, and with the temperature around -20 Celsius that snow is not going anywhere. But a mere ten hours (and 50 degrees Celsius) later, we were enjoying this:




And as if to taunt us, the fig trees were already well on the way to producing this year’s crop.


We’re staying in central Panama City – the old city – which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  I’ll post more on that later, but for today I’m enjoying the heat.

Posted in Photography, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


Ah winter.  What would we do without it?  I’m not sure, but I’d love to find out. Another week; another 18 inches of snow.  And it’s only mid February, so it’s a long time till spring.

Perhaps you think I’m joking?  Here was the view from our upstairs window after this week’s storm.


But at least it’s good for skating.  Our neigbour built a rink in the back yard.


It’s good for hockey, but the snow banks are so high that it’s also great for tobogganing.


… especially if you toboggan right off the top of the shed.


And that is exactly what they did.  Oh to be a kid again.

Why am I telling you this? Because tomorrow we’re off to Panama for a week in the sun.  I’ll try to post some pictures, once I get warm.


Posted in Canada, Travel | Tagged | 2 Comments

I’m Back

It has been far too long, but hopefully I will be posting more often now that I have (a bit) more time.  To get things rolling, I’ll start with Groundhog Day, something that has always confused me.  If the groundhog sees their shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter – but what does it mean if they don’t see their shadow? Eight more weeks of winter?  It certainly doesn’t mean less than six weeks, at least where I live. But in any case, yesterday there were no shadows, even though we had a large groundhog snowshoeing across the frozen lake.


The groundhog is on the far left, in case you are wondering.

Meanwhile, on my patio, the snow continues to build up.


I can assure you that six weeks from now, it will look pretty much the same. So I’m amusing myself with my new hobby – using my new espresso machine to make lattes.


And at the end of the day…


Life is good…

Posted in Travel | 4 Comments


It has been too long. I really must try to post more often. I have several pictures I want to post from trips over the past six months, but I’ll start with pictures from the local orchid show. The variety of orchids is simply stunning ,so I’ll let this collection speak for itself.









Posted in Photography | Tagged , , | 2 Comments


There are two things I know about this blog. One, I have not been very active of late. Two, this is not a food and wine blog. And three, no one likes a show-off. So of course, I’m going to try to post frequently over the next week, about wine & food, and brag just a little.

Today was my birthday, so when the last conference call was done, I opened a vintage ale – not my oldest by far, but still lovely.


This was followed by a lovely pancetta, mushroom, and asparagus risotto, compliments of my dear wife.


With a lovely Amarone that has been lurking in my cellar for the better part of two decades.


I’m headed off for a weekend with all of my siblings – the first time in nearly a decade that all five of us have been together. And I cannot remember the last occasion we were all together that didn’t involve a wedding or a funeral…

Posted in Canada, Food, Photography, Wine | Tagged | Leave a comment