Yesterday . . .
After a great nights sleep and breakfast at our favorite hotel in Panama City, the group met for the first time and appreciated a presentation by Panama attorney Mayra Lamboglia covering visa options including Panama’s Pensionado visas and the new friendly nations visa which also gives you the opportunity to work in Panama as well as, if you wish, to be on path for a Panamanian Passport and citizenship. She also covered foundations, corporations and tax matters.
Then it was onto the bus to explore Panama City including residential areas such as Paitilla, former Canal housing around Balboa, the Amador Peninsula, then across the Bridge of the Americas on the Pan American Highway to the string of beach cities and developments in and around Coronado. We checked out the new Riba Smith store in Coronado and then headed toward El Valle. En route to El Valle. Along the way we stopped at a traditional little Panamanian lunch spot for “comida typica.”
The goal of the tour is to give folks a boots-on-the-ground experience of Panama and an idea of what living in Panama could be like without all the hype and sales pitches. With only 13 people time on the bus gives me a lot of time to answer questions and gives us the opportunity to discuss the benefits and disadvantages of the places we visit that many expats choose to call home.
El Valle is a little town only about 1.5 hours from Panama City that a lot of Panamanians use for weekend homes. It’s a cute little town which is actually located inside the caldera of an ancient volcano. It has lush foliage, lovely homes of all type and size and some very cute areas. We stopped at the farmers market which also has lots of vendors selling traditional Panamanian craft items and while driving around we got a tour of one of Panama’s finest boutique hotels, Los Mandarinos, a Tuscan-inspired collection of stone cottages in a spectacular setting. We also took about a 30-minute hike through a beautiful rain forest with a beautiful waterfall, managing to get back to the bus just before it rained!
The Sheraton Bijao is an all-inclusive hotel right on the beach. We all made ample use of the all-inclusive bar, and then enjoyed dining under the moon before heading off to bed.
Melissa, Jackie Lange’s daughter, who coordinates tour reservations from the States, interviews everyone by phone before they sign up. About half the people who call are weeded out because of their expectations or reasons for wanting to consider moving to Panama. The tour does involve a lot of walking and is pretty fast-paced, so some folks, after talking to Melissa, realize it is not for them. The result of this is that we end up with a small group of really cool, fun and positive folks who are a joy to travel with!
The consensus last night: folks are loving it and learning a lot about the real Panama!