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Archive for the ‘Caribbean’ Category

We are pleased to announce that the site ” The Best Beaches in the World” now covers Taboga Island and B&B Hotel Cerrito Tropical in both their English and Spanish sites. These sites describe many of the finest beach areas in Panama and offers information on other things to do as well. Drop by the site and check it out.

the-best-beaches

the-best-beaches

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Playa Honda

Playa Honda

Thank you to Matt Landau for allowing me to repost this story he wrote about his weekend getaway on Taboga Island at B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical, and for the glowing review.

Weekend Getaways Reinvented in Panama, by Matt Landau of The Panama Report
View the original story here on The Panama Report

As a child, weekend getaways were epitomized by long car rides which left us so tired and cramped that, by the time we arrived at our vacation destination, none of us wanted to speak to one another. Our trips were long because, in suburban America, nothing is close. Close was the diagonal drive across the empty parking lot from Linens ‘n Things to Best Buy. The trip to the beach took four hours.

We’d usually break up our trips up by stopping at convenient stores where cheap sunglasses, beef jerky, and the burley men who bought both of them at once acted as exotic distractions if only for a few minutes, before we realized that we still had three hours to go. Our trips would take us on big highways where the only scenery was a blurry mass of metallic exit signs and generic forested wasteland.

Forbidden from owning a Gameboy, my brother and I resorted to various intellectual games as methods of self-diversion. We enjoyed word puzzles, brainteasers, and the popular road trip game I Spy, our contents of which were a tribute to America’s trashy consumer suburbia. “Something red…” I’d ponder. “Is it the Red Lobster sign? How about the McDonalds drive through overhead?”

Somewhere on one of these trips, I learned there were roughly nine million people that live in the sixteen main precincts of New Jersey, which meant that, if my family and I planned it carefully, we could visit all of them before we turned twelve hundred years old. Weekend trips required so much planning that, before we knew it, Monday would arrive and we’d be left another week to yearn.

B&B Inn cerrito tropical

B&B Inn cerrito tropical

In Panama, the concept of weekend getaways is reborn.

The amount of interesting destinations within a several-hour drive of almost anywhere in the country is enough to keep any tourist or local entertained for some time. One of my favorites is the literal hop over to Isla Taboga. Ridden with stories of pirates and conquistadors, the island of Taboga was founded back in the 1500s and is as rich in history as it is in sublime relaxation. It’s a low-key vacation option, located about 12 miles off the coast, which reinvents, for a kid from penny loafer New Jersey, the concept of a weekend escape.

The city has a way of depleting you. Traffic, pollution, noise, phones: it’s a hodgepodge of activity common to any large city that, over time, slowly sucks the energy and innovation from your bones leaving you robotic and dull as if just going through the motions. It was the kind of sunny weekday morning that inspired me, upon waking up around seven, to drive to the Amador Causeway and catch the Calypso ferry to Isla Taboga ($11 round trip) to get some of my mojo back by the beach.

I arrived on Taboga and was greeted by the caretaker- chef of a local hotel where I’d made a last minute reservation. The man, a longtime local named Aristedes, offered to take my backpack which I told him (citing the relationship between wit and leisure) was better left on my back considering it was filled with a team of baby turtles.

He walked me (and my turtles) through the town of Taboga, a narrow labyrinth of cobble-walkways and dangling bougainvilleas, then up an inclined path to B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical, my new favorite Taboga hideaway. The hotel itself is situated on a hillside higher than most establishments on Taboga and, while within walking distance of town, is blessed with its own serene Caribbean-like mountainside quietude. Cerrito Tropical is a beautiful retreat with a Creole ambiance offering both bed and breakfast rooms and vacation apartments: not the sort of thing that’d be out of place in Martinique or any other Caribbean isle. The place oozes relaxation.

My days on Taboga consisted of rigorous activities such as eating fried fish, downing cold pineapple juice, and relaxing on what amounted to my own private beach which was once a pirate´s hang out . I wandered up to a clifftop lookout that afforded a spectacular view of the same Panama City skyline I left not long before. I even went for a snorkel on the opposite side of the island, which is protected and offers a much improved water quality.

Aristedes, who I took to calling “A” (which in Spanish sounds more like “Ah”), is also the private Cerrito chef who prepared everything from ceviche to grapefruit salad from scratch. When I wasn’t eating his food or hanging out on the beach, I took full advantage of B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical’s wireless internet connection (having brought my laptop) and picturesque upstairs balcony which I converted into a temporary office complete with breezy palm fronds and lazy hammocks. Although work wasn’t something I had planned on accomplishing during my stay, to say that the atmosphere was conducive to intellectual stimulation would be an understatement.

The weekend jaunt to Isla Taboga was a far cry from the over-planned vacations I used to take as a child. There was comparatively very little organization and the trip in its entirety cost less than $150.

B&B Inn Cerrito Tropical Bed & Breakfast Inn plus Vacation Apartments
Tel: 507-390-8999: Cell: 507-6489-0074
http://www.cerritotropicalpanama.com

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Quantum of Solace, James Bond 007

Quantum of Solace, James Bond 007

It was an exciting few months early this year in Panama when they were filming the next James Bond movie, The Quantum of Solace, due to be shown in cinemas this coming November 2008.

A number of people were fortunate to be chosen as extras and I was one of them. I had never thought of joining the group of some 1000 extras but a friend eventually convinced me to go and sign up. Although I had done television advertising before, I had never been on a big movie set prior to this and it was very interesting. Costumes, makeup, hair, coordination. And the waiting….. for hours upon hours. We really came to appreciate what it takes to be a professional in the business. It seems glamorous but it is very hard work.

The first scene I was in was shot was a night scene in the old Union Club in Casco Viejo, Panama City. We changed into our costumes and had hair and makeup done in an enormous underground garage which had been revamped into dressing rooms, cafeteria, and makeup. Then we were allowed outside to wait for our calls. It was beautiful weather and since Casco Viejo is beside the ocean it was quite lovely at night. There, we pulled three all nighters in a row for Bond. Super tiring but awesome in the professionalism, coordination and detail that went into the making of it by the mainly British crew. Watching Daniel Craig (James Bond) and the pros shoot their scenes numerous times to get it right for the exacting Golden Globe nominated director Steven Forster — German born, educated in Switzerland he studied film in New York. Forster made his directorial debut in 2000 and most recently directed the Kite Runner. Daniel Craig is said to be one of the finest actors of his generation in stage, screen and television. His supporting actors included: Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Almalric, Gemma Arterton, Jeffrey Wright, and of course Judy Dench.

An old historic building (former Union Club) was used which they revamped just for this. Set in Bolivia the scene was shot in Panama. It was an elegant extravaganza during which Dominic Greene (a criminal mastermind played by Mathieu Almalric), gives an important speech (I almost had it memorized–cannot tell you the speech, if I did M might send Bond to silence me). We were among the some 700 in this scene, dressed in elegant evening wear. Along with the cool party set, there were several stunts so the scene should be a great one.

Several weeks later I went again in one of several buses (some 50 extras) to Colon to shoot our next scene on a private island on the Caribbean coast in Panama (in the movie I believe it is Haiti). We stayed overnight in a hotel in Colon City, a very seedy port (not many of us were on the streets after dark, or even in the daylight!) Then before dawn we drove the hour to a site on the Caribbean Coast. There we dressed for the tropics and were made up, then taken by small local fishing boats (called pangas) to the private island. What a beautiful location. Since the extras group was rather small, we had a very enjoyable day acting as the “background”, waiting, chatting, taking in some sun, and eating from a scrumptious buffet. I was in a group of about 10 or so asked to be background in one of Bond´s heroic action scenes where he speeds up to the dock in his powerboat and carries the beautiful Camille (Olga Kurylenko) ashore who has been hurt. It was excellent to have the chance to watch the making of a major movie from within. What an awesome day. Late in the afternoon we were bussed back to Panama City and said good bye to the friends we had made during the shoot.

I believe most of us had a great time and what a once in a lifetime experience. Would I do it again? Indeed I would.

We were absolutely not allowed to take photos which is a shame because I cannot share them with you here. So the only souvenir I will have is to buy a copy of the film once it becomes available. But you can check out the trailer now:

View Trailer: http://www.007.com/

Written by: Cynthia Cudmore Mulder

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