Metropolitan National Park in Panama City

If you are planning a trip to Panama City, one of the sites that you should consider visiting is the Metropolitan National Park. Since Panama City is surrounded by a rainforest that is protected by law, the city is literally surrounded by jungles and wildlife. You don’t have to leave the city in order to escape into nature and see some of the exotic wildlife that the country has to offer. It is about a fifteen minute drive from downtown Panama City to reach the park and the cost to enter is only $4 per person for non-Nationals ($1 for Nationals).

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Views of Panama City
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One of the Many Birds in the Park
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Resting Agouti
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Start of the Trail

Although it is located on the edge of the city and temperatures are often hot and humid, the Metropolitan National Park is still a rainforest, so you should definitely wear closed-toed shoes or hiking shoes. After stopping at the visitors center to purchase your tickets and get information on the park and the animals that live there, you will walk a short distance to the actual start of the trail system within the park. The trail in the park is basically a giant loop and if you are willing to follow it to its furthermost point, you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the city as the summit is the second highest point within the city. There are some steep sections on the trail, but overall it is considered to be moderate, but be sure to have plenty of water with you.

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The Trail Takes You Above the Canopy
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Cityscape of Panama City
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Turtles on the Shore of a Pond
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The Trails Get Narrower

One of the first things that you see along the trail is a pond that has many turtles swimming, lazing on the shore, or propped up on twigs and sticks. They were fairly active while we were there, but obviously not the most unique of animals to see during your time in a rainforest. Another of the first animals that we saw during our time in the park was a tree sloth, although this particular sloth was just curled up and sleeping. We saw several agoutis, which are rodents that are almost a cross between a rabbit and guinea pig. It is possible to see other animals such as monkeys, deer, toucans, and parrots, but due to the number of people that visit the park, those sightings can be rare.

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Turtles Coming Up for Air
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Another Agouti
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Typical Rainforest Tree
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Lizard Trying to Hide

The views of the Panama City are definitely a highlight of visiting the Metropolitan National Park. As you reach the final plateau above the trail, you have 180 degree views of the city and the surrounding suburbs. It is a perfect place to sit and relax before continuing along the trail back to the start. Another common sight along the trail are the leaf-cutter ants, which traverse the trails at many different points as they carry the leaves back to their nests. You will also see many different termite mounds on the trunks of trees as well as variety of flowers, trees, and plants. If you hear some leaves rustling next to the trail, a closer inspection will likely uncover a lizard, but beware of snakes as there are many varieties in the park.

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Looking Out Towards the Bay
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Leaf-Cutter Ants Hard at Work
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Termite Mound
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Start of the Loop

The Metropolitan National Park is a wonderful way to see a rainforest without having to leave Panama City. For a variety of reasons, we would certainly recommend having a more immersive experience in a rainforest, but visiting the park is perfect for young children or those that don’t have time to spend doing a tour or staying at an ecolodge. As Panama continues to embrace ecotourism, experiences such as these will only continue to become more accessible. We were told by one of our guides that 36% of the country of Panama is actually protected, making plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature. Although many people visit Costa Rica, a trip to Panama might just provide a more authentic and less touristic experience.

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Tropical Flower
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Prickly Tree Trunk
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The Views are Amazing
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In Case You Haven’t Seen Enough Agoutis
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Camouflaged Lizard

 

‘Tis the Season for Food and Drink

It is that time of year when holiday parties are in full swing and generally people allow themselves a little bit of indulgences. There are a few favorites that we enjoy almost every year, whether at home or on the road. If we are traveling, we will sometimes seek out places that serve some of our holiday favorites just so that we don’t miss out on our traditional meals. We may not be big sweet eaters, but this is a time where we will sometimes give in and have some pies, cookies, or even candy. Here are a few of our favorite meals and drinks for this time of year.

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Fondue in Zurich
  1. Prime Rib – If we’re at home, we will make a nice meal of prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. It is a simple meal that is elegant and is great for entertaining as it can feed a crowd. The leftovers are also great for cold sandwiches or even a hot French dip.

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    Prime Rib with Yorkshire Pudding
  2. Snugglers – Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps is a perfect way to warm yourself from the inside out. Whether ending a day of skiing, coming in from playing in the snow, or just a perfect ending to a cold day, this is a very festive drink.

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    Snuggler with Peppermint Bark
  3. Apple Pie – At this time of year, warm apple pie with some vanilla ice cream is a wonderful treat. It is also good as a cobbler or a crumble with traditional spices that will remind you of the holidays. We did miniature versions so that everyone got their own individual pie.

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    Apple Pie and Vanilla Ice Cream
  4. Mulled Cider – Spiking some mulled cider with some brandy or whiskey is another great way to get a taste of the season. Although we usually have it during the fall, it is also great all of the way through winter as well. It has many of the tastes of an apple pie, but in a drink.

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    Enjoy the Spiked Cider in a Rocks Glass
  5. Pumpkin Cookies – Although many people have pumpkin pie at this time of year, we opt for cookies. We can share them with friends or take them to a party. They are easy to make and are soft and almost cake-like.

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    Moist and Delicious
  6. Fondue – Whether an oil fondue, which is our tradition, or a cheese fondue, like we had in Switzerland, it is a very communal way of sharing a meal. There is something really festive about eating small bites of food while talking with friends and having a glass of wine.

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    Our Fondue Table
  7. Gluhwein – We always enjoy going to the Christmas markets this time of year, whether in Europe or even here in the United States. If we’re not at a market, we will make ourselves mulled wine, which certainly reminds us of the wonderful Gluhwein that we had during our time in Germany.

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    Gluhwein in Frankfurt

Regardless of your holiday traditions, food and drink is likely to be part of them. We have enjoyed learning about other traditions throughout the world, but that doesn’t keep us from gravitating back to the ones that have been part of our lives for years. Whatever your traditions, we hope that you have a wonderful holiday season.

Sharing the Road

As you travel away from the cities and get into the country, you will often encounter farm animals on the roads with you. We have seen herds of sheep on the road in both South America as well as Ireland, which makes sense as it an easy way to move them to market. For obvious reasons, you will often find cows wandering the streets in India and you simply have to make your way around them. In some occasions they are pulling carts, but other times they are just going along for the ride like some of the cows that we saw in Egypt. Over time, many of us have become removed from the animals that help sustain our lives, but these are subtle reminders that we are all part of the same world. So as you travel to rural places, always remember to share the road with our four-legged or even feathered friends that are on a journey of their own.

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Sheep on the Road in Ecuador
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Streets of Chennai, India
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Driving Outside of Luxor, Egypt
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Turkey and Rooster on Death Road in Bolivia
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Sheep in Ireland
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Along the Road in India
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Close-Up of the Turkey
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Sheep Hurrying Past Us