Wow, wow, wow. That’s what I have to say about El Valle de Anton. It is absolutely breathtaking. Take the lushness and flowers of Kauai, mix it with the manicured gardens of Kyoto, and the drastic peaks and valleys of the Rockies, and you have El Valle. It’s a lot cooler than Panama city, with temperatures generally between 65-75 (from what we’ve felt anyway). El Valle is a paradise.
Many of the streets are lined with beautiful bougainvillea, and moss grows on everything. Even the wooden fence posts have little branches with leaves growing out of the top of them (we saw this in the city as well).
There are many beautiful homes here, including what would be considered multi-million dollar estates if they were in the US – more for the large plots of land and well cared for gardens than for the size of the homes.
This is a small town, but with sufficient necessities. There are a couple grocery stores, several restaurants, a library, police and fire station, several hotels, and more. Every street we’ve driven down has caused our jaws to drop.
Our biggest shocker was the actual house we rented. For $100/night, I was not expecting something this nice. It is completely private, and is a good 5-7 minute walk (or 2 minute drive) even to the nearest residence. The town is about a five minute drive away. Everything that’s in between is lush gardens and greenery. There are lots of fruit trees on the premises, and a cute little bridge over a stream.
If you turn out the lights at night, it is completely pitch black, even outside. And the only sounds you can here are frogs and insects and birds. Our first morning we were awakened by a bird singing the most pleasant bird song I’ve heard. If I can record it tomorrow, I will. It is gorgeous here!
The home itself is small, maybe 1000 sq ft, with 2 bedrooms, a small bathroom, a good sized kitchen/dining and living room, and a laundry room. There’s another shed on the property where the workers store their tools.
So far we’ve eaten at three different restaurants in El Valle. They all look really small and simple, but the food has been fantastic, and the service extremely friendly. The waitresses talk with you quite a bit, and treat you like family. Once, Emily was wiggling around in her chair and fell out. The waitress picked her right up and carried her around, trying to make her feel better, for several minutes. I’ve never seen that kind of service at home!
Our first morning in El Valle, we went to El Nispero zoo. It’s a small zoo – takes about 1-2 hours to go through, and has animals from all over, not just from Panama. One animal I’d never seen before was the tapir. They’re a lot bigger than I had thought they would be. Unfortunately, the frog exhibit was closed, but we got a picture of the golden frog, which is only found in El Valle and is one of the most poisonous frogs in the world, although rarely found in the wild anymore.
The highlight of the zoo was definitely the monkeys. There was one monkey who stuck his hand and his tail out of the cage so we could pet it. The girls loved that. He was a very friendly monkey. The zoo had a huge variety of birds, and oddly enough, chickens (hundreds of them). My favorite were the brightly colored macaws (sp) and parrots.
After the zoo we went to the grocery store and got some things for breakfast and lunch for the week. Then we had lunch and rested a while back at the house. The girls watched “Care Bears” on DVD, which was here at the house, and I copied the pictures we’d taken to my computer and started these blog entries.
After our rest, we went exploring around the property. There are so many little trails and places to walk. There was a light drizzle that afternoon and evening, off and on, which felt great and cooled us down. We were looking for animals, and saw a big lizard in a tree, and an interesting bug, but nothing else of consequence. It was really “siesta” time for the animals, so we’re going to try to get up and go on a morning walk tomorrow.
Dinner that night was fabulous. We had more sea bass, but with different sauces. Well, Emily had a hamburger, and Marie had a hot dog. :) My dish came with some grilled bananas which were excellent. The orange juice here is so fresh and sweet – the best I’ve ever had. Jen did find a good-sized bug in her orange juice after she’d drank about half of it, so she didn’t finish the rest… well, she did have a little bit more – it was so good, after all!
We saw several light-colored lizards crawling on the walls at the restaurant that night, especially near the florescent lights. When we got home, we even saw one in our kitchen. Very cute!