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As we’ve heard, lots of things make me Always Grumpy. And after a long week at work I’m Often Dopey and a drink or two on Friday evening makes me Quite Sleepy. Spending time with my family helps me be Frequently Happy though, and a few months ago I got to spend a solid week with my wife and our two giant teen-aged boyz.

Our taller and elder boy is much taller than Dad – that’s me, and maybe that’s why I’m All Seven Dwarves. Taller Boy is finishing high school this year and planning to head off to live in residence at university next fall. Our shorter and younger boy is now only a little shorter than Dad and catching up fast. Shorter Boy will still be in high school, but if he gets his way he’ll be in residence at a boarding school that’s more than a handful of time zones away from home. So we thought we should take the opportunity to get in at least one more full-family vacation this winter. Carpe Diem, as they say!

We talked to those boyz about what kind of vacation we wanted. The first decision: cold weather or warm? The vote went unanimously to somewhere warm. Next decision: land or cruise? Since three of the four of us have issues with motion sickness, a cruise seemed risky. Land it is. Now: beach or adventure? We were a little torn about this. All of us wanted some relaxation time, but we all lack the lassitude it takes to sit in a plastic lawn chair for a week, no matter how good the passing bipedal scenery. J So we needed some sort of activities. But where? There are so many choices.

We talked about the Mayan Riviera, where we could explore the ruins of that legendary Central American civilization. Nope. We offered Costa Rica, with its renowned cloud forests. Uh-uh. Taller Boy wasn’t too picky but we were having trouble getting Shorter Boy to buy in. Finally The Boss (who apparently gains seniority by count of X-chromosomes) took Shorter Boy to the travel agency with her. There, a new possibility came up.

Panama! However did you guess?!?

That did it. Shorter Boy was hooked. Not only did the travel agent offer all-inclusive beach resorts with unlimited access to food and eye candy on the beach, but the Panama Canal is right there! You can see and experience one of the modern wonders of the world! You can say you were in two separate continents! And it sounds somehow much more exotic than its next-door neighbour, Costa Rica. Shorter Boy lectured the travel agent about the economy, geography, history and political landscape of Panama while she handed brochures to The Boss and tried to keep smiling in the face of Shorter Boy’s fact torrent and stop her eyes from making lazy circles in opposite directions.

It took only a conversation or two at home to make up our minds, and book our trip: five nights at the beach, two nights on the Canal. Most of the difficulty we had in deciding was with the schedule. The boyz both go to semester schools; we wanted to go during the term break and so avoid travelling during March Break. But the charter flights from Toronto to Panama City leave on Monday afternoon: the boyz’ last exam day. We’d have barely enough time to make it to the airport if we hurried… so of course we booked it.

We packed ahead of time. We warned the boyz repeatedly that there could be no dawdling. We slowed down only slightly as we passed each of their high schools to pick those boyz up after their exams. Then we high-tailed it. We made record time to the airport – fortunately the weather held, the police looked the other way and we arrived at the airport in plenty of time. Our flight was on Air Transat – I’d never flown with them before and I was a little nervous. I’ve had bad experiences before when an airline cut corners on check-in facilities and staff!

Not to worry, the desk service at Toronto’s Hideous International Airport was fine. After an airport meal we boarded our flight, and here’s where the going got good! The equipment was old but well-maintained and the service in the air was excellent. As we arrived, Nolitours agents held up signs to guide us to our hotel buses. Friendly guides loaded our luggage and talked to us about our host country and destination resort as we drove through the city and warm, forested hills. We heard lots about Panama’s history and geography, and found out that we had arrived just in time for the “summer” to start – this is what Panamanians call the brief, three-month window when it doesn’t rain every day in their damp little country. We heard that we were sharing accommodations with not one but three wedding parties! The weather was warm and gorgeous, and we watched the sun set as we drove west along the south coast. After a while the guide’s chatter faded and we were left with the scenery and our thoughts until we arrived at our first destination, the Royal Decameron Golf & Beach Resort near the town of Farallon.

More on Panamania soon!

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.


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