Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guests Patty and Rudy Ariani, who are here to share their knowledge of Panama Central America.
Patty is half German and half Belgian, born in Peru but raised in Africa. Rudy is half Italian and half Panamanian, born in Panama but raised in Rome. Prior to moving to Panama the talented couple had owned a B&B in Rome.
Patty is the owner of Patty's Casitas andThanks Patty and Rudy for participating in our
Rudy is the owner of Rudy's Tours.
Please tell us something about yourselves and how you became interested in owning and operating a B&B first in Rome and now in Panama.
Patty & Rudy:
Patricia did her International Baccalaureate in Lesotho and has a degree in Applied Languages (speaks fluently 5) that she did in Aix-en-Provence and then went on to Lyon where she achieved her Master's degree in hotel management. Rudy went to Notre Dame International School and accomplished a degree in Art History at the John Cabot International University.
Having traveled since we were children, we both enjoy traveling, learning about new cultures and being in contact with people coming from all parts of the world, hence our choice of hosting and touring businesses. Our decision of running a B&B derives from the fact that we like it and as we enjoy being together. As we don't have children, we also have room and a lot of time...which we dedicate to our guests, as we find it important to make them feel at home and provide them with all the information needed for a successful holiday!
Where is Panama and what made you want to move from Italy to Panama?
Patty & Rudy:
Panama, often-called Bridge of the Worlds, Heart of the Universe, is located in Central America between Costa Rica and Colombia. We actually met in Panama and within 8 weeks got married!!! We then decided to move to Rome for a few years so that Patricia could learn Italian and discover the secrets of our wonderful cooking as well as part of my life. So we packed up for Italy and started our Roman B&B. We have been running it with success for the past five years. Rome is a beautiful city but Panama is special!
What kind of a B&B are you opening in Panama and where exactly is it located?
Patty & Rudy:
We are opening a Guesthouse: Arcos de Bella Vista which offers spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms located in a residential and exclusive green area in the heart of Panama City, called Bella Vista, where you will find restaurants, bars, night clubs and waterfront promenade all within few minutes walk. It is a colonial house built by a Florentine architect in the 1940's.
The house has been in Rudy's family for 40 years now and since his Mom has moved out (as the house was too spacious for her) we have decided to take it over and restructure the inside with colonial tiles for the bathrooms and the bedrooms.
If you had to choose six unique romantic destinations in Panama, which ones would you choose and why?
Patty & Rudy:
As a romantic destination in Panama, we would choose:
***San Blas Islands (20 min. with a small plane from Panama City), an undiscovered beautiful paradisiacal oasis. The San Blas Archipelago comprises over 365 islands with palm-dotted, white sand beaches.
***Another destination is El Valle located in the crater of one of the world's largest extinct volcanoes. It is about 70 miles from Panama City. This picturesque town is well known for its Sunday market where the locals bring their handicrafts. Beautiful scenery and walking trails abound in the town with very romantic spots like the Chorro del Cacho cascade.
***Just a 15 minute plane ride from Panama City is famous Contadora Island and the islands of the Archipelago de las Perlas- paradisiacal tropical islands famous for their scenery, sport fishing, snorkeling and the vacation homes of some of Panama's wealthiest families.
***A 15 minute plane ride from Panama City are the exotic Pearl Islands-you can still buy pearls today, but the major attraction of this archipelago are its picturesque waters, lush vegetation, fascinating marine life and lovely sparsely populated beaches. It is the location of the 7th CBS Survivor series to be aired September-December 2003.
***In the Caribbean West Panama near the border with Costa Rica is the exotic Bocas del Toro Archipelago. Classic Caribbean aqua blue water fringed beaches washing up against nature dense rainforest. Bocas offers beautiful beaches and small town ambience.
What is there to do in Panama and how easy or difficult is it to get around? Do you need a car?
Patty & Rudy:
Panama is a rather small country (77,381 sq. km. / 29,762 sq. mi.) and the major attractions are all in Panama City and its surroundings. You have beaches, mountains, lakes, tropical rainforests, the Panama Canal, tax free shopping, history, ruins, bird watching, jungle trekking, deep-sea fishing, diving, snorkeling, marine and biodiversity exhibition centers and the almost ready Bridge of Life Museum of Biodiversity built by the renown architect Frank Gerhy... all at your finger tips.
This is the reason why we decided to have our B&B and apartment rental in this part of the country. Being in Panama City gives you the advantage to take half day or daily tours (Rudy will be offering private guided tours) and still enjoy Panama's non-stop night life with its wide variety of restaurants, bars, folkloric shows and night clubs. Getting around in the city is easy just grab a taxi. The cost is $1.50 per ride for one person $2 for 2. Getting around the country is also possible with local planes, buses and car rentals.
How easy or difficult is it to travel to Panama from North America or Europe? How safe is traveling around Panama?
There are direct flights to Panama from 7 US cities, from Canada and Madrid. All the major airlines fly to Tucumen International airport (which has been expended and renovated).
According to the prestigious Pinkerton Intelligence Agency, Panama was rated amongst the top countries for tourist safety. Panama has no army and uses the U.S. dollar as currency, therefore political stability and a peaceful place to relax and enjoy your vacations. More incidents of violent crime occur in cities like Rome, Paris or Washington D.C in 24 hours than they occur in the whole of Panama in an entire year! Like in any other country some places are not safe and should be avoided, avoid flashing your Rolex and expensive jewellery carrying a camera around your neck looking lost& just use your common sense and everything will be all right!
Could you describe Panamanian cuisine and do you have any suggestions as to where one can find romantic dining establishments?
Patty & Rudy:
As an international crossroad, Panama City has a great variety of restaurants with a great variety of cuisines at affordable prices. You can find all types of excellent restaurants, where you can sample Panamanian and Central American cuisine, experiment exotic Far Eastern dishes, dine in the finest European restaurants, or try our country's delicious home made dishes and seafood.
For example at the Tinajas restaurant you can find ceviche-fish marinated in lemon juice, a giant local shrimp, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken)-and mouth-watering flan dessert all for only $12. After dinner, there's a program of the tamborito and other traditional dances, featuring women and men in their traditional dresses. There are very romantic restaurants in the Bella Vista- Marbella area and in the Amador area, where you could have a nice dinner on the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal with a view to the astonishing Bridge of the Americas where the Pacific breezes of the ocean meets the tropical rainforest.
What languages do they speak in Panama and if someone only knew English, would he or she have a difficult time communicating with the people?
Patty & Rudy:
The native tongue in Panama is Spanish although most Panamanians speak some English and many speak it fluently. Remember, for 85 years up to 50,000 Americans lived in the Canal Zone. Furthermore, Panama is traditionally an international business crossroads. Panamanians are accustomed to working side by side with foreigners and English has become a second language.
Could you tell us something about the costs of spending a vacation in Panama and what to expect for lodging, restaurants and excursions?
Patty & Rudy:
In Panama you will find very good service, lodgings, restaurants and so much to do.
The cost of a 5 day vacation in Panama with good accommodation, going to relatively good restaurants and taking some tours would cost around $800 for a couple. This is an approximation; it depends on the person.s taste and on what type of vacation one wants to take. You can find all kind of accommodation from 5 stars with prices from $120 to $150 or hotels for $20 a night but then it is not in a nice neighborhood and not conveniently located as far as restaurants, attractions, etc.
As far as food, meals in Panamaare generally cheap. From a $0.25 empanada to a $19.00 lobster dinner (16onz) you will surely find a decent meal to suit your budget.
Lunch could cost you from $1.50 to around $7.00 or more if you are into the good things in life. The basic pattern in Panamanian lunches is: a serving of meat (any kind), rice, beans (or lentils, porotos, or any kind of grain), plantain, and salad. This is the lunch that most workers eat for about $1.50 to $2.00 a serving. You can also go to most local restaurants and get a chicken meal for around $3.00 to $5.00. A beef meal would cost you around $3.00 - $7.00 depending on the quality and the cut of the beef. Pork is also very popular for around $3.00 - $5.00.<
Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?
Patty & Rudy:
Another factor to consider is weather. Most people have a wrong idea of the weather in a tropical country. People tend to be afraid to travel in the rainy season, green season as we like to call it, but rain in Panama is very different than rain in Europe or USA where it could rain continuously all day for days, here you will get sudden short downpours that freshen the air and are followed by sunshine& most activities and tours can be planned around it.
Panama largely avoids the Pacific Rim's earthquakes and its ring of fire, escapes the Caribbean's devastating tropical storms and hurricanes& this is why it was decided to build the canal in Panama. Tourism in Panama is a year-around activity. The temperature never varies, 25°C to 30°C (77°F - 86°F) and the sun shines everyday, all year long.
Thanks once again and good luck with your new B&B.
Thank you Norm and maybe this interview made you curious of coming to visit us in beautiful Panama?