Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Central American trek features Panama Canal, monkeys, sky walking

Jacarandas in all their glory escort our travelers through seven tropical countries

The jacaranda accompanied, and perhaps blessed,
a recent sea journey from San Diego to Florida.

HUNDREDS of jacaranda trees were our talismans on a recent foray to Mexico, Central America and the tip of South America.
Our adventure was enhanced by the gorgeous purple blossoms at every stop in an itinerary highlighted by a transit of the Panama Canal.
We'll share the Panama Canal's wonders. 
Legend has it that if you walk beneath a jacaranda and one of its gorgeous trumpet blossoms falls on your head, good fortune will favor you. And so it has.  We are safely back.
Applause for Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
 WE'LL TAKE YOU to seven countries, a dozen villages and several major cities including Cartegena, birthplace of the magnificent writer and Colombian native son and Nobel Prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who passed away last week, days after we'd strolled past his home. A central figure in Latin America's "magical realism" movement, Marquez is revered in Colombia and especially in Cartegena, where we spent time near the home he kept while living in Mexico City, where he died.
A wedding unfolded as our travelers journeyed through
the Americas, enjoying the variety of cultures and sights. 
The beautiful blooms of the jacaranda floated to the ground throughout the city, as if in celebration of his life and colorful writing. The tree and the author have much in common.  Jacaranda is a Portuguese word meaning "having a hard core or hard branch."  Marquez sent his literary branches worldwide.
Our visit to the southern Americas begins today, here at www.whereiscookie.com
The iguana inspired the title for the Burton film made in Puerto Vallarta.
OUR TRIP had myriad highlights -- a surprise wedding, a close-up of the remarkable canal itself, an embroidery lesson, rare bird sightings, howler monkeys, delightful meals ranging from curry to beans and rice and lamb stew, with gorgeous vegetables and fruits.

Richard Burton
in a still from
the 1964 film.
We'll be writing about El Set, made famous by the Burtons
and actor John Huston during filming.
WE'LL BE SKY walking in Costa Rica and  hobnobbing in Puerto Vallarta at the popular bar, El Set, made famous by the late actor Richard Burton when he was there on location in the 1960s. Older locals still remember Burton's and Elizabeth Taylor's colorful stay there during filming of "The Night of the Iguana." We have the scoop!
And speaking of iguanas, we'll take a look at the fellow who enjoyed the papaya we offered but had little interest in the pineapple or watermelon.
We'll walk across a trio of wavering sky bridges, high above the Costa Rican rain forest, where we commune with toucans and crimson parrots.   We'll take a boat ride to a remote Guatemalan village on Lake Atitlan, in the heart of the Mayan world. And we'll report on the two days spent transiting the Panama Canal.  The technological marvel is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. 
Humidity and a swaying sky bridge added drama as Cookie and Keller climbed with the monkeys in Costa Rica.
The jacaranda flowers brought good luck to our travelers.

Always, the jacaranda tree was our good luck and inspiration.
Cruisers aboard the Legend of the Seas are bound from the Pacific
to the Atlantic.  Each day, ships transit the canal from both oceans. 
ITS VIVID lilac-blue clusters of trumpet shaped blossoms are found in tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, Hispaniola and the Bahamas, where the tree is native. It has been planted widely in Asia, especially in Nepal where it is beloved, and in Africa and Australia.
By now, it has been introduced to most tropical climates on the planet, so beautiful are its spring and early summer blossoms which fall to earth with a mass of color.  I've had the good fortune to enjoy them in Barcelona, Pretoria, and at the famous annual Grafton festival in Australia.  There is actually a town called Jacaranda City, 50 kilometers north of Johannesburg, with 70,000 plus flowering jacaranda trees. That place is on my bucket list!
The richly figured timber is rarely cut, as the ornamental value is high. The interesting leathery seed pods follow flowering.  I'm hoping to plant some seeds this year here in San Diego, where there are thousands of these favorite trees.

COMING SOON: We kick off the trip series at the Panama Canal, celebrating its 100th birthday. Then on to the surrounding countries which offer a variety of colorful and daring tourist activities, from scholarly cultural excursions to sheer play.  Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us Wednesdays and weekends at:  www.whereiscookie.com

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