The cruising adventures of Sid and Manuela

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Back in April Sid went to the States to sign up with the VA, unfortunately the 3 weeks he was there were not enough to get to see an ear specialist, the reason he went in the first place.
Panama City

So in September we both went for 3 ½ weeks. Sid had made reservations for a midsize car at DOLLAR. Boy are they a rip off. Any other agency we’ve ever rented usually didn’t charge for an extra driver and if, a onetime fee of 10 bucks. They wanted 14.99 per day, that’s crazy and for insurance they wanted an extra 29 dollars per day and get this they would not let us pay with credit card that covers car insurance on rental cars. It was a big disappointment but that changed when we went to get the car in the garage. A friendly guy greeted us, looked at our paperwork and pointed at a white midsize car. We walked towards the car but saw a family with kids sitting in it. We pointed it out to the guy, he waves for us to wait a minute and disappeared. A second guy approached and looked at our paperwork and also pointed at the very same car with the family in it but now the car was pulling out of the parking lot and driving away. It was too funny! The other guy came back and both shook their heads, so Sid pointed at the Ford Mustang Convertible and said I’ll take this one! Yeah right. One guy motioned to follow him and started walking towards a Cadillac ST we thought OK an upgrade not bad. He kept walking and stopped at a black Ford Edge SUV and said that’s your car. Now that’s what I call an upgrade. The car was huge.
The excitement grew as we inched closer to Phil and Nell’s (“Moon Dancer”) condo at the Sonesta Hotel in Coconut Grove. Sid told me all about how luxurious it is. Phil and Nell thanks again for offering  your home to us during our Miami stay. Finally walking into the luxurious lobby of the Sonesta Hotel to get the apartment key just threw me. All what came out of my mouth until Sid opened the apartment door was wow, wow and wow. I was prepared for an incredible apartment but what I found was super modern with huge balcony hugging the condo. Apartment 1801 was immediately nicknamed to “Cloud 1801”. The view from the 18th floor was just amazing.

Panoramic View
I didn’t even bother rolling the curtains down at night, we were high enough up so nobody could peak in but mostly to wake up with the first sun’s rays kissing our faces. The sunrises from our bed were amazing.

We had an incredible view all the way to the Keys, Key Biscayne, over Dinner Key Marina and anchorage, over to Miami Down Town and the airport. The city was OK during the day but spectacular at night, like an ocean of lights.
View over Dinner Key Marina and Key and Key Biscayne in background
View towards the Keys

The kitchen was super modern with black marble counters, even a wine refrigerator and in the bathroom the tub had Jacuzzi jets. The most decadent was the automatic toilette, I never had to wipe my butt, it was all done for me and had different cleaning settings including blow drying. For the boys it has a push button to open the lid and seat automatically. No need to flush either the second you walked away it flushes automatically. Amazing how easily we are amused!

Master Bedroom

Here is a link for the condo if anyone is interested:

After inspecting the apartment Sid drove me to the nearby Fresh Market. Oh wow was it nice to walk into this gourmet store. We came back with fresh Sushi, Pretzel Hamburger buns (man are they good), fresh strawberries, cherries, prosciutto, and assorted gourmet olives, liquorish and and and…..  It was great. The whole first week we not once went to a restaurant instead we enjoyed the incredible view from Cloud 1801 with some gourmet food. I felt like a million bucks.

The very next morning we were off shopping, Wal-Mart here I come!!! We needed to return a whole bunch of T-shirts Sid had brought me home but didn’t fit. We entered Wal-Mart and immediately a friendly greater approached me and said that I had to go to the other entrance where customer service was. I thanked her and we walked back out. Back in the parking lot it hit me: “Sid did she just speak Spanish to us?” She sure did. If it wasn’t for Wally World I could have sworn we were still in Panama. The entire time in Miami we did not know if we should greet people with “hello” or hola” or use “gracias” or “thank you” it got pretty confusing. I was actually amazed that we didn’t walk out with a lot of stuff, most I can get in Panama.

Downtown Miami

Incredible Reflections

Well there are a few things I can’t get in Panama, like bathing suites. I could not believe that expensive Bloomingdale had them on sale, down marketed from 139.99 to 39.99. I almost fell over at the register when she rang up 13.99 per piece I ran back and took the only other one which was the same color but hey for this price I don’t care. I was now the proud owner of 3 bathing suites. Now that shows you how much markup they do. At Bealls I bought 6 more for 14.99 per piece; I am set for many years to come and my trip to Miami was a success already.
We scratched one thing after another off the list and the third day the list was practically gone.
On Tuesday Sid had a blood test and on Thursday his doctor appointment and OK for Sid to see an ear specialist but couldn’t get an appointment until the following Wednesday; which actually worked out perfectly. Cloud 1801 was rented out for the second week and we were not sure yet where we would stay, plus Isaac was on his way and was going to hit on the weekend. At the same time we received an email that our good friend Bob just got out of the hospital, he had a brain tumor removed. So after we left the docs office we rushed home, packed our seven things and left Miami at 14:00 and were on our 905 mile, roughly 14 hour trip to Knoxville TN. Coming across the border of SC we were hungry and saw a Bojangle’s, yeah love that stuff. We decided to stop at the next one, not realizing that there was no other until Tennessee. At 22:00 we finally found something that appealed to us: Taco Bell. Spent a couple hours sleeping in the car in a rest area, had breakfast at a Cracker Barrel, although next door was a Bojangle’s we decided for Cracker Barrel, oh all the healthy stuff they serve.
At 08:00 approaching the Exit to Bob and Kari’s house we noticed a Trader Joe’s store NO WAY!!! I couldn’t get out of the car fast enough and into the Store; we were like little kids in a candy store. It was so much fun but unfortunately couldn’t buy too much since we were on a whirlwind tour through TN and NC then back to FL. It was so good to see Bob and Kari after all these years and it was sooooooo worth the long drive. Bob looked amazingly considering just having had a major surgery. I enjoyed every minute we had with them but had to leave early the next morning. Our next destination was Greensboro NC another 5 hours 289 miles. It was great to see Debbie and finally meet her parents, but same here we had only one day and night and left the following morning for another 4 hours 220 miles to Oriental to see Ron and Leslie. Ron unfortunately has Alzheimer’s and is getting to the Stage to be placed into a home. As sad as it was to see him deteriorate it was worth the visit. Leslie is amazing with Ron but it has been hard on her. Again we only had one night to stay and left the next morning again, this time a shorter trip to Wilmington 140 miles. Megan wanted to know if we would get there for Bloody Mary time or Margarita time, well the drive turned out to be a bit longer then it should have so Margaritas it was. Again it was so good to see friends. Megan cooked us a juice prime rib to which Lucy joined us. (Unfortunately most photos are fuzzy)

Good job Megan
After dinner Megan revealed that Greg had caught blue crab extra for me but since we wanted prime rib she cooked that instead. What BLUE CRAB?!!!! Guess what Megan and I had for breakfast, while the boys enjoyed a New York steak and eggs with béarnaise sauce, a full pot of crab, yummy.

For many years Sid and Megan have this Domino thing going. It’s a single 6/6 domino that has been past back and forth. Last time we were here we left it in her house so I knew it will get back into our luggage. First thing I did when I got up I checked my carry on suite case. She must have been in a real hurry to sneak it in there because I found it within seconds. I have to say she still has the domino in her possession; I hid it in the bathroom’s soap dish under the sponge that covered the dish. 

Greg and Megan are coming to visit us for Christmas; I guess I will have to watch her like a hawk and tape all the closets and drawers shut. I have a feeling we will not find it until we move back on the boat. 

We arrived at Margatita time and left at Bloody Mary time. We had to leave early as we had 792 miles or about 12 hours to go. In the mean time Isaac did what hurricanes do and was now over land and we drove through the remnants in South Carolina. At times with very heavy rain but the cloud formations were awesome.

Remnants of Isaac
AT 8pm about 1 ½ hour out of Stuart Florida, Tracy texted me that we had to drive by their exit and that they had wine and rum waiting for us. I texted back that if we did that we would have to crash at their place. So two hours later we pulled into their driveway. It was fun and the one glass of wine and rum turned into two.  Sid left me behind for his doctor appointment in Miami and I had time to catch up with Tracy and enjoy her pool.
It's been a loooong time!

Wow their house is absolutely beautiful, and the pool of course was cool. When they moved to Stuart from NC we tried to hook them up with our cruising buddies Jim and Nancy former Windance. Eventually they met by accident they had their boats next to each other in a marina. We invited them for dinner and all could catch up and oh did we have fun. We spend two nights with Chris and Tracey then moved for one night to Jim and Nancy’s before we headed back to Cloud 1801 which was available again.


We couldn’t have spent Hurricane Isaac and no condo time any better. Unfortunately we wanted to visit relatives in NC as well but it was just such a tight schedule and decision was made that our ill friends took priority.

We returned just on time for the Annual Coconut Grove Bed Race, yes you read right they are in fact racing beds on the street. It’s a hoot. It made for a perfect day to celebrate Tracy’s Birthday and Ines and Isabelle’s arrival.

When my twin girlfriends Susan and Ines from Switzerland found out that we were in Miami they both booked a flight. Ines flew with her friend Isabelle from Zurich and Susan arrived 4 days later from the Bahamas, as she works in Nassau.

Ines (middle) and Isabelle
We had dinner at Le Bouchon and it was wonderful!

Soooooooo happy to have Ines here haven't!!!!

Happy Birthday Tracy
After dinner drink by moonlight
It was a happy reunion and since Sid didn’t have any more doctor appointments we had fun doing the tourist thing, shopping and shopping and driving to Key West, then Susan arrived and more shopping. We also celebrated our 22nd Anniversary, man how time just disappears. 
Yeay Susanne is here!
Mike and Kari visiting

We were not suffering food wise!

Mike and Carey Cummins and Jerry and Mimi Cogan now all living in Florida came to visit and wouldn’t you know it Jerry and Mike new each other from back in the LAPD time.
Just good our friends Dale and Sandy who live in Key Largo came home from their two months Australia trip just on time for us to visit on our last day in Florida.

Here a few photos of a rain storm approaching:

And it's only 14:00

What a difference to see it from the 18th floor

This was a long 3 ½ weeks with so much going on. Sid did get the most important doctor visit done. He also got his desperately needed glasses so he can see again we just have to work on his hearing now. He’ll get his hearing aids next January when we go back to Florida. It’s tough getting old!
Arriving at home we were exhausted and desperately needed a rest. We got it, Sid came up with the usual cold he gets on flights and I had just too much excitement and came back with high blood pressure. Alls back to normal again and we’re back into the CLOD routine in Panama.

First things first, Sid went out to the boat to check on the batteries and all. All was fine except during the 3 ½ weeks hundreds of little martins used Paradise for their home from dusk to dawn. I think these little stinky critters are the only other creature that sleeps and poops at the same time other than babies. The boat was a horrible shitty mess and had to be stripped. It took us a good two weeks to get all cleaned up again. Not just that Sid had to sit on the boat every sunset to chase them off. That lasted for over a months and just now they are slowly disappearing. Any boat not populated was poopulated.


Yeah I dare you to land again!!!(No worries the pellets dos not hurt them, but does keep them from landing)

Last year I missed the Seafood Festival in Jose Pobre so I made sure not to miss it this time. I was told that every Seafood fest it does nothing but rain, guess we had a lucky day. I took Teresa, Binnie’s maid, with me as she has no means to go to Jose Pobre and has many friends there. The little Pueblo is right on the water and has a very beautiful setting. A few stands were set up and the air was filled with different smells of cooking, but not much was going on, not many people noting really. Guess the party starts after the sun goes down. I did taste some of the many wonderful seafood dishes. I tied coconut curried conch, octopus, snails and small lobsters, was it delicious. At one house a family had fun dancing the Congo, which is the native dance to this area. It was fun but also hot so we didn’t stay all too long.

Restaurant's kitchen, pretty primitive

Curried Conch

Bats have taken home in our attic and needed to be evicted. A day later I found one of the now homeless critters sleeping on the porch. I still can’t say yet if they are cute or ugly. What do you think?

We had a fun surprise Birthday Party for Binnie. Cindy and I had to sneak around her house to get it done, we felt like little kids doing a forbidden thing. We used her not quite finished new Apartment and decorating it with palm leaves and other local plants to get the echo out of the room. It was a success and Binnie was surprised especially that we managed to get away with her not seeing us.

October 13th was Sid’s turn. Pat’s hubby’s BD is on the 14th and since the boys have sooo much in common including not liking a big fuss over BDs we decided the two of us cooking a gourmet meal for our hubbies. They of course had no clue.  Three days before his BD I told Sid to keep Saturday afternoon open, he responded with “Don’t do anything for my BD”! 2 hours before we left I told him to pack an overnight bag. He gave me the funniest look. I assured him he had nothing to worry that it was going to be a quite BD.  Pat had given me the key to her guest house she calls “The Chocolate House”. I could see Sid’s brain working and huge question marks were in his eyes when we pulled in front of the guest house. Made him a cocktail poured a glass of wine for me and we relaxed on the patio enjoying a beautiful view over the valley. Not even 2 minutes had gone by when I saw a Toucan fly from tree to tree.


Seeds are used for red food coloring
After the cocktail was gone I said “let’s go for a walk”. We started walking up the hill to Pat’s housed and it was quite funny, her and Jesse were sitting on their patio looking down, Jesse said “who’s that?” at the same time Sid said: “who’s that?” and after the girls told them Sid/Jesse they both said “I thought so”. They love the idea of having a quite BD. While they were sitting on the patio saving the world and making sure the rum was not getting older, the girls worked up a storm in the kitchen. We had a blast and at 5 we sat down with the boys for cocktail. Pat made her own roasted mixed nuts and also marinated olives. After cocktail the girls dressed up and started bringing the food out.

It was an incredible meal, the boys very happy and the girls proud. Just good it was going downhill to get back to the chocolate house. We sat on the patio already at 7 am sipping on fresh brewed coffee enjoying the beautiful Valley covered with a lifting vale of fog.

An here a few photos of an intimidating thunder cloud that came by Puerto Lindo: