NOTES FROM THE ROAD - PANAMA CITY + LIMA

For those of y’all who don’t know, I travel for personal funsies. A lot. And I take a lot of pictures while I’m traveling a lot. I’ve been in the really bad habit of not sharing, so I’m swearing myself to making a post for every trip I take in 2019 and beyond, which means starting with this adventure to Lima (with a li’l layover in Panama City), a quick catch-up on a trip in April to Turkey, and then future updates on Roatán in August and Mexico in October - and be sure to keep an ear to the ground for the photos from my Irish and Alaskan adventure weddings that I’m so excited I can barely sit still for.

So let’s go! Time to wander off for an adventure to Dani + Som’s wedding in Lima. Ready? Ready!

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA


I landed at PTY about 11.30 P.M., and the delightful mix of a lack of sleep and an overconfidence in my piss-poor Spanish meant that my cab driver took me on a very circuitous 45 minute/$45 extra detour to show me restaurants with me nodding sleeply and saying “¡Si¡” when I should have been saying “Vamos a mi hotel.”

Despite being quite hungry and a little travel weary, I got a great view of the city skyline, a vague idea of recommendations from the friendly driver about where I should visit the next morning during my ~16 hours in Panama City. Also of note was the huge and incredibly numerous parks that were meticulously maintained and still quite popular at that late hour on a weekday.

When I finally made it to my hotel, I did the normal Explosion Of Everything I Packed To Everywhere that, frankly, if you don’t do upon arrival, don’t talk to me. No seriously, e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.

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After admiring the great view from my window of a local park, I hit one of the few open restaurants in the area and had my 31st beer in my 31st place abroad while waiting for some takeout. Yes, I’ve been keeping tabs, and yes, I’ll do a recap post on that wild ride at some point, but for now…¡salud!

Rise and shine to the next day, where I decided to head out exploring on foot and via Latin America’s first metro system for the few hours I had before needing to scoot back to the airport. I found the streets mostly pedestrian friendly, and the subway super easy (and super affordable/super air conditioned!) to use.

On this day (and…most days, let’s be real), it was HOT. High 90s with intense humidity and the threat of rain looming overhead. I was a sweaty mess the entire time, but thoroughly enjoyed wandering my way to Casco Viejo, a historic and older neighborhood in Panama City.

I took a slight detour on to a beach to put my toes in a new ocean - howdy, Pacific! - before having a cop come holler at me to get way the hell away. Apparently the very sad stop sign along a twenty foot entrance means no foot traffic? Lo siento, officer!

I loved the beautiful architecture married with the street art in this area - the older buildings reminded me of Havana while the art gets a direct shoutout to San Juan PR’s gorgeous and never-ending murals.

I spent a whooping ~$0.35 equivalent to grab a few pieces of ice cold piña from a street vendor in an attempt to cool down, and made some friends with locals before heading back to my hotel.

Apparently rooftop pools are a huge thing in Panama City, and I was super glad for a quick dip and another stellar view before packing my booty up and finally getting on to Lima.

Not Even Slightly Fun But Kind Of Charming Fact - in the airport, I talked to a Panamanian man who drives trucks back in the states about the new toll road circumventing Middleton, Delaware. The world is really, really small, y’all.

LIMA, PERU

The flight to Lima was quiet, but definitely got me super pumped when we began our descent and I could clearly see the Andes peaking above the clouds with a big ol’ full moon. Descending in through the incredibly heavy cloud cover, and in to a new city.

Travel Tip #492: Buy a cheap bag of sweets (either at home or in the airport) and give a small handful out to everyone you’re interacting with that’s on the job or just looks like they could use a little lift. I got a huge bag of some chewy caramels with a chocolate filling that only set me back about $8, and I ended up having flight attendants, desk agents, and taxi drivers geeking out, and evening trading me a local sweet.

My immediate impression of Lima was of how foggy and damp and sodium-lit it was - very romantic in a dark and cozy sort of way. I was glad to wake up the next day to discover just how much greenery I hadn’t seen in the ride from the airport to the Miraflores district where I’d be staying for the duration of the trip.

I set out the next day to meet up at a very delicious brunch at El Bodegón with all of the out-of-country kiddos who made the hike to Peru to celebrate our friends Daniela and Soumitra’s wedding. We were all college buddies of the couple, living in California and Texas and Ohio and Guatemala and Indonesia, and had a great time swapping the “How did you meet?! Where are you from?! What do you do with your life?!” stories and figuring out what we could do together during our overlapping time in Lima.

I set off with Leslie, a coffee queen (no seriously, she brought us all a bag from her family’s company in Guatemala), to explore the nearby Indian Market. We found the sweetest little cafe tucked in to a corner, where I got a swift and delicious education on different types of coffee preparation. Chemex made cappuccino? Sure! But first, we swirled and sniffed and laughed with the amazing barista Juan.

The market was a colorful explosion of beautiful goods that were locally made - I scoped out what I was definitely going to buy and bring home (including some locally made silver jewelry and alpaca scarves), as well as making a mental note to head back and see Juan to scoop some coffee and chocolate.

Later that night was quite the feast with Hilary, Leslie, and Xena at Osaka. I happily left my camera behind at the hotel (sorry, no photos!) and got absolutely schooled on yet another facet of Peruvian food, which I was woefully ignorant about. Apparently there is a very large population of Japanese Peruvians, and the fusion of flavors that Osaka presented was absolutely stunning. I’m already dreaming of eating here again!

As the next day was the BIG day, I made it quite leisurely. I took a big ol’ nap (!!! how novel - I’m so used to running nonstop on wedding days for work) and then wandered the iconic coast line.

Both surfing and paragliding are huge activities in Lima, but I was more than happy to watch rather than participate in the chilly winter weather.

The Parque Del Amor (the Park of Love) is a gorgeous little spot full of mosaiced benches and the tower sculpture of El Beso (the Kiss) by Víctor Delfín to sit and smooch, or to sneakily snap photos of folks hanging out.

While June is winter in Lima, I loved seeing all the verdant plants in bloom. I so enjoyed wandering all the streets and admiring the succulents and flowers and tiny gardens that seemed to be tucked in to any corner feasible.

On to the main event! The Crew of Visiting Friends congregated outside of the church, and cooed over Soumitra’s 007 sharpness while excitedly waiting for the wedding to take place. In many Latin American countries (maybe most? I’m not sure - someone correct me!), it’s quite common for a church to be open to the public for these union masses. I’ve wandered past and peeked in on bodas in Guatemala and Puerto Rico.

Nuestra Señora del Pilar was gooooooorgeous, with a most stunning and intricate Baroque altar pieces. Live music and choral accompaniments made the scenery all the more beautiful, but nothing outshone Daniela’s radiance on this night. I really don’t have the words, but I am sighing with a contented heart looking at these photos again. Absolute perfection!

After Dani and Som left the church, we caught a little more of the choir signing, snagged a group photo, and headed off to the reception at MALI.

Sparkling lights, bubbling drinks, and seriously, Peruvians know how to seafood! Truly one of the most delicious cocktail hours ever.

We all waited excitedly to enter the reception space, which was a stunning production of lights and texture and more delicious food. I’ve had reoccurring dreams about that dessert table, y’all.

If Dani and Som’s wedding are typical to Peruvian weddings, they’re my new favorite. There was no MC awkwardly shepherding folks to their seats, or the whiplash from slow song to fast song. Dani and Som shared their first dance with each other, and then their family members, sweetly transitioning in to an open dancefloor. And oooooh boy, did we ever take advantage of that!

Some time after midnight (oh, did I not mention we were celebrating from 9.30 p.m. until 4 a.m.!?), Dani and Som donned sehra and mala, and then all things Bollywood Goodness broke loose, including a troop of dancers who really got things jumping.

According to my FitBit, I clocked about 11.83 miles worth of dancing, right until about 4 a.m. My feet hurt so bad, but it was no match for how much absolute fun it was to celebrate with Dani and Som’s family and friends. At one point, an auntie came up and told me that my tall, blonde, terribly uncoordinated self had a Peruvian heart and gave me a big ol’ hug. What a treasure to be so far from home but to feel so, so welcomed. Oh, what a party!

I hobbled out of the museum on my tired feet to catch a cab, and to crash hard.

I slept late that day, and rose from the dead in time to say goodbye to Nick and Chris, and to have a few cocktails with Zaid and Monica.

My last full day in Lima was spent exploring even more corridors of the city, and catching the first tiny glimpse of sunshine I’d seen all trip. It was still watery and weak, but how delicious it was nonetheless. With feet still feeling sore, Huaca Pucllana, an ancient clay pyramid, was my only must-do for the day.

It’s quite startling to see such prominent ruins amongst city sprawl, but still an incredible experience nonetheless. Both the Lima and the Wari cultures used this great pyramid for ceremonial and cultural practices. My favorite tidbit is that shark worship was a thing (!!!), and quite a large assortment of teeth have been found amongst these ruins. It’s amazing to think of folks in about 500 CE hunting great white sharks in fairly primitive boats.

The grounds also had some local crops, as well as textile and food sources (sorry, squeaky little guinea pigs!) and a lazy Peruvian hairless pup (not to be confused with the Xoloitzcuintli of Mexico.

I wandered for the rest of the day, with the most notable bit of finding a giant tortoise in a yard when I’d stopped to photograph a beautiful singular pear. A pair of nuns stopped by to give him a few pats, and I had one of those wonderful moments of This World Is A Freakin’ Wild Ride.

My last day in Lima happened to be Anthony Bourdain’s birthday, which has swiftly become #BourdainDay. I made a little post about that experience, but I truly feel so, so insanely fortunate to have been out and about on Lima’s coast line to ruminate on life and travel and being a wandering stranger before heading to the airport for the journey home.

After multiple days in the dense fog and spitting rain of Lima, the sunset on my flight home felt nothing short of miraculous. I bathed in the warm light, and couldn’t stop taking photographs on the dramatically shifting skyscape.

A million congratulations to Daniela and Soumitra - thank you so, so much for bringing together such a wonderful group of people. Lima, I’ll see you again (hopefully soon!).
-xo MEJ

ALYSSA + CHRIS || Kent Island, Maryland - An Eastern Shore Summer Wedding

Alyssa and Chris are two seriously cool cucumbers, and I think with their wedding being on their 9th anniversary (how cool is that?!) they were just so ready, so stoked to get married that they were extra on top of being in the moment and enjoying their wedding. And seriously, there was a lot to enjoy!

Seriously, first looks with bridesmaids are almost as good as first looks with future partners, or at the end of an aisle. All. The. Feelings!

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A million ‘not sorries!’ that there’s a million photos shot on/around/through Alyssa veil. I lovelovelove that gauzy texture, and I’m also pretty partial to the hilarity that happened when it just…fell out when she and Chris were giddily cruising back down the aisle after being named Man + Wife.

For being an almost cloudless day, these photos came out so magical - generally the middle of any summer day sends me fleeing to the shade, but we totally worked the strong light, and got some truly breathtaking portraits along the water.

And all the props possible to the guests + wedding party here - they absolutely flooded the dance floor, putting all those folks who wait until the lights are dimmed to boogie down.

Congratulations to A+C - loved being a part of this breezy, beautiful day! -MEJ

SEE MORE OF ALYSSA + CHRIS’ DAY HERE

VENDORS

Venues: St. Christopher’s Church / Maria’s Love Point Bed & Breakfast
Hair + Makeup: Pretty Weird Beauty
Flowers: The Country Petaller
Catering: Smokehouse Grill Catering
DJ: Derek of Dance Masters Entertainment
Cupcakes: Blue Crab Cupcakes
Transportation: Blanchard Limos

#BourdainDay - Reflecting on the man who taught me to circle the globe swearing, laughing, and experiencing everything I can.

Today is Bourdain Day. I was lucky enough to wander the very tall, incredibly moody cliffs of Lima on this drizzly winter morning to reflect on the gifts I got from a man I never met - how very fitting, how very lucky I am.

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My wanderlust was sprouted from watching No Reservations as a young teen, my travel compass was forged years before I ever got my hands on my first passport. The hustle, the blood/sweat/tears/theft, the beartbreak, the moments darting across bustling thoroughfares, the hangovers, the language barriers, the gruelingly long layovers, the tiny golden connections of human interaction and the big breathtaking moments that're burned in to the back of my skull are all concepts I was as absolutely ready as I could possibly be for when I ran in to them at a breakneck speed. I can thank Uncle Tony for that.

Anthony Bourdain was delightfully and doggedly human. He battled with addiction and mental health. He died by suicide. He was constantly curious. He was about as sardonic as you can get, but he was always undeniably himself. He was real, he was raw, and he put a few toes past the point of brutal honesty sometimes, but through everything, he maintained a solid sense of humanity and humility. Anthony had the ability to reach through the television and shake the shit out of people drowning in the quintessential American Apathy And Desperate Need For Convenience™ that convinces you Epcot's version of countries is more than enough. He opened so many eyes to the United States' complicity in war and famine, and the spoils of colonialism, how to shoulder this knowledge and to do better for it while shaking hands and breaking bread with the people directly impacted by our gains. He invited, no -- he challenged everyone to reach across yards and communities and states and countries and religions and genders to just sit down and open up over a meal. We are never too rich, too poor, too smart, too stupid, too creative, too broken, too whatever to get out in to this world and really, truly experience it. Put down your preconceptions and your pretension, and get going. Unless you're eating your steak well done, then you deserve all our collective scorn.

Peru is the 25th country I've visited in just over four years. Majority of my travels have been by solo. I've been alone, but I've never been lonely - I've had folks back home cheering me along, new friendships forged along the way, and always, the wisdom and wisecracks of Anthony Bourdain constantly chirping at me in my head.

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I'll leave y'all with three things:

1.) Get out there and put yourself in an uncomfortable place to build a bridge to someone who is vastly different from you. Maybe it's a work colleague you've never said much to, a neighbor down the road who you've been meaning to officially welcome to the community, or a total stranger who looks like they could use a hand or a few kind words today.

2.) “Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." -Anthony Bourdain

3.) If you need it, please rally your strength to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 // En Español: 1-888-628-9454 // Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 // or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741. You are deeply loved, incredibly important and capable of amazing things. However long you walk in darkness, whatever you do to lighten it, wherever you go to outrun it, you are not alone. 💛

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