THE START OF A PANAMA ROMANCE?

I usually travel solo, with the potential for romance being a welcome, but low-to-no priority. But this trip I’m meeting up with a guy. We’ll call him Jack, as in Panama Jack.

PANAMA JACK

Jack and I met about a year ago, on business, in San Diego. We attended the same meeting, then shared a car to the restaurant afterwards. We also shared some sarcastic remarks about the meeting. A bond was formed.

A few months later I attended an industry conference in Philadelphia. I walked into the bar and there stood Jack. We continued our conversation as if we had never left California.

Fast forward a half-year and I’m meeting my friend Ted for dinner in Minneapolis. I’m always early, he’s usually late, so I head to the bar and….yup, there’s Jack. We caught-up until Ted arrived. Emails followed.

Jack is smart, witty and successful. My work world is small enough that I know he’s also a stand-up guy. And Fate seemed to be nudging us together. We lived in different cities, so if we were going to get to know each other better, a leap was in order. I invited him to join me in Panama. No promise of romance. He would get his own hotel room, we’d hang-out for a week, and see what happened.

LA ESTANCIA, PANAMA CITY

Jack and I are staying La Estancia, a quiet B&B nestled in the hillside that is both away from it all but convenient to everything, including the airport. I did not book it with romance in mind: I reserved a room a La Estancia for its proximity to nature and laid-back, homelike feel. My room is simple, but large, and the common areas are pleasant for hanging-out.

Jack has not yet arrived so I hike Ancon Hill (654 feet). The walk is challenging, but not overly strenuous, and it’s worth the effort for the view.

Panama City Ancon

MANOLO CARACOL, PANAMA CITY

Jack and I cab it to Manolo Caracol. Of the Panama City restaurants recommended by online posters, Manolo Caracol stood out. We indulge in a bottle of red, sit back, and surrender to the so-many-courses-we’ve-lost-count prix fixe menu, served to us — we think — by the owner. At least he acts like he owns the place.

We fight over the corvina (white sea bass) tossed in tasty little seeds and freely share the gritty clams. But the hits outweigh the misses, and we’re pretty damn happy to be here this evening.

So far, so good with Jack. There’s a chance of romance.

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