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Messages - dvol

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Last minute, but looking for recommendations for a  tour guide for Chal Hamoed Sukkos, preferably with a car/van.

If anyone knows of someone still available that they were happy with, I would appreciate the info.

TIA

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Panama Master Thread
« on: February 20, 2019, 05:47:39 PM »
Is the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at PTY before or after security?

After, there was 1 by our gate, 21. However. After buying a coffee we were told we have to go through security again while boarding and have to throw out any liquids. Weíd never ever havd that experience before and I wish someone would have told us right before we bought a large coffee

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Panama Master Thread
« on: February 18, 2019, 03:51:48 PM »
Some pictures as per request.

The pool at the W, view from our window on the 16th floor:



Video from the Monkey Island tour:







After Monkey Island we had our guide drop us off at Casco Viejo:



Then dinner at Aria:
Empanadas, cream of tomato soup (HIGHLY recommend), shisito peppers, and then a shredded meat dish on top of yuca - also delicious:



Pretty sure this was called Thai soup:



The BEST version of crispy chicken I have ever tasted:



And of course churros for dessert:



Apple crumble, also delicious:



The next day, some pictures from our trip to the Embera village. Here is the boat you take to the village:



Being greeted once we arrived, as you can see the kids love Sorhay



Our Embera guide told us that the children in the village had just rescued an abandoned monkey that they found near the village. They normally do not keep any pets so this was a major event and all the children were enthralled with it:



Visitors are not allowed into the homes of the Embera, but they have one hut where they make food for visitors only so we were allowed to see their "kitchen" there:



The view:



The fried tilapia and plantain lunch they gave to all visitors:



The fruit we had brought along and they cut up for us, pineapple, watermelon, passionfruit, banana, papaya and some tamarind:



On our way out we were offered a tribal "tattoo" which is similar to henna and lasts about 7 days:



We then took the boat to the rainforest, and some of the children in the village joined us. Here is Sorhay giving them a lesson of some sort:





The children leading us to the rainforest:



There was only 1 local family at the rainforest, but luckily it was empty otherwise. We did climb to the top of this waterfall and took a dip in the water above:



Later that night we had dinner at Lula by Darna, I tried to look up the items we ordered but the menu we had is completely different from the one I found online. I'm going to say this was called French Dip rolls, I could be 100% wrong, but it was very tasty.



Some kind of ground meat inside yuca - was very good:



Empanadas:



Mushroom salad:



Burger:



The next day we went to lunch at La Spezia. Here is the cheesiest pizza you ever did see:



Eggplant Parmesan:



After that we went to the Panama Canal:





The Amador Causeway at sunset:



And then dinner at Moma:

Pastrami rolled in something. I want to say yuca again since I think we saw that everywhere, but it was delicious:



Tuna bites:



Definitely a tie with Aria over the best sesame chicken in the world:



We skipped dessert, headed back to our hotel and left the next morning. All in all Panama should be a food destination if nothing else.

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Panama Master Thread
« on: February 14, 2019, 01:38:33 PM »
I have plenty of pictures and will post if anyone is interested, but I just came back from 3 days in Panama and will post my trip report here:

I had booked a bulk fare with Priceline departing Saturday night on UA and returning Wednesday morning for $489 p/p. When I checked in online Motzei Shabbos I was offered an upgrade to business for $189 per person which I took. At the end of the day it was a complete waste since it was probably the most uncomfortable 5 hours of my life, and I got nothing from the stewardess besides half a glass of water. I had also had the bulkhead seats booked and while I got the same offer for an upgrade on the return I didn't take and had pretty much the exact same experience sitting in the bulkhead seats in coach as I did in business.

While the flight was uncomfortable it was uneventful and we landed in PTY at about 5AM which is just about when the airport opens and all the shops were still closed. We called an Uber from the pickup area which is in the car rental section and the guy standing in front of us got into one of the parked cars there and that was our ride.

You'd have to be crazy to rent a car in Panama, the driving and parking is even worse than Brooklyn and the Uber rates are a joke. I believe the fare from the airport to our hotel was about $7. In general the majority of our Uber rides ranged from $2-$7.

We had a room booked at the W Panama, however it hadn't occurred to me that they would be completely sold out the previous night, so although we had a room booked with a member that has Lifetime Platinum status we were told they have no rooms to give us at the moment (about 5:40AM). We had booked a regular room and had been upgraded to a "fantastic suite" and while we offered to take a regular room and switch later on we were told that not a single room was available. After asking the manager several times I had just about given up and we were going to look at different properties near us to see where we could get a room when I asked if he could check any of the other SPG properties around us if they could give us a room, at least for a few hours and we'd be happy to pay for the night. While he was checking he told me that their first guest had just checked out and if we waited 30 minutes they would clean it for us. While it was a regular room he'd be happy to switch us to the fantastic suite later on in the day and that's what we did. By the time we got to the room was a little after 7AM and we went right to sleep until about 11AM.

A little about the hotel: It's fairly new, under a year old and very modern with the same hip vibe I've experienced in most W hotels I've stayed in. While even the regular room was very spacious and comfortable the only reason I wouldn't stay in this hotel again is because of its location. It's in the financial district and about a 20 minute walk/5 minute car ride to Paitilla which is the Jewish neighborhood where most (if not all) of the kosher restaurants are located. The area was extremely quiet and we barely saw anyone in the hotel, even the pool rarely had more than 1-2 people in it. However, the service was great and we did love the rooms.

When we woke up we got dressed and took a 20 minute walk to Kava to have lunch. Like I said, I have pictures I can post if anyone would like to see but we had some sushi which was very good, their Thai salad was incredible, but the pasta was definitely of the boxed variety and pretty blah.

I had booked the 4 hour Monkey Island tour with My Friend Mario for 2PM ($90 p/p for a private tour - cash only) so after lunch we headed back to our hotel where we had arranged to be picked up. I forgot our guide's name but he was very friendly, talkative and he brought along an "expert on animals" to help guide us on our tour. We had to drive about 45 minutes to the Gamboa marina where we boarded a small boat that drove us on the Chagres River for about a half hour until we reached the Monkey Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour and had a great time having the monkeys come eat straight out of our hands. We didn't get to see any crocs which apparently disappoints most people but was perfectly fine with us.

After the tour we headed back to our hotel and headed to dinner. We ate at Aria and were extremely impressed with the decor, the food, all of it. We didn't get to at the end, but we had planned on going back at least once more - all the more reason to visit again. After dinner we walked to the Sortis which was a block away to check out the casino but we were so tired we left without playing, but the hotel was busier than the W and looked really nice as well, would definitely check it out if I were to go again as the location cannot be beat.

I had booked a tour to the Embera Village with Sorhay from The Real Panama Tours (https://www.therealpanamatours.com/) for the next day with an 8AM pickup. I cannot say enough good things about her, as many people have said here before. She was friendly, accomodating and a great guide. The drive to the rainforest was about an hour and 15 minutes and we were met there by our Embera guide- Saul. We took about a 5 minute boat ride to the village where we were met by some of the tribe. Sorhay seemed to know everyone there, from adult to baby and they all love her. We had about 6-7 kids trailing us at all times and the entire day was fascinating. While they are not as authentic as they once were (when we arrived we saw one of the tribe trying to catch reception on their cell phone) and they speak fluent Spanish and many go to the city to buy supplies, it's still fascinating to see how they live. We walked around the village with Sorhay giving us lots of information and then took a break for lunch - fried tilapia and plantains (we had brought along lunch). We had also brought along tons of fruits that we had stopped to buy on the way up and the tribal kids showed us the best way to eat passionfruit - by dipping pineapple slices into it. After lunch we took the canoe to the waterfall - many of the kids begged to tag along and 5 of them joined us (according to Sorhay its a rare treat for them and their parents took some convincing). Because the water in the river had already started to lower we had to hike about 20 minutes to the waterfall which was a fun challenge. We spent about 30 minutes there in the refreshing water and then headed back.

By the time we got back to the hotel was pretty late and we got changed for dinner and headed out. We went to Lula by Darne and while the place was also very nice and the food was good, it wasn't as impressive as Aria. I'm not sure if it's always like that, but for some reason every place seemed mostly empty and made us wonder how these places stay afloat.

On Tuesday we didn't have much of a plan, so we woke up late and went to get a massage at the Bristol hotel which was right next door to our hotel (W didn't have availability). While the service was very good they had no facilities to speak of. After that we headed to lunch at La Spezia where we had some apps and the pizza. While very tasty it had TOO MUCH cheese - not a sentence I ever thought I would say.

After that we went to the Milaflores Locks of the Panama Canal which we were told to go to either before 9AM or after 2PM. We arrived at about 2:45 and went to see the 40 minutes Imax movie that's narrated by Morgan Freeman and plays every hour on the hour. While interesting it can definitely be missed. After that we bought tickets for the museum, another 20 minute movie shown in there and the Locks to see the boats being lowered in the Canal. Definitely a can't miss and we spent a few hours there, until about 5:30.

After that we took an Uber to the Amador Causeway. However, what should have been a 23 minute ride turned into an hour and 10 minutes because of the ridiculous stand-still traffic we encountered. After all that our Uber bill was only $7 but we felt so bad we left a $5 tip. It was pretty much dark by the time we arrived so we didn't end up renting a bike like we had planned, just walked around for a few minutes.

For our last night's dinner we really wanted to go to Aria again but we noticed another meat place called Moma and decided to give it a try - it's a lounge/restaurant and they had a nice big outdoor seating area with lots of people smoking hookah and a big screen showing the football game. While all the other places had been pretty empty, Moma was full and had a young, hip vibe with one very large family having a birthday party there complete with clown and everything. We ate outdoors and the food was really good, and their drinks were as well, definitely would go back there.

Our flight the next morning was at 9:30Am so we left our hotel at about 7:30 and while traffic in the reverse direction was a complete standstill we made it to the airport in about 20 minutes. We used our Priority Pass to get into the incredibly crowded, very unimpressive lounge by Copa Club and that concluded our trip.

I always intend to write out short succint trip reports but usually end up with long megillahs and this time it seems was no exception :).

Happy to post pictures if anyone would like to see anything.

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Panama Master Thread
« on: January 29, 2019, 01:42:36 PM »
When people refer to a tour of the rainforest, do you mean Gamboa? Is it a tour by boat? I'm so confused as I asked Sorhay about a tour of the Gamboa Rainforest and her response was that it was a resort, not a tour.

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Panama Master Thread
« on: January 21, 2019, 12:56:02 PM »
I've read through this thread as well as the trip reports listed (thanks @Denverite very insightful)  and was hoping for some advice. I'll be flying into PTY in a few weeks from NYC landing early Sunday morning and departing Wednesday morning which gives me 3 days in Panama and will be staying in the W in Panama City.

Besides for the food, what are the must do's that I can cover in those 3 days without 1-being away overnight, 2-getting up at the crack of dawn, 3-Lots of hiking.

From what I've read the following seem to be what I should be covering, but I'm not sure how to spread it out over 3 days or if I'm missing anything:

Casco Viejo
Panama Canal
Jungle Tour
Monkey Island
And if I have an entire day empty then Pearl Islands.

Any recommendations/ideas would be appreciated.

7
Thanks.I'm staying in the JW Marriott in Cannes and it seems it's right near a train station. Does the train to Monte Carlo take you right to the Palace?

Itís pbly about a 15-20 minute walk

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I'm staying in Cannes and plan on touring Nice and Monte Carlo. Do you guys recommend renting a car or does taking trains make more sense?

I didnít rent a car, my friend did. He traveled around more, drove up to Eze which he said was breathtaking, and tried to convince me to rent a car. However I took the train from MC to Nice and to Cannes. I didnít get to drive up to Eze and some other places he visited. In each city we only walked. Depending where youíre staying the train station may be far. But he did admit there was lots of traffic so where Cannes to monte Carlo took me an hour by train it took him sometimes double that with traffic. So itís a toss up. Keep in mind there is no Uber in Monte Carlo, but there is in Nice and Cannes. Had there been Uber in MC it would be a no brainer. There are taxis but only cash and very expensive.

So in short I guess it depends on what you plan on doing.

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Quote from: maylei What's the name of the hotel you stayed in Venice?
[/quote

Carnival Palace

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There are no kosher restaurants in Monte Carlo. In Nice we went to Meat Bar which is kind of an Israeli style place with burger, schnitzels, salads. I think they had shawarma too, I'm not sure.

Then the other night we went to Le Dauphin Bleu which has pasta, meats, salads, etc. A bit more upscale but not too fancy.

Food in both places was very decent.

In Cannes we were only there during the day and while the dairy place wasn't open yet for the season, we found this fast food style shawarma/falafel place called Rouvi that was very good. They had bagels, hot dogs, burger, schnitzel, shawarma...small little place with just a few tables but food was very good.

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Up In The Air / Re: Alaska Airlines
« on: July 25, 2018, 08:06:10 AM »
No not really

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Did you go yet? I am going soon. I read somewhere online that there are plenty of parking garages in Monaco however they are just costly. Is that the case?

I was just there. I didnít rent a car but a friend of mine did. The Meridian is about $50/day parking and thereís a lot right near the Monte Carlo casino thatís $25/day I believe

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Up In The Air / Re: Alaska Airlines
« on: July 24, 2018, 11:46:32 AM »
Anything to do about this?

I transferred SPG points to Alaska and the points came in today. I needed 4 seats in J on EK in November, JFK-DXB-BKK. I searched for 2 seats and then for 4 seats and it showed available, all in J.

It's 2 couples so there are 2 alaska accounts so searched for 2 and 2. The first one which was completed 60 seconds before the second one was confirmed while the second one showed "sorry, we weren't able to confirm these partner flights. Please try again".

Spoke to Alaska and to Emirates, there's nothing they can do and they don't show saver available.

Any suggestions? There definitely was 4 saver seats available before booking, what went wrong. Can anything be done?

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Destination Guides And Trip Planning / Re: Venice Master Thread
« on: July 19, 2018, 07:50:02 PM »
Just posted my trip report and added it to the wiki as well:

https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=94228.msg1961456#msg1961456

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