Sunday Pleasures

From my balcony, I can see the deep-blue water lapping against the rocks just offshore. Out beyond where the surf breaks, a lone fisherman idles in a red boat.

This is the only time all week, Sunday morning, when it’s quiet. No pounding jackhammers, no blasting. Sunday mornings in Panama City, we open the windows wide to let in the sounds of the waves coming to shore and of the birdsong.

After breakfast, we cab it through downtown, around Casco Viejo, to the Causeway, Panama City’s answer to Central Park in Manhattan or the Tuileries in Paris.

Those comparisons are generous, but Panama’s Causeway is one of the city’s most under-appreciated attractions.

Designed as a huge breakwater to protect the entrance to the Panama Canal and the Port of Balboa, the Causeway was built with rock excavated during the digging of the Culebra Cut. It’s a giant fill project.

It’s also the best place to spend Sundays in Panama City…and a puzzle, because few of the city’s inhabitants seem to realize this.

We make the trip out every Sunday we can and wonder, each time, why we have the long, narrow stretch of walkways and bike paths lined with palm trees and wooden park benches mostly to ourselves.

On one side, you have the best possible view of modern Panama City, the high-rises, the half-built towers, the cranes, the skyward-reaching glass, steel, and concrete of a city trying so hard to move beyond “developing” world status. On the other, the islands of the Bay of Panama and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

At the far end are restaurants and shops. About midway is a weekend market. There’s also a cruise port, a marina, a convention center, a hotel, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, my daughter’s favorite place to visit when she’s in town.

Yes, they’re also building condos out here, but, thankfully, the level of construction so far is nothing compared with what goes on back in Panama City proper.

And, Sundays, even Panama City work crews take a break.

I’ll be brief today, therefore, as I want to get out to make the most of this sun-drenched day of peace and quiet in the Panamanian capital.

Happy Sunday,

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. This month’s issue of the Overseas Retirement Letter (due in subscribers’ e-mailboxes tomorrow) features a full report on living, in retirement or otherwise, in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.

After an extended search for the ideal place to settle…after considering and rejecting a series of other countries and regions…Contributing Editor Lucy Culpepper and her family have chosen to settle here, in the “other” South of France.

And Lucy’s report on why makes a point worth highlighting.

This cost of living thing is an enigma.

If someone asked you to name the cheapest places in the world to live, you (especially if you’ve been reading these dispatches carefully) might suggest Ecuador or Uruguay…Thailand or India…Nicaragua or China.

You wouldn’t name France. But Lucy’s firsthand account of life in a village in Languedoc makes the point that you should.

In fact, this “other” France is a surprisingly affordable place to call home. Lucy explains that a couple could live here on a budget of as little as US$750 a month if you own your own home. Or you could rent a comfortable, even charming two-bedroom apartment for as little as US$650 a month.

Meaning that, even if you rent, an American, for example, could live in this part of France on his Social Security alone.

It’s hard to argue with that…


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