Panama was a bit of a fluke for me. Although never really on my list of must-see spots in the world, the Central American nation simply bowled me over when I got a chance to go.

It was a fluke, in part, because the main reason I visited was to join a friend on a trip to visit her daughter, who was living in Panama as a Peace Corps volunteer. That detail contributed considerably to the fun; there’s no substitute for an insider’s view. Regardless of how I got there the first time, Panama is now high on the list of places I’d like to return to, and here’s why:

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I always knew there was more to Chinese cooking than a wok and some peanut oil. But a 1,000-year old egg? I wouldn’t have guessed that ingredient in a million years!

Trust me – I’ve tried many times to duplicate the spicy/salty/sweet Asian flavors and the quick-cooking techniques. The results have been spotty at best.

So, as I was planning my recent trip to Hong Kong, I decided I would go straight to the source – a home cook. Actually, a cooking class seemed a good way to achieve several of my travel goals – learning the culture, interacting with new people, and sampling authentic flavors.

A quick online search turned up Home’s Cooking – a class that had excellent onlin reviews. I liked it because it offered half-day classes at reasonable prices, and it promised to take the participants into a relatively off-the-beaten-track neighborhood.

It turned out to be one of the high points of my Hong Kong visit. Not only did Joyce, the owner and cooking instructor, take us shopping at an authentic wet market on the streets of Hong Kong, but she then led us back to the high-rise apartment she shares with her husband and daughter.


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When I walk along the Peavine Trail in Prescott, Arizona, I can’t help but think about the train passengers of long ago, who must have been agog at the scenery that flashed by.
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The massive granite formations that make up the area’s Granite Dells surely seemed close enough to touch as the old Santa Fe Railroad passed by the iconic Point of Rocks and the many other massive granite formations lining the route.

The Peavine – so named because its route reportedly was as twisty as the vine of a pea plant – once carried passengers and freight between Ash Fork, Arizona to the north, and Phoenix to the south.

Abandoned as a train route decades ago, the railroad bed now serves as a recreational trail, and regularly carries hundreds of walkers, cyclists, runners, and equestrians.

Stick to the main route, and you will get none of the twists and turns of the old Peavine. The six miles that are part of Prescott’s trail system largely skirt the tortuous grades and turns, and instead offer a wide, flat trail with a gradual rise.

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