Cyber Monday deal back to California

Came across a great Cyber Monday deal from ATL to LA and a week and a half later my daughter and I were off to the west coast.  California is the first US state that I lived in and I used to spend my teenage years summers there so I consider Cali home (along with Panama, Atlanta, and Miami). If you happen to find yourself on the west coast with a lot of time to kill, below are plenty of ideas to  occupy your time!  

I told my Cali peeps that I know they are gonna think I’m crazy, but I would prefer to take public transit vs them picking me up. I love being able to maneuver around the cities that I visit without a vehicle and also people not having to endure traffic on my behalf. 
LA 's Metro train system is so cute, most of the stations don't even have a gated entry, its like "We want you to pay, but if you don't got it, we are ok with it." lolololol Anyway its a very extensive train system, sadly it doesn’t go to the LAX airport YET (soon come) there is a $10 Airport Flyer shuttle that takes you to a couple different places in LA. Upon landing we needed to get to Union Station so I could get my daughter on an Amtrak train to San Diego (My daughter wanted to go to San Diego so see her cousin Gabby and half-sister on her dads side).  The Airport Flyer runs every 30 min and I got tired of waiting after about 7 min and called a $26 uber, not bad since I was gonna pay $20 anyway.  I haven’t been to San Diego in like 10 years, but the last time I went, we flew directly there and then I rented a car and drove to LA.  I don’t really like driving anymore so I googled transportation options: (1)  Rent a car – NO!; (2)  On the east coast we have the cheapo transportation option Megabus (it’s a more respectable version of the Greyhound) that travels everywhere.  Cali has Flixbus which has $5 buses between San Diego and LA.  (3) The Amtrak which runs along the coast and has beautiful views of the ocean *Winner Winner Chicken Dinner*  Amtrak was about $30, but if we had been traveling on the weekend it would have only been $10.

I told my aunt Chris that I would be make my way to her house via the LA Metro train, but she happened to be in the LA area and had lunch w/ us at a little cafe on Olvera St. before my daughter zoomed off to San Diego. Olvera is a Mexican Marketplace that is a long, narrow street with lots of restaurants & shops about one block from Union Station.   
Juanita's Mexican Cafe
My aunt lives outside LA surrounded by the Cali mountains.  The mountains were so close, I felt like I could just reach out and touch them. It was so beautiful, mountains make me think of Panama *mi corazón = mi heart* My aunt is a DIE HARD Lakers fan and I have to shout out the Lakers Suite that I stayed in at her house.  This photo doesn’t even capture 40% of her Lakers memorabilia. I love that someone loves their team as much as I love mine.  I guess being a fanatic runs in the family.
The next morning I took a $3 uber to the train, then a $5 / 2 hr train ride to see my Cali ace Amber in Long Beach. We’ve been friends over 10 years so anytime I’m in the LA area you can probably find me linked up with her.  She is always such an amazing host, always has the fridge stocked fulla Champagne and Bacardi. She has the cutest little beach house with an enchanting view of the bay, I felt like I was in a Norman Rockwell painting.  As I sipped my champagne on the couch I could see the sailboats sailing by, it was so serene. 

Younger Panama and Amber would head to downtown LA or Hollywood when I was in town and party the nite away until the time difference caught up with me and I passed out, the new older us kept it local and I loved it cause I was in bed at a respectable hour.  Ima tell yall a little secret… 41 year old me can’t hang like I used to, don’t let social media fool you.   The first nite we drank next door in Seal Beach while watching the Christmas parade (1) I love parades (2) I love Christmas (3) I love drinking… again Winner Winner chicken dinner.
They took me to brunch the next day at their favorite spot called  *The Breakfast Bar*, if you don’t know bottomless mimosa brunch is my life.  Amber had a Christmas party at her place that evening, we took a quick time out to see the Naples Xmas boat parade right outside her house.  That was a first for me, but I felt like a little kid cause I was so entertained by the highly decorated boats.  It was a little chilly this trip, but they promised to take me out on a boat next trip (guess I gotta come back in the spring/summer) I didn’t take any pix at the Xmas party, but a good time was had. 
I told her she looked very Martha Stewart'y (pre Federal Prison)

The next day we headed off to one of their local watering holes at 10am to watch football. Reminds me of the time I was in Hawaii at a sports bar at like 7am getting litty while watching football. 
Any who, my Atlanta Falcons were getting slaughtered so I hopped on the train and headed back to my aunts side of town to link with my fam at Dave & Busters.   I haven’t been to Dave & Busters in years, but not gonna lie I had a really good time playing games and watching football games that I wasn’t emotional invested in. 

That evening my cousin Amber (yes another Amber) who works at the W Hollywood invited my aunt & I to come through for jazz nite.  Turns out that it was Jazz Nite - Christmas Edition, once again *WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER*  I don’t even wanna guess how much the drinks at that  W cost, but cousin Amber kept the drink tix coming and I was hydrated and in musical heaven.

We all got up at the crack of down and drove down to San Diego, I had planned on taking the Amtrak, but Amber and Aunt Chris decided to drive down for the day.  We linked up with my Aunt Sonia (the aunt I used to spend my teen years L.A. summers with) her daughter Gabby and my daughter and we spent the afternoon on Coronado Island playing in the Cali snow aka sand at The Del hotel, the Del is apparently a famous hotel that may or may not be haunted that you should visit should you find yourself in the San Diego area.

That evening got to explore & see the beautiful Xmas lights around downtown San Diego and Sea Port Village.

Star of India - San Diego Maritime Museum

The next day we took a road trip to Tijuana, Mexico something we did the last time I was in San Diego about 10 years ago. Last time it took us about 1 hr to get through the US customs border line on the return…  I recently read that its best to park on the US side of the border, cross the border on foot and then call an uber on the Mexico side.  We let the kids talk us into driving *le sigh*  We visited the Avenida Revolucion (great place for local shopping and eats), The Tijuana Cultural Center / CECUT, it’s the only IMAX theater in Tijuana and it has a very unique design. I felt like we were on a Star Wars set on the planet of Tatooine, home planet of Anakin Skywalker.

I'm still traumatized about being forced to get on this, I shoulda ran away

Tijuana CECUT
Then we headed to Playas de Tijuana, the beaches that are right below the US border.  It was so surreal to see the US border stretch way into the ocean, then see armed guards on the other side of the border.  During the day the area was very safe, very clean; lined with restaurants, street vendors, tourists, and a long boardwalk with HUGE HEARTS.   We had lunch at Restaurant Arcos Playas Tj and we had a front row seat facing the beautiful ocean (and that damn wall). The food and drinks were cheap, plus the food was amazing. When we headed back to the US… OMG it took us 3 hours to get back through.  There are a sh*t ton of vendors selling any and everything to cars waiting to get back in the US.  My poor aunt just kept getting talked into buy more and more stuff, I eventually had to LOCK her window.  I told her NOT to make eye contact, but she didn’t listen to me. 
Playas de Tijuana - Mexico / US border
The next day my daughter and I took the Amtrak Pacific Liner back up the coast to LA.  The views along the train route were to die for. I was in heaven, I literally want to go back to Cali just so I can take the train up and down the coast.  They have a café onboard with booze, so my daughter and I enjoyed very reasonably priced mimosas while taking in the views. 

When the train arrived in LA three hours later I was really sad to have to get off.  Took the city Metro train to Hollywood, placed our luggage in storage with Bagbnb and spent the rest of the day hanging out in Hollywood. Even stumbled upon the Aquaman premier.  We got to see Queen Atlanna arrive (how funny, I live in Atlanna) and King Nereus (Princess Mera’s father). Also funny that just the day before in Mexico it felt like we were on Tatooine from Star Wars and in the movie Aquaman when they are wandering through the Sahara desert looking for the tritan, it really looks like they are on Tatooine.
If you are looking for Uncle Snoops star, its across the street from the Mann's Chinese Theater
After we were done getting our Tourist Mode on, we took the city Metro train to my aunts house and slept like babyz.  The next day was all about enjoying my last moments with the mountains, day drinking and a long ass flight home! 

Panama AGAIN!!!

No way I expected to be back in Panama for a third time this year, but oddly enough I did.  This trip didn’t really have a purpose, I had time to blow and found a really good deal. Really good deals usually require some kind of sacrifice and this one was flying out of Miami at 5am.  I flew into Miami the night before and my favorite Miami homie Travis - Brown Marketing hosted me till flight time.  FYI, if you are ever in an accident… CALL HIM!!! 
Usually when I arrive in Panama, my dad is waiting with a hired a driver to take us to Colón, but my dad was in the USA so I had to coordinate my own transportation. I got a quote for “discounted fare” of $80 hahahahaha (I only paid $65 for the MIA-PTY flight) apparently my dad had been paying $100 all this time.  Thank you, but no thank you.  I am pretty well versed traveler and am not afraid of public transit, sh*t when we found that great deal to the UAE we flew into Abu Dhabi and took a bus to Dubai… gotta do summin strange if ya wanna save a lil change LOL.  I took an uber to Albrook Mall & Bus Terminal and took a $2.50 bus to Colón.  Absolutely no complaints about the bus ride, I keep saying I want to take the train through the jungle to Colón, but it doesn’t run at times that are convenient for me. 

I planned on staying with my cousin Heidy in Sabanitas, Colón and not venturing into my hometown of Colón City, Colón which is why I didn’t pack my usual white tee (aka don’t rob me) wardrobe.  As I mentioned in my September Panama blog, they are kicking all the poor people out of Colón City to expand their money maker the Free Trade Zone. Most of my cousins no longer live in the city so I didn’t expect to have a reason to be there.  But surprise surprise, I got to go home again, maybe for the last time? It was marvelous, 2 1/2 days of doing absolutely nothing other than chillin on the block!!  That’s why when people are like, “I wanna come to Panama with you” I’m like, “Nah you are not gonna like what I do when I am in Panama”  

HOME:  Calle 10 Colón

Can't believe my cousin let me jump rope with her child!

The kids discovered phone FILTERS
Earlier trips I would go to Colón and stay in Colón the entire trip, but more recently I have been getting my Tourist Mode on. So after a few days in Colon I relocated to Panama City for some time with my Panama City fam and some quiet time.  This go round in the capital I stayed at the JW Marriott formerly Trump Tower. I was very proud of my Panamanians for kicking Trump out Panama Hotel Owner Declares Victory and Trump’s Name Is Removed.  It’s an oceanfront property with balconies in each room and an infinity pool, but if you recall in my last blog I told you that Colón and Panama City sit at the entrances to the Panama Canal and they lack beaches because the nearly 240 million cubic yards of rock and dirt excavated from the building of the Panama Canal were dumped there.  So you have to be willing to ignore all the rocks & dirt (especially in low tide) and angle your damn camera right so that you can enjoy the beauty of the ocean beyond. But as I said before, Panama has a sh*t ton of beautiful beaches, they are just not located at the entrances to the Panama Canal.  The customer service at this hotel leaves a lot to be desired (maybe they kept the same Trump employees) so for that I rank them #4 my favorite Panama hotel list: (1) Hard Rock, (2) Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino, (3) Hilton Panama

Reality vs: Social Media

I took my cousins back to that discotech with the $80 bottle service ZaZa Lounge cause you can’t beat that price. Option 1) Pay a $10 per person cover & buy drinks -or- Option 2) Buy a $80 bottle and everyone gets in free & drinks! *hmmmmm*

One day was spent hosting fam at my hotel with plenty of booze purchased at the grocery next door cause those mini bar prices were outta control. 
Went to visit the ruins of Old Panama, went shopping in Casco Viejo, strolled along the Cinta Costa to get a selfie with the Panama sign.

When my brother & I went to Panama in February we had our Colón cousins come up to the capital and we all went partyn at Tantalo Hotel rooftop bar. The view there was amazing so I stopped by for happy hour this go round. I had two mojitos and was about to leave, but when I saw my bills was $8 I sat back down and told them to Keep Em Coming.  

Those who know me, know that I LOVE Coyo Taco in Miami. Its not only a restaurant, but a very chillax lounge where I Get My Whole Life. I stopped by Coyo Panama and I know Ima sound hella petty when I say this, but the entrance door opens INWARDS not OUTWARDS and all I could think was, “If some ish pop off, we all gonna die cause we can’t escape.” My friends know I’m that friend that is prepared for all situations, like that time I accidently started giving the Heimlich maneuver to a friend who gave me the universal sign for chocking.  We were all in the kitchen and I thought she was choking on food, but turns out she had just “that good smoke”
Whoops, back to the Panama blog…  Anywho, I had a fantabulous week in Panama.  Alot of my friends are travel-holics and they will send me their flights deals to join them random parts of the world.  My response is usually (1) I have no moneyzzzzzzz -or- (2) I have no free time, but let a deal to Panama drop... I am OUTTIE 5,000  I blame it on my childhood of being an army brat growing up around the world, but really just wanting to go home.  See you in 2019 Panama!