Breakfast at Villa Marita

In the early morning sunshine, wisps of cloud rolled up the flank of Volcan Barú, playing ever-changing games of light and shadow on the majestic peak. Beside me, perched on top of their cage, two bright green parrots chuckled mischievously to each other. “Hola!” squawked one of them, eyeing me with his head cocked to one side. I replied in like manner, which sent them both into a frenzy of raucous screeches and calls. “Corre, corre!” (Run, run!) encouraged the other, an ironic exhortation in a country where nobody moves at anything faster than a slow walk.

I was standing on the balcony of the Villa Marita, gazing across the valley towards Panama’s highest volcano. We had arrived the previous afternoon in Boquete, the unofficial flower and coffee capital of Panama, a small town nestled in a valley on the eastern slopes of Volcan Barú at about 1,200m above sea level. At this location, it was refreshingly cool, with a light, misty drizzle casting rainbows in the sunlight, and the scent of the tropical flowers for which the town is famous added to the charm.

We had booked a 5-day stay at the Villa, an eco-lodge located high on the side of a hill above Boquete, overlooking a coffee plantation, with spectacular views across the valley to Volcan Barú. The grounds slope down in a series of terraced lawns and brightly coloured flower beds, to a row of guest ‘cabinas’. A breakfast buffet is provided each morning, enticing guests with the aromas of fresh fruits and juices made from home-grown pineapples, papayas and oranges, delicious tomatoes from the hydroponic greenhouses, and organic eggs and bacon. As an added treat, complimentary gourmet coffee is available all day.

The idea of eating breakfast outdoors on a balmy, sunny February morning was an attraction in itself, so we took our places at the balcony table, chatting with some of the other guests and listening to their accounts of their stay there.

A sudden whoosh of wings and a burst of minor air turbulence above my head made me look up and follow the progress of one of the three resident toucans, which had decided to take its morning flight and show off its plumage. This beautiful bird, with its multi-coloured bill and bright yellow bib, settled on the roof of the porch, and posed and preened for our cameras before taking up a perch in a nearby tree.

We took a stroll around the gardens, trying to identify each new flower. The calm, easy-going atmosphere cast its spell over us, and we were in no hurry to leave. In fact, the Villa was a destination in its own right, a haven of rest in a beautiful location.

Eventually, we headed for our car, much later than intended. From the balcony, a raucous exhortation reached our ears: “Corre, corre, corre!” Run indeed….

C Behan

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