I arrived in Panama late on Wednesday night and after a good night sleep, we hit the ground running with a whirlwind bus tour to really get a sense of the city. While some might consider that to be muy turistica, we owned every moment of our tourism. I have never been too proud or too cool to have that wide eyed enthusiasm for a new place. Give me all you got. Our bus trip was hop on and hop off so we were able to take some time at our first stop which was the Miraflores Locks. 1 of 3 sets of Locks that make up the Canal and usher boats from ocean to ocean. It is a marvel of engineering and a beauty to behold. The only bummer was that we arrived later than anticipated and didn’t get to see it in action but having lived there, I got to see that years ago.
We hopped back on the bus and our next leg was the Amador Causeway. We didn’t actually get off at that stop because we would be back out there the next day for lunch but the ride did offer us expansive views of the city with it’s sky high apartment buildings and beautiful Pacific waters. There were also ships galore in the water waiting to pass through the Canal. Papa Gar found an app that told him that there were approximately 178 boats in the area on this side of the Canal. That’s a lotta boats!
Our next hop off to explore and have lunch was the beautiful Casco Viejo. This was one stop I had been waiting for. I don’t believe we ever went down there when we were residents and from what Mom said there wasn’t much to see down there back in the day. It may have just been a residential area. No Se. But after years of neglect it is being revitalized and there is a really interesting mix of old and new to walk around and explore. We were starving so our first stop after numerous distractions for my lens was a darling little restaurant called Rene Cafe. The Rents had been there already but it seemed there were limited choices for lunch and they had really liked the food, so Rene it was. It was cool inside with an open kitchen and the owners son’s paintings on the wall. Rich hues of reds, yellows and oranges anchored by brown and black flowed in brushstrokes that formed portraits of sax, piano and guitar players. The menu was very simple and was a prix fixe so “You have just one choice to make and then you can relax and let the kitchen surprise you with mixture of local and international dishes” according to the website. And relaxing and surprising and enjoyable it was. It started with a lovely salad of chopped vegetables in a light, tangy vinaigrette, followed by a yummy little frittata, and then the main course of a yellow rice and a beautiful piece of corvina lightly breaded with a delicious pesto sauce. Oh and I can’t forget the dessert, my stepbrother would be so disappointed! Lastly came the lightest of sweet creme folded into the fluffy layers of a perfectly cooked crepe topped with a smear of creamy carmel. Heaven. The food was fresh and plentiful and we had a lovely meal. Perfect beginning to the trip. We spent most of the rest of the afternoon wandering around Casco Viejo marveling at the beautiful architecture, old and new, picking up beautiful handmade goods from local artisans along the waterway, chatting (as best we could for the first day) with the locals, practicing our Spanish and yes, buying Panama hats and wearing them PROUDLY. It probably didn’t help that mom and I both got them but we didn’t care and just said “Buenas” to all the people who sort of grinned as they walked past. Buenas Indeed.