61. Panama City (Day One)
Eight hours on a freezing cold bus to Panama City, with the only entertainment being movies dubbed in Spanish. There is no way to make that trip sound exciting.
On arrival in the capital we took a taxi straight out to Casco Viejo (the old quarter), which we instantly fell in love with. Cobbled, narrow streets, well-maintained colonial buildings that were slowly being modernised, boutique shops, contemporary bars and restaurants, ruins, plazas, and all surrounded by water. Our first conversations were centred around how to find jobs in Panama so we could move here permanently. The only downside was the price. Clearly everyone wanted to stay in the area, which were driving up the costs of accommodation and food. Not ideal for two slumming backpackers.
The old and the (expensive) new.
Guess where our first stop was? A brewery. What was a surprise though was how little time we spent there. Danny sampled all the beers before discovering the exorbitant prices. He ordered one small glass then hurried out before his wallet was drained of cash.
Dinner was a little more difficult to find. It seemed that every restaurant was looking for three Michelan stars, serving only the finest food with service to match. All we wanted was the basics. We did end up finding a cafe reminiscent of a 1980s rundown diner in a slightly more dodgy area of town, which provided us the meals we wanted, at the right price, without any food poisoning.
Walking back to the hostel we passed an upscale supermarket, and we couldn't resist wandering through. I was pretty sure we lost hours in there, awestruck by the ingredients we had almost forgotten existed. If our budget was unlimited, we would have purchased half the store. Unfortunately we couldn't afford much at all, except for wine. On special were plastic wine glasses, each filled with a quarter of a bottle of wine and sealed with foil. At only 50 cents each, they were a bargain. Much better than buying a bottle, because there was no chance of the wine going off if we didn't finish it (as if that ever happened), and they were much lighter to carry. We loaded up on the six varieties they offered and then headed back to our hostel to get stuck into them.