67. Panama City (Day Six)
Back again in Panama City after our incredible island escape. Now that I had the luxury of being able to move in one direction for more than two minutes without hitting water, I was going to take advantage of it. That meant going for a run.
I hit a few streets through Casco Viejo before coming across a path that followed the water towards the city. I wasn't alone. This must have been the place to be, as dozens of other runners and cyclists also had the same idea. With views sensational views of the city and the old quarter, I could see why it was popular. Humidity, once again, was against me, but I pushed through to make it an hour round trip.
Running out towards the city...
... and back towards Casco Viejo.
I also appreciated having access to a variety of food again and could not wait to tuck into my staple Panamanian breakfast: toast, peanut butter, banana, cinnamon. I think I could live off this combination forever.
Today's adventure was out to Amador Causeway, a boardwalk that jutted directly out to sea for a couple of kilometres, connecting a few islands to the mainland. We caught a taxi out to the start of the causeway, where we commenced our walk. We didn't realise how long the walk would take (forever), or how poor the views would be (construction work blocked the entire city-side of the walkway). Really wished we had taken the taxi all the way to the end.
Bypassing the first island, we reached the second and headed inland. We were told about a lookout up on the hill, so we found some steps and started climbing. It seemed as though not many people visited this lookout. Either that, or we took the wrong steps to the wrong lookout (which wouldn't surprise me). Somehow the path had turned from smooth concrete into technical trail, being overtaken by the surrounding vegetation. The view halfway way up was better than what we were given at the top.
Halfway up. We should have stopped here.
Finally we walked to the start of the last island (or million dollar yacht island, as I called it), but didn't go further than the shops lining the entrance. The reason for this was that we found a liquor store full of alcohol at reasonable prices. After buying a few small bottles of wine all we wanted to do was head back to our hostel to put them in the fridge. So that's what we did.
A short bus ride and a 50 minute walk through the blazing sun took us back to Casco Viejo in time for lunch. With our booze now chilling in the fridge, we visited our favourite cafe, Tantalo. This was our third meal here, mainly because they offered a cheap lunch special that was delicious and filling. A huge wrap and a glass of wine, in a too-cool-for-school dining room, had us coming back again and again. I wish we could take this place with us for the rest of our trip.
After a quick walk around town we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hostel, drinking our cheap (and not nearly as nice as we had hoped) wine we bought that morning. As it was our last night in Panama, we wanted to go out on a high. For us, that meant expensive food. Every street around us was lined with high end restaurants, and we became jealous whenever we walked past and saw customers eating their gourmet food. We wanted to be those people. So Danny did some research and came up with Manolo Caracol, a Spanish-style restaurant offering a 10 course degustation, changing daily, with a vegetarian option. Perfect.
The setting was simple yet beautiful, particularly at night when it was mostly lit by soft, overhead lights. The cocktails were amazing, particularly the margaritas. The wine list was too long for me to get my head around, but I was sure it was impressive to those with unlimited budgets. Of course the highlight was the food: unpretentious, well-portioned, with a wide range of fresh foods. My veg dishes included tomato and caramelised onion on baguette, vegetable rolls, carrot tamale, beetroot salad, onion soup and bread pudding. It doesn't sound amazing as I am typing this but I can assure you it was. Danny's meal was full of seafood, ox tail and bone marrow, an omnivores delight. It was a great way to say farewell to Central America.