Saturday, March 19, 2016

Bumbling Through Panama City

I confess. I don't like reading directions.   But before you go off on me and question how I can be a chef if I can't want to read directions, let me tell you something.   It's not my fault. It's my mothers. She modeled for me for years this inclination to try and do something first before failing and then having to read directions. What can I say. It's probably in my DNA.   So, we started out to explore the city. Now, the guidebooks say you can find maps easily. Anywhere.  Maybe that’s if you are staying in hotels. But we are in an AirBnB and there’s no map around.  So we set up with only an app on my phone and a general map from a guidebook.   First coffee.  Somehow, the concept of iced coffee I didn’t communicate very well, so I got lukewarm coffee.  But it did the trick.  Now we needed to buy a  bus pass.   After three stores, each saying they didn’t sell them, we found a kind employee who sold us his pass and the money on it. It’s easy to add money but not so easy to get the beginning card.   Oh but we were starved.  So we bumbled around some more.  Cerrando.  Cerrando. And the ones that were open didn’t quite look right.
Ah. Here’s one. A little buffet. So we heaped our plates with rice and beans (makes me think of the stew beans and rice from Belize) and coleslaw. In addition there were fried plantains and baked tilapia.  By the time we finished, we discovered this was a VERY popular place, since they also offered the buffet as takeout.  The lunch crowd was there and the line went out the door.  Very satisfying and our tummies were full.   Now we could navigate the city.  Oh, and what we discovered is that Panama City seems to have very narrow sidewalks. Or none.   The bus. We needed to find the main thoroughfare and a bus that would take  us to Casco Vieja, the old town of Panama City.   And then I spotted it. A gaudily painted old US schoolbus.   “Run,” I told my mom.  “We’ve got to get this.”   It’s one of a dying breed. The Diablos Rojos is a line of brightly painted old buses, not very safe, but extremely colorful.  And on top of the décor, there is pounding music, dare devil driving, and some honks and yells for surrounding drivers.   Ah. We made it.  Sat back and vibrated with the music as we weaved in and out of traffic. And we seemed to have communicated well enough about where we were headed, because we end up across the very busy street from The Fish Market.
Ah. So much fish. Table and tables of fish being sold. Beautiful red snapper, shrimp, mackerel . . . and lots of other fish I didn’t quite identify.   It was iced. Sort of.  Certainly not up to the sanitation requirements I learned in culinary school. But it was FRESH.   The best part of the fish market is outside.  Nestled up to the perimeter are loads of tiny restaurants. Serving, or course, fish.  Cooked. Or as ceviche.
We settled on a cup of sea bass ceviche (one dollar) and a mixed fish ceviche (two dollars). That plus a one dollar beer. What could be better for a quick snack.   Ready now to go off and explore Casco Vieja.        


  1. it is always fun and makes you get into the whole thing with these little inconveniences. these are what make you remember the trip

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