Panama - The Potato Chick

Panama City, Panama

In a sentence...Central Americaís most cosmopolitan capital.

Food we loved...bakery treats purchased for next to nothing Ė a donut for me and a custard filled monstrosity for Nick.

It was with a heavy heart that I arrived in Panama City. Whilst I could have attributed this to the fact that it was 4am and our hostelís reception would not open until 8am, I knew it was something more than this. Our arrival in Panama City marked the end of our time in Central America. Our six fantastic weeks here had been filled with volcanoes, beautiful sunsets, beaches, picturesque lakes and delicious food and I didnít want it to end. Luckily, Panama City revealed itself to be a fantastic city with a cute old town and plenty of sunshine.

We stayed in Casco Viejo, the cityís colonial old town, and were amazed at the amount of restoration going on. It wasnít so long ago that this part of town was considered too dangerous for tourists but now it attracts them in droves with its bars, restaurants and ocean views. I just hope the restoration works donít go too far and remove the fantastic street art that fills the area.

Of course, our first port of call was the Panama Canal. Feeling a bit under the weather after our overnight bus ride we did not think to take lunch with us. Unfortunately the on-site cafe was closed. Our ďlunchĒ therefore consisted of Doritos, chocolate biscuits and rice pudding. All purchased from the vending machine. Yep, travel sure is glamorous sometimes. Gastronomic issues aside, it was just amazing to see the canal in action with several huge ships passing through while we were there. The speed at which the locks filled up and emptied was astounding.

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Panama City is really well set up for people who like to exercise with bike and running paths all along the waterfront. We enjoyed both running and a walking along one of these paths which, in addition to being five minutes from our hostel, was built over-hanging the ocean and filled with tropical plants and wooden seats. Very cool.

The next day we hired bikes and rode along the Amador Causeway, a road that connects the mainland with four islands in the Pacific Ocean. While the ocean views were somewhat hidden by the roadworks next to the causeway at some stages, it was still an enjoyable way to spend the morning.

After a cheap and cheerful Panamanian lunch of rice and some sort of delicious roasted chicken we sadly headed to the airport. Rio (and Carnivale) awaited us but saying goodbye to Central America was not easy.

Next stop...Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

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Posted 26 February 2015

Bocas del Toro, Panama

In a sentence...a final farewell to the Caribbean with two of my favourite boys in the world.

Food we loved...the meals we ate at Firefly.

After a pretty crazy first year of marriage it was only fitting that we celebrate our one year anniversary in unforgettable fashion. After much discussion, we pencilled in a few extra days in Bocas del Toro rather than rushing to Panama City for the big day. This turned out to be an excellent decision.

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago on Panamaís Caribbean coast just over the border from Costa Rica. The islands are filled with colourful clapboard houses, secluded beaches and good surf breaks.

We split our time between two islands, starting off with three relaxing nights on Isla Colon with Jules. We rented a cute little studio with a kitchen and a large deck overlooking a gorgeous tropical garden. We spent plenty of time chatting on the deck whilst dodging dive-bombing hummingbirds.

After a morning run along the beautiful coastline, our first full day was spent in a very relaxed fashion wandering the town and dodging the near monsoonal rain downpours which strike the island on an almost daily basis.

On our second day we used the rusty clunky old bikes provided by our hostel and rode down to Bluff Beach, enjoying more gorgeous coastal views along the way.

Julesí enjoyment of our time together was hampered somewhat by a mystery illness which struck, by pure coincidence, several hours after we had cooked him dinner.

We farewelled Jules and, after a short boat ride, arrived at The Firefly on Isla Bastimentos. This was without doubt the most fabulous place we have stayed on the entire trip. Owners Lauren and Ryan were absolutely lovely. Our room was simple but beautiful, with a balcony overlooking the ocean. To top it all off, there was a personalised welcome sign awaiting us.

And donít even get me started on the food. Asian style tapas with a Caribbean touch...every dish we ordered was amazing. Highlights included cornflake encrusted French toast with fresh coconut and maple syrup, crunchy popcorn prawns and mango braised pork ribs.

As tempting as it was to simply bunker down at Firefly and never leave we spent quite a bit of time exploring the island. We hiked through the mud to Wizard Beach accompanied by the cutie below. No matter how many times we told him to go home he continued to follow us.

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We spent our wedding anniversary at Red Frog Beach, another lovely beach on the island. We returned to our room in time to enjoy a bottle of champagne on our balcony before another delicious dinner.† The entire day could not have been more perfect.

Not even 24 hours later we were on an overnight bus to Panama City and it felt like our blissful time in Bocas del Toro had just been a dream. Itís a dream Iíll be reliving for many years to come.

Next stop...Panama City, Panama.

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Posted 23 Fbruary 2015