This morning Bob picked me up bright and early. We had to be on the road very early so that we could get all of the way up to Panama City while it was still morning. Paul (and Brynne) and driven up to Panama City last night.
The drive went fine, no issues. We ended up missing the Bridge of the Americas and got stuck taking the central bridge and coming down from the north side of Panama City which was pretty awesome and wasted all kinds of time.
Getting to the DoubleTree was an exercise in dealing with big city traffic. That was no fun at all. I was very glad that I was not the one that was driving and dealing with all of it.
Finally we got into the DoubleTree driveway and after waiting for a ridiculous about of “line problems” with the waiting line (they kept letting people line jump) I managed to get checked into the hotel and up to my room. At least I was able to get into my room quite early.
The room was nice but not up to DoubleTree standards. Comfortable for sleep, the bed and linens were great, but the office chair and overall furniture situation left something to be desired. The Internet access was an unnecessary pain. But the room was pretty good overall.
Pitty and Paul were there shortly after we got there and Maria arrived a few hours later. A little bit after noon we rode with Pitty up to the Colón Free Zone to meet with someone. The Free Zone was super interesting. It is part of the port up on the Caribbean side of the country and is a tax free zone. We had to go through security to get into it. Everything there has not passed through customs. It is like a city within a city. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It was very educational.
After work, around seven thirty, Brynne met us at the DoubleTree and we all walked down to the Executive Hotel to eat at the Executive Cafe which Maria had told us about. It is, apparently, a staple of Panama City and is much like a high end, Panamanian Denny’s. It very much had a diner menu and was open long hours.
We all shared a bit order or Nachos Gringos which was perfect as we were nearly all gringos. So it was Nachos Gringos con gringos! They were delicious. I also got huevos rancheros which were amazing.
Bob and Paul had to take off really eary, around eight thirty, to get back to the house. So that left Maria, Brynne and I with nowhere to go. So we want back up the street and ended up grabbing a few beers at an open air bar right across the street. They had a nice selection of craft beers and we tried a few things. Hardcore IPA for me.
Maria had to get going because she had a meeting to get to. So Brynne and I decided that since it was early that we would just walk to a bar that Maria had been telling us about. Before Maria could leave, though, she offered to give us a ride because that was where she was headed to pick someone up.
Maria’s friend ended up wanting to join us so the four of us ended up staying out until the bar closed down, sitting out on the upstairs balcony near the water front, but not close enough to see the water.
Once the bar closed down, Maria took her friend home and Brynne and I set off to walk back to the DoubleTree but we decided that we would attempt getting some food as it had been about seven hours since we had had dinner. We tried going back to the Executive Cafe but they were closed even though everyone had been telling us that they were open twenty four hours a day.
There was another place just up the street called “something” Azul, but that place was closed too. We asked some locals and were sent on to a place called El Prado, which later we were told is a staple of Panama City’s late night eating scene.
The walk proved to be really, really far and the directions that we were given were not good but some locals that we ran into on the street were headed that way and walked there with us to make sure that we made it. We would never have found it on our own!
It was about three thirty when we got “dinner”. Brynne got a cuban, I got shrimp fried rice. It was a huge menu and quite varied. Very obvious why they are a popular late night stop in Panama City.