Casco Viejo and Cucina Italiana

Panama – February 16, 2017

It’s a beautiful day with lots of sun! (Not that that’s unusual.) After breakfast we hung out by the pool and did some reading.

At lunchtime we took a cab to Casco Viejo (aka Casco Antiguo, aka San Felipe). This historic part of town is loaded with really nice little shops—from upscale to souvenir trash—and a mix of cafés and boutique hotels, renovation…and buildings in dire need of renovation. Our first stop was a tiny but highly rated eatery called Café René.

There were only eight or so tables, and the older gentleman seated us immediately. The menu is prix fixe, $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner. First he brought us a nice bowl of salad and Spanish tortilla (egg and potato). Then came some Thai-style rice pilaf and fried sea bass. (The other choices were chicken and pork.) A small, dense chocolate brownie ended the meal, so I had an espresso to go with it. Fantastic little place: great value, great service.

Then we started shopping. I got a nice quality ball cap for $7 to wear tomorrow on the zip line (so as not to lose my good Panama hat). We picked up some small souvenirs for others, and then stumbled upon a great little shop called Viviendo, which sells awesome stuff handmade locally from recycled material ranging from pop tops to magazines. Really innovative, great quality, excellent bargains and a fabulous story…from upcycling trash to helping local women to getting really fun, unique gifts at a good value.

We got back to the hotel around 4:30 and I set out to hit the ATM and the wine store. Didn’t get a nap in, but I wasn’t feeling too tired. It had been a wonderful day, and we’re having a drink and looking forward to dinner tonight. Life is good!

For dinner, we went to an Italian place called Napoli. Marcos had recommended it on our tour, and the TripAdvisor rating was excellent, saying it was mostly populated by locals and very fairly priced.

The atmosphere definitely left something to be desired—kind of a family restaurant vibe rather than romantic. And there were plenty of families…but it made the whole thing more friendly and approachable as opposed to last night’s pricy elegance.

Per the reviews, we ordered the clams in white garlic sauce as an appetizer. I liked it, but Lisa was not impressed and didn’t eat much of it or the accompanying garlic bread. She got pan-fried sea bass (surprise!) as an entrée; it was perfectly crispy and accompanied by steamed vegetables. I went for a pizza with mixed olives and anchovies, and thought it was as good as anything in the States. Fantastic! The waiter was super nice but very busy, so I never got a second glass of wine (a Chilean red for $4.50), but Lisa only drank part of hers so I was okay.

Back to the room to catch up on Facebook, news, etc., with our own wine. And back to the jungle tomorrow!



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