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Dear Colombia,

You are a country of amazing diversity, incredible scenery, welcoming people and your food – oh the food…  Since we arrived we have been treated to various Colombian specialties and our waistlines are now suffering the consequences of all your ridiculously delicious food.  But, as we leave the country, we are not sure how we are going to live without your:

With your stunning array of tropical fruits, we are now unsure how we will survive without the sweet sour tang of maracuya (passionfruit), the berry deliciousness of mora (blackberry), the creamy lulo, the refreshing melon and the indescribable tomate de arbol (tree tomato). From Colombia onward I will hold maracuya dear to my heart.

Fresh juice

Fresh juices!

This savoury cheesy bread, best eaten straight out of the oven, has cast a spell on our hungry bellies.  We found ourselves craving this small button of tastiness nearly every morning.  And, we both agree, that Pan Pa Ya in Bogota makes the most magnificent almojabana.

A delicous and delectable cheesy treat

A delicious and delectable cheesy treat

A soup created with chicken, 3 types of potatoes, corn, heavy cream and capers sounds like an odd mix but this traditional soup became a solid favourite after the first spoonful.  Comforting, filling and with a bit of a zip from the capers this Bogotan specialty will be sorely missed but hopefully recreated.

Capers, chicken and potatoes...

Capers, chicken and potatoes...

Arepa de Huevo
Originally from the coast, we first tried arepa de huevo in Bogota where Odette (yet another gracious Colombian host) gave us a crash course in how to make them.  Turns out our skills are not very good but with Odette’s help the end product tasted just fine.  Amazing that cornflour, egg and salt can taste so scrumptious.  Salsa Brava and a dollop of sour cream completed this tasty breakfast.

Deep-fried with an egg in the middle!

Deep-fried with an egg in the middle!

Pan de bono
Almojabana’s cheeky cousin, pan de bono filled our stomachs with sheer bliss when we visited Cali.  With a harder skin, reminiscent of a bagel, on the outside and soft chewy bread on the inside it was too hard to say no to just one… so we didn’t (which is why there are no photos!).

Sigh Colombia, it is with sorrow and jeans that don’t quite zip up that we bid you adieu.

Panama City has been loads of fun and in between paperwork and getting our car ready to ship we have been checking out a few things, if you are ever in la ciudad de Panama we suggest that you:

Get Spiritual
I was pretty intrigued when we rolled up to a large, white egg-shaped building with nine-pointed stars decorating the grounds.  Situated 11km from the center of the city, the Baha’i temple offers services on Sundays and provides information about this relatively new faith during the rest of the week.  On a very general level Baha’i’s believe that humanity is a single race and that the day has come to form one peaceful global society (Amen!).  They look at religious leaders such as Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, Christ and Muhammad as prophets whom are all viewed as messengers of the same God.

Baha'i Temple

The basic teachings cover things like: gender equality, unity of religious truth, universal education and that true religion is in harmony with reason and science. More can be found here if this forward thinking group has piqued your interest.

Check out the President’s pets

Wander the colonial neighbourhood of Casco Antiguo, (backdrop for the latest Bond flick Quantum Solace) — past buildings of another era, the lovely Paseo las Bovedas and the busy fish market.  Eventually you will come across the guarded entrance of the Palacio de las Garzas, Panama’s presidential home (though the past three presidents have chosen to keep their residence elsewhere and use the Palacio solely as an office).

Old and new Panama

To get a closer look an officer will lazily peruse the items in your bag before gruffly sending you on your way.  As you wander closer you will notice three large birds on the premises.  These white herons were introduced by President Belisario Porras in 1922 to adorn the Andalusian-style interior courtyard.  You can peer through the metal bars to see the birds preening as important visitors come and go within the building.  Don’t get too close though…

Harrassing the Herons from Kels M on Vimeo.

Shop till you drop
The insanely large Albrook mall is so big that it could take over three days to cover the area.  Crammed with inexpensive clothes, trinkets, a few high-end stores and a tonne of shoppers this complex has everything and anything.  With bins of clothes marked at $3.99 it is hard to leave empty-handed.  Knock-off stores like Conway (Target), Moose (Abercrombie and Fitch) and Pink (Victoria’s Secret) line the corridors with what may or may not be actual merchandise from these well-known brands. Keep an eye out for the mannequins which tend to be a little bit different from the ones at home.

Conway ladies are cold

Find a Fonda
Eating is a pleasure in Panama city.  Any type of cuisine can be found but the best deal is to hit up the small cafeteria-type eateries called fondas.  Not much to look at, these restaurants serve up a solid meal (rice, lentils, your choice of meat, and salad) for around $2.50 USD.  Throw in a chicha (juice, preferably maracuya/passionfruit) for $.25 and you have yourself a stellar and filling meal.

$2.50 food

Ride a Red Devil
Careening around corners and swerving in and out traffic, these jazzed up school buses are the city’s best, and most entertaining, form of transit and it is truly thrilling to get off one alive.  Running everyday from 5am to 11pm, the Diablos rojos charge $.25USD per ride, allowing passengers to commute cheaply.  One wild driver even managed to get the laid-back Panamanians screaming, “Que pasa?!” (What’s up?!)

Diablo rojo