Sultan Lebanese Restaurant, Panama City

Cityscape from Sultan Restaurant, Las Terrazas, Multiplaza Mall

One of our favorite places to eat here in Panama City is a Lebanese restaurant, Sultan. This place has pretty good food, but it is the location that brings us back, time and time again. The open-air situation and outstanding cityscape views from Las Terrazas (literally, The Terraces) in Multiplaza mall make this a special place to visit, rendered even more special and otherworldly by the Great White Egrets that frequently fly past.  They fly so slowly, in such a relaxed manner, and look so incongruous against their high rise backdrop.

This place even has a Hookah Menu, which, so far, we have not been brave enough to try! I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure this would be illegal back in the UK.  Anyway, a lot of the clientele sit puffing these at their tables, giving the place a very exotic air. I think they are just ‘smoking’ fruit-flavored water, but I don’t really get it.

Hookah Menu, which I do not pretend to understand

Anyway, the food: the best thing to order for a family or a group of friends is a ‘Mesa Libanesa’, literally a ‘Lebanese Table’. This gets you all the best items from the menu in portions to share, a little like the idea of Tapas, but with enough for everyone to get a good meal (unlike Tapas, in my experience). There are lots of hummous and hummous-like mysterious pastes with this option, as well as stuffed vine leaves, which I love, but my husband and children do not, as well as Mozarella sticks, which are too yummy and cannot be good for you at all! Giant portions of kebab meat, succulent lamb, chicken that tastes so much more interesting than it normally does, and non-chewy beef (a rare find in Panama) usually arrive just when you feel you can’t eat any more, but, somehow, you manage!

Lebanese Family Meal – Una Mesa Libanesa

 

Assorted Yummy Kebab Meat. Sultan Lebanese restaurant

Wraps, salads, fried Corvina (Panama’s favorite fish dish, roughly equivalent to Sea Bass), there is plenty to please all tastes here, from the more adventurous to the slightly less so.  Buffalo wings and chicken fingers are available in the Starters menu – these make great meals for your children if they are not mad on the Mesa Libenesa.

Something to be aware of here is that they have a (to me) confusing system of having a separate bill for food with soft drinks, and another for alcohol. Many times we have been chased through Las Terrazas by a waiter waving the alcohol bill! Another thing is that when we asked for desserts during our last visit, the waiter told us the desserts would be coming from a different restaurant. All very bizarre, so obviously we skipped dessert! So – definitely not a restaurant for the sweet of tooth.

If you like savoury, exotic food followed by Turkish coffee, or, I suppose it must be Lebanese coffee (coffee with a kick!), and the exciting big city atmosphere and views, you will greatly enjoy your experience here.

 

Turkish, or, I suppose, Lebanese, coffee at Sultan Restaurant

Until we moved to Panama three years ago, I had never even heard of Lebanese cuisine, let alone tasted it. For some reason there is a large Lebanese diaspora here and hence many Lebanese restaurants.

There is actually a really outstanding Lebanese restaurant in the city, name of Azul. The food is slightly more tender, and just that little bit better all round, with a hefty price mark-up accordingly. But, for me, dining out is about more than just simply food, and the ambience of Sultan, coupled with the outstanding urban views, plus being outside at night in the beautiful warm air of Las Terrazas, make this the Lebanese restaurant we return to again and again. It was the first restaurant we visited at nighttime after our arrival here all that time ago, and for this reason as well, it will always have a special place in our hearts.

Approximate cost: $80 for a family of five, including wine and coffee along with smoothies for the children. This price is based on a Mesa Libanesa for three, which fed our family of two adults and three children ranging from 5 – 10 years old, more than adequately.

Food 3.5/5     
Ambience and cityscape views 5/5       
Overall 4/5

Three Years Today!!!

Panama and Scotland flag entwinedThree years ago today, we touched down in the most beautiful country on this planet of ours! A country that has given our whole family so many rich experiences. A country that has encouraged all five of us to live life to its full potential. A country that has inspired all five of us to become active, fit and sporty, by sheer virtue of year round warmth, blue skies, and easy availability of activities.

We are here thanks to my husband’s job working on the canal expansion project. What an opportunity landed in our lap (or, more precisely, my husband’s inbox) that day! How could we have lived with ourselves if we had timidly turned it down? Well, thank goodness we didn’t!

My children have thrived at their all-American, super-positive school – which still reminds me of Rydell High each time I see it! Each day they have their recess/playtime outside, in the shade of an enormous gnarled old tree, frequently watched by emerald green parrots.

Every day I thank my lucky stars that we somehow, through all of life’s very high ups and extraordinarily low downs, made it to this place, which, thanks to the invention of insect repellent, really is Heaven on Earth for us, at least. Not surprisingly there are many places here named ‘Paraiso’, in English ‘PARADISE’.

Panama, you have my heart forever and ever.

Panama heart

Mondo Explorer Panama

I am excited to announce that I am now a Freelance Writer for travel website Mondo Explorer! Developing my writing skills is something that has happened gradually and organically as a result of my passion for Panama which urged me to start my blog, almost three years ago now.

I am delighted to able to use my knowledge and enthusiasm about this incredibly special country to reach a wider audience, and, hopefully, to inspire more people to visit, or at least to help them decide on the best places to go during their time here.

Here is a link to my very first article for them which I hope will prove to be the first of many. I also included a bonus photo of Casco Antiguo which was left over. 🙂

Panama City Day Trip

Casco Antiguo roofline

‘The Frog and the Caiman’ Illustrated Audiobook from the Kids of Coco Solo

The children of Coco Solo got together recently to make a really charming illustrated audiobook entitled ‘El Sapo y el Caiman’ – ‘The Frog and the Caiman.’  Here is the first page, complete with my translation underneath:

The Frog and the Caiman by the children of Coco Solo

Once upon a time, a green frog was swimming through a dangerous stream. This stream was full of large fish who wanted to eat the frog. The frog became scared and jumped onto the land where it met a caiman.

Please click on the link below to listen to the story and see the pictures in all their glory. You will be impressed!

You know, I think the best way to do this post would be simply to show each page, and include a translation underneath, so this beautiful creation can reach an audience of English speakers as well as Spanish speakers. (My Spanish is not so brilliant, but you should get the gist well enough 🙂 ) So, page 2:

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo page 2, Panama

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo3

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo4

The caiman said to him: “I would like to help you get to know the forest!”.

The frog and the caiman went all around the forest.

And then he said to him: “Would you like to come to my house for dinner?”.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo5

The frog and the caiman went to the caiman’s house, but the frog did not for one moment suspect that he was going to be dinner. The caiman put a saucepan of water on to boil then put the frog inside and shut the lid.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo6

The frog jumped

and jumped

and jumped

until the lid fell off.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo7

The caiman was relaxing watching his fish tank, wondering whether he was going to dine on frog with octopus or fish and frog Escabeche.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo8

When he realized that the frog had run off, he started to chase him, but as the frog was very small and agile, he escaped him by running, swimming and jumping.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo9

After running and jumping and swimming for a long time, the frog arrived at Froggy Island, where his mum, dad, gran, aunt and uncle lived with his four brothers and sisters.

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo10

The frog told his family that a caiman wanted to eat him, but as it was his little brother’s birthday, there was a really big party…

The Frog and the Caiman by Coco Solo11

Everyone celebrated with grilled flies, music and dancing.

THE END

Isn’t it great? Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could somehow turn it into a real paper book??  At a later date I need to tell you all about the team involved behind this, but for now, just enjoy the story!

Gallery of Gamboa Views

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  During the carnival celebrations, we headed the opposite way from the action in Panama City, and found ourselves at the restaurant overhanging Lake Gamboa.

  Many times we have turned around and driven straight back over the bumpy bridge (an ancient, rickety railway bridge) due to a preponderance of buses and coaches. But today, presumably thanks to all the partying in the city, it was muy tranquilo, so we stayed, had a nice lunch and admired the wildlife while we ate.

  Here is a slide show of just a little selection of what we saw. We were not doing anything special to look for these creatures and sights, just having a nice little lunch followed by a nice little walk!

  Most of these photos were taken from this restaurant as seen in my nice wobbly panorama pic here:

Lake Gamboa from Restaurant, Panama

  If you have ever been unfortunate enough to sit through the truly atrocious film ‘The Tailor of Panama’ you may recognise it because Pierce Brosnan has lunch here. Then, if I remember correctly, he goes for a swim in the lake. We skipped the swim!

  P.S. The thing which looks like a whip against a fence was a superslim snake spotted by (who else?) our daughter.

International Living Magazine Postcards Feature on Panama

So, I was delighted to be contacted by a Panamanian-based journalist to be interviewed for International Living Magazine. We met at a lovely coffee shop surrounded by palms complete with monkeys. It gave me a tiny taste of what it must be like to be famous: the lady who interviewed me was just delightful – I think you can tell, however, that the quotes are not exactly the kind of things I would say. Particularly “it has an American College Preparatory Program” ! 🙂 Oh, plus, I don’t live in Ancon! I do live just ten minutes drive from Ancon (although not where stated in the article – fortunately, from a privacy point of view), so we will let her off! Dear lovely journalist, if you ever read my tongue-in-cheek introduction to your article, for example, on twitter, I hope you take it in the friendly spirit with which it is intended! Here is the article:

Living in Ancon, Panama City.

Ancon, Panama

Ancon is filled with greenery and quiet neighborhoods—a far cry from the nearby city center of Panama City
A garrison flag flutters on the peak of Ancon Hill. When you can see that flag, you know you’re in Ancon, the massive district formerly referred to as the Canal Zone.

It’s filled with greenery and quiet neighborhoods—a far cry from the nearby city center, known for the skyscrapers that twinkle and sparkle as they tower over the glassy Panama Bay.

Ancon is close to the Panama Canal, and keeping it clean and green is a priority for the Panama Canal Authority (and area residents).

Tucked into the hill, about halfway up the narrow drive that continues to the peak, you’ll find one of the city’s most beautiful landmarks, a building in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Every resident of this city has admired the sandy stone exterior, the majestic rotunda (filled with murals depicting the creation of the Canal), and the marble steps leading down the hill, to the green lawns of Balboa. (This landmark is home to the Panama Canal Administration.)

I’m meeting expat Jane Ellis at a cafe here—her home in Clayton’s Embassy Village is just a five-minute drive away.

The tables on the patio are surrounded by deep green, jungly foliage. A sign warns us to watch out for frolicking monkeys and falling mangos (but the monkeys seem content to perch above us in their trees).

This area is bordered to one side by the Camino de Cruces national park, a green swath that points the way to the massive Metropolitan Park. The residential sector is dotted with small parks and little soccer fields, and people walk everywhere rather than drive.

Jane and her husband Martin came here from Scotland in search of exciting work and warm weather…along with their three children—Gavin, 10; Katie, eight; and Donald, five. Martin landed a job working on the Panama Canal expansion mega-project. Jane took up translating—a portable career that allows her to work from home—and became an ambassador for local charity Cambio Creativo.

“That was about two and a half years ago,” says Jane, who’s thoroughly enjoying her vida Panameña. Being in Ancon has been a great experience for Jane’s entire family. “We were tempted by the city center…the skyline over the Panama Bay…but we’re very happy here,” says Jane. “We’re just five minutes away from the kids’ school, Balboa Academy, and they love it,” she says. “It has an American college preparatory program and it’s a really positive environment,” she adds.

With homes instead of high-rises, and friendly neighbors, Jane says the community is near perfect. “The biggest difficulty is that you meet people who are only here for a few years…people who work for embassies and the like. You get attached.”

Still, she says, there is a good mix of both expat and Panamanian residents, so some of the friends she has made are lifers. “We don’t feel like we’re cut off from Panama, even though we’re in a gated community. Our neighbors are from Panama, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Spain, China…all over,” she says. “It’s really easy to meet people here…they’ll ask you where you’re from and start talking to you.”

Clayton is one of Panama’s most coveted communities, and as such homes here are more costly than elsewhere in the country…or even in Panama City. Whereas small apartments, say 700 square feet, can be had for under $100,000 in many parts of Panama City, you’ll find it a challenge to find anything for under $150,000 in the Clayton sector. At time of writing, I found a few apartments of about 1,000 square feet listed for between $150,000 and $165,000 in Clayton and neighboring Albrook.

You’ll find more duplexes and single-family homes for sale in Clayton than apartments, though, and these tend to start at around $250,000 for 1,200 square feet or more.

For that price, you get to live in a safe and elegant community.

“Back home, we lived in a nice house, but I couldn’t let the kids play unsupervised,” Jane says. “I was always worried a car would speed by. Now we can open our door and see kids on bikes or playing basketball. Our little girl is fascinated by nature now, too. She is always finding tropical lizards and frogs and other creatures. We allow her and the boys to walk about within the community. We’re free here…”

– See more at: http://internationalliving.com/2013/01/living-in-ancon-panama-city/#sthash.5rqSFIi3.dpuf

The Culture Trip

I am very excited to have been asked to write articles about culture in Panama by renowned Art/Culture/Travel website The Culture Trip! I plan to start later this month with a review of the Paul Gauguin exhibition currently at the Canal Museum.

Paul Gaugin exhibition Canal Museum Panama 2013

Paul Gauguin – The Dream of Panama

Gauguin actually spent time in Panama on his way to Tahiti, I believe on Isla Taboga, and apparently even worked on the construction of the canal! So, although he was a French painter, he has a lot to do with this place in which I am lucky enough to live. I am looking forward to finding out more about his time here, and I’m hoping he left some paintings of Panama behind him!

Anyway, The Culture Trip website is really beautiful, and they have been kind enough to put my blog on their Panama page, so please check it out! Also, in the news feed section, there is a translation I did from Spanish to English for Global Voices in the ticker! It really is a small world, and my worlds of translation and blogging are definitely overlapping more than I envisaged in the beginning.

http://theculturetrip.com/central-america/panama/