Monthly Archives: December 2012

Happy Holidays!

 

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season!  Thank you for reading Roseofbohemia.com.  I am taking a short break to focus on some other projects, but I look forward to seeing you all again next year.  May 2013 bring many wonderful things.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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Holy Land Finale: Israel – Day 6

Our last day was epically long and filled with activities and new culinary experiences.  We started by visiting Yad LaKashish, Lifeline for the Old, which is a wonderful non-profit that provides employment and social services to elderly immigrants.  The seniors make crafts and Judaica in artisan workshops and their work is sold at the very reasonably priced gift shop.  I bought an adorable, super comfy travel pillow for less than $12.  I HIGHLY recommend stopping by.

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Yad LaKashish/Lifeline for the Old

Artisan Workshop at LY

Artisan Workshop at Yad LaKashish

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Have you ever seen a cuter travel pillow? I didn’t think so.

We walked to the Old City and visited some shops in the Cardo, which is an arcaded street from Byzantine times.  The street has been reconstructed, but some ancient pillars remain, which reminded me a little of the Roman forum.

Gorgeous mosaic in the Jewish Quarter

Gorgeous mosaic in the Jewish Quarter

The Cardo leads into the Old City Shuk, which is definitely a must see because the setting is so historic, but the vendors are aggressive and most of them are selling the same touristy goods.

Shuk

Old City Shuk

Spice shop in the Muslim Quarter

Spice mountain at a shop in the Muslim Quarter

We stopped at the landmark Ja’far Sweets to try the famous Arabic pastry knafeh, which consists of cheese soaked in sweet syrup and topped with crunchy phylo bits.  The sweet cheese was not to my liking, but it was unique.

Knefah

Knafeh

We walked to the Kotel (aka Wailing Wall, Western Wall), where we had reservations for the underground tunnel tours.  The tunnels were fascinating to visit and our tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  I definitely recommend this activity and ordering advance tickets online (thank you R.B.L. for this recommendation and other suggestions!).

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The lesser known section of the Wall

The tour left off on the famous Via Delorosa, where we saw a couple pilgrimage groups and school children.

Off the Via Del

Street off the Via Delorosa

Back in the Jewish quarter, we were fortunate to run into a porter from our hotel who took us to the obscure staircase that leads to the Old City rooftop walk.  It was cool to see families wheeling their groceries home via the rooftops.  Less exciting were the many stray cats.

Rooftop view (Dome of the Rock is in the background)

Rooftop view of Jerusalem

Rooftop walk

Rooftop walk

After leaving the Old City, we had lunch at Sabichiya on Shammai Street, which is known for having the best Sabich (an Israeli sandwich composed of pita stuffed with fried eggplant, a hardboiled egg, cucumber, tomato, and pickles topped with sauce).

Shula and sabich

Shula and sabich

We went back to Mahane Yehuda to pick up rose tea and spices.  Along the way we stopped at Marzipan Bakery and bought some of the famous chocolate rugelach to take home.

Ruglach at Marzipan Bakery

Rugelach at Marzipan Bakery

Sufganyot (for Chanukah) were everywhere!

Sufganiyot (for Chanukah) were everywhere!

We stopped at a café in Mahane Yehuda to have mint tea.

Mint tea

Mint tea

For our last dinner, we ate at Little Jerusalem, which is a dairy restaurant in the lovely garden of the Anna Ticho House Museum.  This was my favorite dining experience in Israel and if we had gone there earlier in the trip, we probably would have had repeat meals there.

Little Jerusalem/Ticho House Museum Restaurant

Little Jerusalem Restaurant at the Ticho House Museum

The salad sampler was WAY larger than I was expecting!

The salad sampler was WAY larger than I was expecting!

After dinner we went to the bar on the roof of the Notre Dame Center.  The Notre Dame Center is a stunning building, but the views from the rooftop are even more spectacular!  The bar specializes in wine and cheese, but we skipped the cheese and had some prosecco.  I found it a little odd that the menu was only in dollars, but this was actually good because I was able to pay in USD and avoid a final ATM visit.

Beautiful Notre Dame Center

Beautiful Notre Dame Center

Rooftop Bar

Rooftop Bar at the Notre Dame Center

This was the perfect end to a fabulous trip.  Shalom!

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Around Tel Aviv: Israel – Day 5

We started the day by enjoying the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet (similar to the Prima Kings, the Prima Tel Aviv’s buffet was outstanding).

Breakfast at the Prima Tel Aviv

Breakfast at the Prima Tel Aviv

After breakfast we walked to the Bauhaus Center on Dizengoff Street.  I was a little disappointed because I thought it was going to be an educational center, but it was a cool store (they had lot of architecture books and Tel Aviv guides, as well as cute gifts).  The center offers walking tours of Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv, but we decided to do on our own more informal version by just wandering around.  Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the Bauhaus architecture, but there is A LOT.  I was also surprised by how many buildings in Tel Aviv appear to be in need of renovation, but I know there are more pressing issues in Israel.

Renovated building

A well-maintained historic building

We explored the small boutiques on Shenkin Street, which I read is a Bohemian neighborhood à la Greenwich Village in the 60’s.  I could see a slight resemblance.  We decided to go back to Neve Tzedek, since we liked it so much the day before and walked through Carmel Market (Shuk Ha’Carmel) again to get there.  The food products at the Carmel Market were similar to the items sold at Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem, but the first half of the market was comprised of junk/touristy goods, which I found less interesting.

Carmel Market

Carmel Market

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Olives galore

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So many strawberries!

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Colorful fruit

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Arabic sweets

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Cosco-sized blocks of cheese

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Shiny looking dates

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Candy!

My favorite Tel Aviv neighborhood, Neve Tzedek, is known for low historic buildings and cool designer boutiques.  It was the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of the walls of Jaffa and the architecture is charming.  We stopped at a colorful home décor store called Ginger that reminded me of a mix of American Anthropologie and French Antoine et Lilli.  I wish they had a shop in the U.S.!

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Neve Tzedek

Love the little sculptures crawling up the building

Love the little sculptures crawling up this Neve Tzedek building

Ginger

Ginger home decor store

In Neve Tzedek we also visited the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, which is a pretty complex that houses the country’s most renown dance companies (random trivia factoid, Suzanne Dellal was the aunt of HBO Girls actress Jemima Kirke…aka the one with the English accent).  We had coffee at the Israeli coffee chain Café Café, which has a location at the center.

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Café Café

We walked back to Dizengoff Street and had lunch at the fish restaurant Barbounia, which provides small salads upon seating and has a limited menu of fresh fish, served grilled or fried.  It was essential to have fish in Tel Aviv and the restaurant met all expectations.  We walked around Dizengoff Street some more and were amused by the many bridal store windows.  When it got dark, we took the train back to Jerusalem.

After checking back into the Prima Kings Hotel, we headed to the King David Hotel for drinks.  The King David is the most famous luxury hotel in Israel and is historically significant, since it was bombed in 1946 when it served as the British headquarters (this event is depicted in the book and movie version of Leon Uris’ Exodus).  The hotel was established by an Egyptian Jewish banker and is decorated in faux-Egyptian style.  It’s a lot of fun to see!  I was also impressed with the cocktails and the complimentary bar snacks.  I would definitely recommend a visit!  Coming up…our last full day in Israel.

King David Hotel

King David Hotel

This photo was taken on a different day at the back of the Mamilla Mall, but you can see the King David in the background.

The King David Hotel is the distant, rectangular building in this photo.

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Fun Times in Tel Aviv: Israel – Day 4

We woke up early to take the train to Tel Aviv.  We were advised that the bus would be much faster, but we enjoyed the scenic views and free wifi (when it worked).

Pleased with the train experience

Pleased with the train experience

We took a taxi to our hotel, the Prima Tel Aviv.  We were excited to find that our room overlooked the beach.  The hotel was also very conveniently located, so we checked in and then headed out on foot.

Prima

Our room at the Prima Tel Aviv

Prima Tel Aviv

The huge window looked out to the following:

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Gorgeous view from the hotel room! (you can see my faint reflection in the glass)

Our first stop was the Dizengoff Center, which is the city’s large Seventies-style mall.  We stopped at the Vaniglia ice cream outpost, which merited a visit after I read about the Alfajore ice cream (my favorite Latin American cookie).

Alfajores in frozen form!

Alfajores in frozen form!

We walked through the Carmel Market (photos in the next post) and then veered off on Rambam street to check out the boutiques and garment district.  We particularly liked Efrat Cassouto, which had very affordable, pretty, dainty jewelry, as well as a lot of bridal appropriate accessories.

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Efrat Cassouto Boutique

We walked through the charming neighborhood of Neve Tzedek (also featured in tomorrow’s post) and from there strolled along the beachfront promenade to the ancient port city Jaffa, which is incorporated into Tel Aviv.

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Walk along the promenade to Jaffa

Famous Jaffa Bakery

Famous Arabic Jaffa Bakery Aboulafia

We wandered around the flea market, which was actually a collection of antique and junk furniture stores in one area.  Next we stopped at the artist Illana Goor’s residence and museum compound.  Unfortunately, we arrived 15 minutes before closing, so we skipped the museum and visited the gift store, where we saw Goor’s work and photos of her with various international celebrities.

Illana Goor House and Museum

Illana Goor Residence and Museum

We saw at least four wedding parties poising for photos in the scenic Old Jaffa neighborhood surrounding the museum.

Shula

Shula in Old Jaffa

We stumbled upon a lovely park with an archeological site, amphitheater, and tell (man-made hill).  Atop the tell was the Ramses II’s Gate Garden and a lookout point with stunning views of the city.

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Old Jaffa setting with modern Tel Aviv in the background

Photo by Shula

Beautiful sky above the Ramses II’s Gate Garden.  Photo by Shula

Before leaving Jaffa we stopped for a very late lunch at Dr. Shaukshuka.  Shakshuka is an Israeli dish comprised of eggs poached in tomato sauce.  The meal was good, but the restaurant lost a few points for the gross washroom, which I think/hope is under renovation.

Dr. Shakshuka

Shakshuka with merguez (spicy lamb sausage) at Dr. Shakshuka

Pots on the ceiling of Dr. Shakshuka

Pots hanging on the ceiling of Dr. Shakshuka

It was getting dark, so we walked back to our hotel to rest before meeting up with an Israeli friend.  The hotel had a super impressive complimentary treats bar.  I was full from lunch, but I enjoyed a refreshing beverage.

Prima Tel Aviv treats bar

Prima Tel Aviv treats bar

I was curious to see Tel Aviv’s famous club scene, but it was a Sunday night, so instead we went for a late, light dinner of tapas and drinks at the very hip Vicky Christina restaurant.  The restaurant is located in the Station (aka HaTachana), which is a renovated railroad complex that contains a mix of American and Israeli chain stores and designer boutiques.  The atmosphere and food at Vicky Christina were great!  Afterwards, we stopped by Molly Bloom’s Bar, which is known for live music (but not on Sundays) and then headed back to our hotel.

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Shabbat in Jerusalem: Israel – Day 3

I slept late, since it was officially the day of rest (I was also extremely tired because we woke up early the previous day to visit as much as possible before Shabbat and I had not recovered from the jetlag).  After eating our food from Mahane Yehuda for brunch, we walked to the Israel Museum, which is the country’s premiere art museum.  We bought tickets online in advance, since we knew we wanted to go over Shabbat.  The museum has been renovated since I was there as a teen and it is now a super impressive modern complex.  We started by visiting the famous sculpture garden.

Robert Indiana’s Ahava (Love) Sculpture at the Israel Museum

There was a remarkable miniature model of the Old City in the garden.  Inside the museum, we saw a fascinating exhibit on the Hasidic community called A World Apart Next Door.  The multi-media exhibit was comprised of large-scale photos, clothing, video footage, Judiaca, etc.  I hope it travels outside of Israel because it was very interesting and informative.  I also loved seeing the museum’s historic synagogue sanctuaries, relocated from Germany, Italy, India, and Suriname, though their presence was a little sad, since they are from towns where Jewish life is no longer thriving.  We also visited the museum’s costume collection and the outstanding archeological collection.

Israel Museum

Before leaving we stopped at the gift shop, which was having a “Black Friday” sale.  Oh, how they know their clientele.

Oh, how they know their clientele.

Israel Museum Shop

After dinner on Ben Yehuda Street, we went to Kadosh Cafe, which is a French restaurant that is known for its baked on-site pastries.  I ordered the chocolate porcupine because it was so cute and Shula got berry cheesecake.  Everything was delicious!

Kadosh Cafe

Porcupine dessert

I found the sugar packets at the restaurant amusing:

Heros of Israel

At another restaurant, we saw sugar packets with photos of places in Israel, so I guess theme sugar packets are a popular thing there?

Famous places in Israel

On the way home, we stopped by the Mirror Bar at the Mamilla Hotel for a night-cap, which was my favorite nightlife experience in Jerusalem.  The bar had a diverse mix of people and a great DJ, who played hip-hop, Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse.  We headed back to the hotel to prepare for our excursion to Tel Aviv the next day.

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Exploring Jerusalem: Israel – Day 2

On my first morning in Jerusalem, we took photos and tested the weather on our balcony.

Jerusalem in the AM

We had breakfast at the Prima King’s impressive complimentary breakfast buffet.  There were salads, vegetables, egg dishes, different types of cheeses,  breads, cereals, etc.  I have never seen such a huge breakfast selection!

Breakfast at the Prima Kings Hotel

Extensive cheese selection

After breakfast we walked to Mea She’arim, which is a Hasidic neighborhood that I had heard resembles an Eastern European shtetl.  Having been to Borough Park, Brooklyn many times, I found it less interesting than I was expecting, but there were some nice Judaica stores.

We walked from Mea She’arim to Mahane Yehuda (aka “the Shuk”), which was a visual feast!  There were 250+ vendors selling colorful produce, spices, olives, baked goods, etc.  I found it interesting that so many vendors can stay in business selling the same products right next to each other, but the market was packed, so I guess there are enough customers to go around (it was also particularly crowded because people were buying food for Shabbat).  We bought burakas and a couple prepared salads to have for Shabbat lunch the next day.

Mahane Yehuda (it was busy, so it was difficult to get a good photo)

Baby tomatoes

Exotic fruit!

Challah

Halava (sesame paste dessert)

After a falafel lunch at Moshiko on Ben Yehuda Street and some more Judaica stores (loved Danny Azoulay!), we visited the Museum of Italian Jewish Art and the attached Italian Synagogue.  The museum was in a back alley and required some assistance to find, but I am glad we did not give up.  I am very interested in Italian Jewish life and the collection of art, ranging from the Renaissance to present was lovely, though I would have liked if there was more text with the pieces.  On a related note, I HIGHLY recommend the book and movie version of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis,” which is about Italian Jews on the eve of WWII.

Museum of Italian Jewish Art and Italian Synagogue

Pretty window in the building

Gorgeous historic alter in the functioning sanctuary

Nice chandelier

Italian Art

We walked to the German Colony, which is my favorite Jerusalem neighborhood because of the beautiful houses.  The main street, Emek Refaim is known for trendy coffee shops and we enjoyed coffee on the covered terrace of Caffit.  We then walked to the old and upscale neighborhood of Yemin Moshe before heading back to the hotel to change for services.

The German Colony

Caffit

Caffit

Yemin Moshe

Yemin Moshe

It was raining, so we attended services at the Great Synagogue, conveniently located next to our hotel.  The services were Orthodox and entirely in Hebrew, with an all male choir.  I cannot say it was one of my favorite religious experiences, but the synagogue has one of the largest collections of mezuzahs on display in the lobby, and I would recommend visiting for that alone (though maybe not on Shabbat).  After services we returned to the hotel for a nice Shabbat dinner, where we had made advanced reservations, since most restaurants in Jerusalem are closed on Shabbat.

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Israel – Day 1: Arrival in the Holy Land

SHALOM!  I just got back from a 5.5-day trip to Israel with my cousin.  This was my second time visiting the country and I loved it!  My first experience was with a teen group during the Second Intifada (Holy War) in 2001, so that trip was extremely restricted for safety reasons.  There is still a lot of tension in the region and there was a surge of rocket attacks on Israel in the days leading up to the trip, but fortunately a ceasefire was called as I was in route to the airport.

I flew on SAS Scandinavia and had a stopover in Copenhagen.  The airport had some very high end Danish and English designer stores, but my favorite part was this trendy looking juice bar, which was playing American hip hop around 7AM.

Have you ever seen such stylish decor in an airport?

I arrived in Tel Aviv in the late afternoon and took a sherut (shared taxi/minivan) to meet my cousin at our hotel, the Prima Kings in Jerusalem.

Our room at the Prima Kings Hotel

Our room was lovely and had a large balcony, which provided stunning views of the Old City:

Night time in Jerusalem

Here is another view from the balcony during daylight:

Jerusalem!

The hotel was extremely well located, so we walked everywhere.  On my first evening we walked to the Old City, since it was very close to the hotel and I was curious to see it at night.  Along the way we passed through the Mamilla Mall, which is beautifully designed outdoor luxury shopping mall.  As required by the municipal laws in Jerusalem, the mall is constructed of Jerusalem stone, so it blends in splendidly with the Old City without looking tacky.

We visited the Kotel (aka the Wailing Wall or Western Wall).  I had never seen it at night and it was awe-inspiring!

Old City

Birdies in the wall

Women praying at the Wall…can you spot the birdies? (photo by Shula)

After we left the Old City we walked to Sima’s, a famous grill restaurant, for Thanksgiving dinner.  The restaurant was lacking in charm, but the food was good and reasonably priced.  I liked that they gave you lots of little salads upon sitting down, which I saw later is common in Israel.

Shula at Sami's

Thanksgiving at Sami’s

Thus concluded my first (half) day in Jerusalem.  On a random note, when I was on my teen program, everyone was obsessed with Shoco-Bi’sakit (chocolate milk in a bag), which you are expected to open by tearing with your teeth.  I never understood the fascination with this product that is basically an accident waiting to happen, but I was excited to see that it is still in existence.

Things that make no sense

Things that make no sense

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Panama Series Finale

DAY 6 AM:

Sunday was my last day, though it was just a half-day because I had an afternoon flight.  I attempted to sleep late, but church bells woke me up.

Another shot of pretty Iglesia del Carmen, which provided my unofficial wake-up call

The pretty Iglesia del Carmen provided my unofficial wake-up call

I tried to go to Cafe Shalom for coffee and found it closed, so I went to Cafe Duran at El Rey supermarket instead.  Cafe Duran reminded me of Starbucks, since they had the first iced drinks I saw in Panama and the desserts looked industrial.  I ordered ice coffee and an alfajor because it was my first time seeing my favorite Latin American cookie in Panama (it’s actually a dulce de leche filled cookie sandwich).  The alfajor was mediocre, but the coffee was outstanding.  I bought a couple bags to take home!

Cafe Duran

Cafe Duran

Alfajor and iced coffee

Alfajor and iced coffee

Random final thoughts/advice for potential travelers to Panama:

I had a great trip, but I can’t say Panama City is on my list of favorite places.  As mentioned in previous posts, there is construction EVERYWHERE.  It would be interesting to visit in 5-10 years because the cityscape will look entirely different and it will probably be closer to being “done” (or at least too crowded to build more).  There is also a Frank Gehry designed BioMuseum that is currently under construction and should be interesting to visit in the future.  At present time, I wouldn’t recommend more than two days at most in the city (do a tour one day and spend the second day exploring on your own).

This was my first time traveling alone and I really enjoyed it.  I felt very safe in El Congrejo and would definitely recommend staying there over Casco Viejo, which has more interesting architecture, but a weird vibe.

People were very friendly and helpful.  The only thing that slightly annoyed me was that multiple taxi drivers tried to ripe me off, though this also happened when I hung out with my travel buddy, so it’s not just a single female phenomenon.

My trip to El Valle de Anton was the highlight of my time in Panama.  I also found the Gamboa Rainforest Resort gorgeous, but it was pricey and I was disappointed at the low number of monkey sightings.  I have heard there are many other beautiful places to visit in Panama, but I was only there for five full days and I wanted to limit travel around the country and just relax.  And relax I did!

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Panama – Day 5: Spa visit, lunch at the Coca Cola Cafe, drinks at the Radisson Decapolis, and dinner at Manolo’s

I am sorry for the extreme delay in posting!  I started writing the below text several weeks ago, but then things got very hectic.  I just got back from a Thanksgiving trip to Israel and I will try and post highlights from that trip in a more timely manner.  I hope everyone had a relaxing holiday!

Now, back to the end of Panama.  By my fifth day, I had already visited every site I wanted to see, so I decided to go to the spa at Le Meridien Hotel for an express facial.  I enjoyed using the spa’s facilities more than the treatment itself.

View from the roof of Le Meridien Hotel

Spa!

In the afternoon I was planning on meeting up with a fellow traveler from TravBuddy.com, which is a website that helps you, “[m]eet travelers and locals who are going to the same place at the same time as you.”  I signed up on a whim and paid the one time $9.99 registration fee before my trip, but I was disappointed when I saw that only two members were going to be in Panama City at the same time as me.  One of the two members messaged me and asked if I wanted to go sightseeing or meet for coffee.  I had already seen all of the major attractions, but I was curious to visit the Coca Cola Cafe and I had read that it borders a sketchy neighborhood, so it seemed like the perfect activity to do with a partner.  The funny thing is that I actually recognized my travel buddy, Isreal, on the street about an hour before we were supposed to meet, but this was less serendipitous than it sounds, since most of the city’s hotels are in one area (El Congrejo).  We walked on the Cinta Costera walkway to get to the cafe.  Along the way we passed the entrance of Chinatown, but I read it was a little dicey, so we did not enter.

Chinatown

We then passed through the historic district of Casco Viejo to reach the Coca Cola Cafe, which is located on the border of Casco Viejo and the rougher neighborhood of Santa Ana.  The Coca Cola is oldest cafe in Panama City (c. 1875) and is known for its hearty fare and local clientele.  The Coca Cola is also historically significant, since it was frequented by Che Guevara and was supposedly the first place in Panama to serve the eponymous beverage.

The Coca Cola Cafe

I ordered chicken milanesa and pineapple juice.  The prices were very reasonable and the chicken itself was good, but the sides (salad and lentils) were nothing special.  Several other diners seemed more drunk than is optimal for lunchtime.

Chicken milanesa and rice for three people.

Before leaving we ordered the famous coffee, which was excellent!

Coffee at the Coca Cola Cafe

After lunch we walked back to Casco Viejo and passed some interesting 1930’s/1940’s architecture in the more run-down area bordering the cafe.

Benefits building

Back in Casco Viejo, we visited the Iglesia San Jose, which is known for its gorgeous gold alter.

Gold Alter at the Iglesia San Jose

We took a taxi back to El Congrejo and rested before meeting up for drinks.  I had read about the sushi and martini bar at the Radisson DeCapolis Hotel, which was supposed to be the hipest places in Panama City.  However, when we arrived around 8PM, it was almost completely empty.  We thought maybe we were too early, so we visited the Multiplaza Mall across the street and then the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino next door.  The stores at Multiplaza were similar to Albrook and not particularly interesting.  The Hard Rock had a ton of famous musician’s memorabilia, which was fun to view.

Hard Rock Casino and Hotel

We went back to the bar at the Radisson and it was still pretty empty, but we decided to stay and order drinks.  I asked the waiter why it was empty and he said it’s more popular on Fridays.  I don’t know if that is the case or if it just peaked in coolness.

Radisson Decapolis Bar

Eye chairs at the Radisson Decapolis Bar

After drinks I suggested we go to Cafeteria Manolo’s because I liked the people watching and wanted to have a traditional Panamanian dish for my last dinner in P.C.  I ordered Sancocho, which is Panamanian chicken soup.  It was more flavorful than American chicken soup, but it was a bit too salty.

Cafeteria Manolo’s

House salad

Sancocho soup

Post-dinner we walked across the street to the Veneto Casino because I wanted to try gambling for the first time.  I bet a dollar in a slot machine and after repeatedly pressing the very confusing, though all English buttons, I won $3.  I decided to call it quits while I was ahead.  We also left the casino quickly because it was pretty depressing.  The Via Veneto Hotel strip is known for prostitution (which is legal in Panama) and there were dozens of prostitutes walking around the casino floor.  The scene was very sad and it was already rather late, so we headed back to our respective hotels on the other side of El Congrejo.

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