The fresh fish stunk. Our kids had their noses buried in their shirts, and all I could see was my daughter’s eyeglasses desperately looking for a way out. It was our last day in Panama City, and there was only one last thing I wanted to do — eat the fresh ceviche from the Mercado de Pescado. It had rained that morning, and the sun came out just in enough time for us to venture out for lunch. However, the humidity of the rain and the warm sun made the fish market pretty steamy and stinky!
I had read that eating at the Mercado de Pescado was a must — even President Obama stopped to have fresh cup of fish when he visited Panama. We arrived at the fish market around 11:45, and it appeared it was just opening up due to the downpour that had happened that morning. We were with another family with three kids and clearly none of our kids wanted fish, but we thought perhaps the restaurants right next to the market might have other things on the menu besides fish. Why I or we thought that, I have no idea.
So we went around the corner, and we were pretty much the first customers — and the only tourists — in sight. I walked up to the lady signaling for us to come and sit at her restaurant and proceeded to ask, “Pescado solamente?” No pollo?” realizing this was so ridiculous as I said it. This lady must have thought I was completely insane for even asking her if she had chicken. She said something back in Spanish I didn’t fully understand, but I am sure it was probably something like, “Um, lady you are at the FISH MARKET, why the hell would we have chicken?”
The rain started to pick up. I went back to buy my cup of ceviche from one of the vendors, so we could get the hell out of there and find food for the five hungry kids trying not to gag. At this point I was feeling pretty guilty about dragging everyone on a $20 van ride to the fish market just so I could get my $1.25 cup of ceviche.
The ceviche was Ahhh-mazing — some of the best damn ceviche I’ve ever had — but it was hard for me to enjoy since everyone else was standing hungry in the rain.
We started to walk toward an area we knew would have some restaurants, but the rain started to come down even harder! We ran across the busy street and tucked under what looked like a strip mall made of tables, tents and tin roofs. We huddled under this alley of tables selling auto parts, electronics, random tools and life jackets, and we decided we should just flag down a cab and go back to the hotel. There I was still holding my $1.25 ceviche, as my husband Harris stood in the rain trying to flag down two taxis for all of us.
On the drive back to the hotel, I couldn’t help laughing at the scene that just occurred: a bunch of gringos asking for chicken at the Fish Market, darting across the highway in the rain, and meandering through an auto parts street market all for my $1.25 cup of ceviche, which when all was said and done, cost us around $41.25.
*The Mercado de Pescado is still a must see and do in Panama City, it is also apart of the very nice Avienda Balboa, which usually sells hot dogs and other fun treats for kids, when it’s not raining:) More to come on what to do in Panama City!