Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Austin and Panama

We have spent the last two weekends away, first in Austin for a wedding, then in Panama over the four-day weekend (para Dia de los Muertos). Some observations:

* Downtown Austin is just as fun as rumor has it! But, you have to be ready for bars to smell like 18-year-olds (ie. throwup). ...And for the bars to close at 2am (demaciado temprano...).

* Taxis in Austin cost something like $2 a minute! It's pretty insane. Geoff almost asked one of our drivers whether the meter was broken. I think every single time we left our hotel to go anywhere, it was about a $15 ride -- even if the ride takes only 5 minutes! Thank goodness we were kindly given a ride by some of Allen's non-drinking friends to and from the wedding, so that we could party it up without having to be the DD.

* Best restaurant we found in Austin (recommended by the locals), hands down: "Moonshine." It has various Southern food, but with a unique twist. It also feels like you're sitting in someone's back yard, having a nice brunch.

* San Antonio, TX, is also a nice town. Downtown San Antonio has a man-made river-front that's really nice, and with very friendly bartenders.

* Panama Canal is just a bunch of locks. It has got a cool history bit, obviously, but isn't actually much to look at. If you go, you should definitely pay the extra $3 to watch the introductory movie, because you can get a sense of the past, present, and future of the canal and its continuing importance to the country and the world.

* Panama is diverse! I love that. Panama City is probably the most metropolitan city I've seen in Central America. They also have ethnic foods (including Indian, even though our taxi driver messed up and took us to a Lebanese restaurant instead), which is really exciting. The area around the casinos is verrrry "working girl" friendly, which we discovered by accident.

* By law, only the native tribes can own the land on the islands scattered around the 365 beautiful San Blas islas. We stayed with a native family overnight, and went on some island-hopping during the day. The village was very rustic! (For example, various households, if not the entire village, share two "toilets", which are merely two holes that hover above the ocean. They don't have a sewage system. The villagers live in grass huts and throw their trash directly into the ocean.) It was a really neat/unique experience!

That's it for now. Progress reports are due this Friday, so things are busy with work, obviously. Soon, Geoff's parents will be here visiting us (over Thanksgiving weekend), and we'll be busy on that end with the preparations, as well. :) I can't wait. The year is just flying by!

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