Friday...............first day in Panama

Panama City Travel Blog

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View from the living room, Canal House

After breakfast I spoke to Samantha, the manager, about a tour for tomorrow.  She explains that they will have to work out a price for me as usually tours are for a minimum of two people.  I tell her that I’m used to tour operators being used to tours for a minimum of two people.

 

Samantha gives me some information about the local area and Panama City in general.  I am (accidentally) staying in “Old Panama”, known as Casco Viejo (San Felipe), an area of great historical importance and a World Heritage Site.  I really prefer this area to the bustle of the city and am not very interested in shopping after my shoe spree in Medellin.

 

I set off late morning to walk around Casco Viejo.

Catedral Metropolitana, Plaza de Independencia
  First I went to the Plaza de la Independencia.  A reputedly excellent museum, the Museo del Canal Interoceanico, is located there, but I decide that I’m not in a museum state of mind and will return there later.  Also on the Plaza is the Catedral Metropolitana, with its white belltowers inlaid with mother-of-pearl.  The cathedral took over 100 years to build and is one of the largest in Central America.  Like elsewhere in Casco Viejo, there are facades which, if not presently being renovated, will be renovated in the near future.  Already a tourist attraction, in another five years or so, this area is going to be amazing.

 

After the Plaza I head off to the Presidential Palace, the White House of Panama.  To reach the area, there is a cursory check of my handbag.  You cannot enter the Palace, but there is a great view across the bay to the city skyscrapers.

Nearby facade, Plaza de la Independencia, waiting for renovations
 

 

From there I walked to Plaza Bolivar, that man’s been everywhere!  Then down to the Plaza de Francia where the French Embassy is situated, through the Paseo Esteban Huertas, with souvenir sellers and partly covered with bougainvillea.  This was part of the defensive wall which once surrounded the city.  From there I could see the Bridge of the Americas and the mouth of the Panama Canal.  When I flew in yesterday I saw a number of ships waiting to use the Canal.  Apparently the bigger ships can only use the canal during daylight hours because parts of the Canal, including the locks, are quite narrow and also in the morning the ships go one way (at the moment Pacific to Atlantic) and the other way (Atlantic to Pacific) in the afternoon.  Ships take 8 to 10 hours to traverse the Canal.

 

I stop at Buzios, an excellent restaurant; I sit outside.

Presidential Palace
  The cuisine is international, with a fantastic lemon meringue pie for dessert; thought of Jas.  Two courses with wine, around USD30.

 

After lunch I go to the ruins of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, built in 1678, but gutted by fires on several occasions and not rebuilt after the 1781 fire.  The church is famous for its long, not very arching, arch, called Arco Chato.  Legend has it that when the US debated whether to build the Canal in Panama or Nicaragua, they were impressed that the arch remained standing for so many years and took it as a sign that Panama had little earthquake activity, making it a safer place to build.  The arch finally collapsed in 2003 but has been rebuilt, using the original bricks.

 

The final planned stop is at Casa Gongora, built in 1760 and purported to be the best-preserved example of a Spanish colonial home in Casco Viejo.

Street of Presidential Palace, checking bags for guns.
  It’s now a place for artists, but I found the inside of the building rather boring.

 

I’m walking back to Canal House and decide to catch a cab to the city, to the best shopping centre, Multiplaza Pacifica.  I hail a cab, who quotes me only USD2, when I’m expecting to pay USD8 to 11.  As I am sitting in the front, it’s a few minutes later that I realize there are two people in the back, so I guess that was why it was cheap.  The shopping centre doesn’t inspire me; the prices are too high.  I see some shoes that I liked in Medellin but they didn’t have my size.  Price in Medellin around USD60; price here USD108.

 

I go back to Canal House, USD8, and watch a couple of movies on cable, including The Devil wears Prada.  BTW no meters in taxis in Panama, so as usual I get a quote first.

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View from the living room, Canal H…
View from the living room, Canal …
Catedral Metropolitana, Plaza de I…
Catedral Metropolitana, Plaza de …
Nearby facade, Plaza de la Indepen…
Nearby facade, Plaza de la Indepe…
Presidential Palace
Presidential Palace
Street of Presidential Palace, che…
Street of Presidential Palace, ch…
View of Panama City from near Pres…
View of Panama City from near Pre…
Plaza Bolivar, with commemorative …
Plaza Bolivar, with commemorative…
Streetscape
Streetscape
Old facade, near Plaza de Francia
Old facade, near Plaza de Francia
Paseo Esteban Huertas
Paseo Esteban Huertas
Bridge of the Americas, built 1962…
Bridge of the Americas, built 196…
The famous, not very arched, arch;…
The famous, not very arched, arch…
Casa Gongora
Casa Gongora
Panama City
photo by: Biedjee