Touring the town, historic and modern

Trip Start Aug 17, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Panama  ,
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It was hot today. Thankfully, it remained overcast all day long, but it was still hot. Drenching, shirt-stuck-to-my-back, wish-they-had-air-conditioning-in-here kind of hot.

And we decided to go out touring! Well, it could have been worse. It could have been sunny.

But really, it was a great day. After what is becoming the traditional cappuccino in the coffee bar downstairs (the coffee here is really good, and this is coming from a tea drinker remember), we caught a cab to the famed Casco Viejo, or Casco Antiguo in some books. This is the second downtown of Panama City, you might recall; the one the Spanish built with a wall around it to protect from the British pirates who burned down the first town centre. It's out on a point of land south of town, surrounded on three sides by water, making it presumably easy to defend.

Casco Viejo has been undergoing restoration of late, and was a really charming little village area. Beautiful Spanish-style buildings crowded close together on either side of bricked streets, split here and there by ruins of buildings from the 1700's. We had lunch and a cold drink in the restaurant of a lovely hotel called Casablanca, on the corner of a market square area similar to those in Mexican towns. Flowers and other hanging plants grew from small iron balcony rails in the residences overhead. It was quite quiet; maybe because it was a Tuesday afternoon, or maybe it's this way all the time. A large government building dominated the eastern side of the town, and it had a really nice central square which we could see through a gate.

We walked all around the place, turning down streets at random, until we recognized the way we came in. A cab saw us wandering around and picked us up, we had him drive us to a large hotel we had seen on the waterfront (just for a starting point on the main downtown area). He had his cute little daughter riding in the front seat with him, she was watching me as we drove. I gave her a big smile.

We started walking once reaching the waterfront. We escaped into the mall for some relief from the heat (it was mostly trying to walk in the heat that was hard). It was a nice, big modern place but again, seemed relatively quiet. It had a movie theatre, casino, the usual.

I had a place in mind for dinner, but wasn't entirely sure where it was. After walking another hour or so, and asking for directions once, we had managed to find the REAL downtown: the financial district. Avenida Centrale looked like Yonge St. in Toronto. Huge hotels and bank buildings flanked the wide, busy street. People getting off work were walking in every direction.

It was a few blocks up from here that we found Pangea, the restaurant I had read about earlier in the week. It was everything the reviews had said, we were not disappointed.

One more cab ride and we are back at the Sheraton. Sweaty and tired, I think it's going to be a sit-by-the-pool-and-relax day tomorrow, before departing for Ecuador on Thursday!
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