Friday, 11 October 2013

In the big city

Looking back downtown from the old city that is just now being restored.
We spent three full days in Panama City, enjoying big city life. It is an interesting mix of the old and the new.  The first couple of days we were focused on acquiring boat bits and pieces, and we were largely successful, purchasing a new VHF radio and our third inverter in a month. (Hopefully the last one for a while.) We stayed at the Cruiser's Casa, which is a B&B run by an American woman catering specifically for the cruising community, so she had lots of tips as to where to go for boat parts and life in Panama in general.  It also meant that we recognized several of the other people staying there from boats that we had met, which was an unexpected bonus in the big city.

The number one topic in Panama City right now seems to be the traffic - they have a couple of major construction projects in the city - building new overpasses and a subway system - so traffic can be total gridlock during rush hour.  So we walked a lot, actually faster then taking a cab on occasion.

Panama is a modern city, full of skyscrapers.  I've heard that many condo units are unoccupied, purchased by the very wealthy only for laundering money, not any clothes or other activities of actual inhabitants.

Interesting new Panamanian architecture.

Panama City Cathedral, interesting old architecture.
By the third day we had accomplished all our chores, so we walked down the sea wall toward the fish market and the old city.  The Captain had great fun at the fish market, where we discovered that the lobster available there is flown in from the San Blas (!) and we also ate ceviche at 10 o'clock in the morning. Turns out, we can eat pickled fish anytime...

The newish seawall in Panama City. Reminded me a lot of the Toronto waterfront, although TO doesn't have so many cathedrals in its skyline.

Approaching the old city. Casco Viejo (the old city) has recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. My Lonely Planet guidebook (from 2010) discourages walking around the neighbourhood at night.  Now it has 4 and 5 star boutique hotels and lots of funky restaurants, perfectly safe anytime.

Fun at the fish market.

Inky squid - 3 Balboas for a pound.

The outside of the fish market had a long row of shops selling mostly ceviche and sometimes fried fish.

Our overflowing cups of ceviche - $2.50 each. I had mixed and the Captain had shrimp.  Always served with crackers.
The old town was a beautiful place to walk around.  We managed to find a pub serving cheap British beer, ("Yay!" said the Captain,) and some interesting local artisan shops, ("Yay!" said the Crew.)

The powers that be are doing a pretty good job of preserving the old city style and architecture, even if it includes propping up the facade of the building while totally reconstructing the inside. This neighbourhood dates back to 1675 and in many ways resembles the Spanish architectural styles we saw in the old city of Cartegena, Colombia.

Folks back then must not have eaten all their vegetables, (or maybe didn't have much to eat at all.)

The flat arch, which the Captain noticed right away and was oohing and aahing before we even found the information sign.

Extra historical details for you.
 Well, we thought Bocas was going to burn a hole in out budget, but it didn't compare with the big city.  Too many yummy places to eat, taxi fares to sit in traffic and stores with lots to buy.  Time to escape to the highlands of Boquete - pictures coming soon!

"Definetely not in Kansas anymore, Toto." The supercool F&F tower.

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