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Dear Luke and Leia,
Today we created a short list of things to see in Panama City Panama to get a feel for the city and what it has to offer. We had 7 things on the list and so we got an early start to our day.
It was kind of hard to find information about the city because as Americans we kept getting the wrong links. Did you know that there's actually a Panama City that's in Florida, too? When we googled “panama city panama” all in quotes we finally got what we were after. Nana doesn't really understand why they chose that name, because they aren't even in Panama. She just shook her head and joked that maybe they didn't have imagination enough to come up with their own original name.
Anyway, here is what we saw:
1. Panama Viejo
The original Panama City was founded in 1518 by Pedrarias Davila. We were surprised to find out that Panama City was the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the new world. Only 152 years later it was destroyed by the attacking Henry Morgan from England. They got smart and instead of being rebuilt the inhabitants relocated to a small, more defensible position at the foot of Ancon Hill that is called Casco Antiguo. The ruins are so well intact, since not built over that Panama Viejo was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
2. Mercado de Mariscos
A great way to see what is available in a country is to visit local markets and study the selection available. We learned that the Fish Market in Panama City is no different. We were surprised by the selection available and even some of the fish they ate, like Parrot Fish. We have seen them while diving and never knew they were edible!
We even saw fish available that are considered game fish in the US and not for sale like snook (robalo in Spanish). Most of all we have been impressed by the freshness and price of the offerings… Looks like we will be eating a lot of fish while living here. Yum!
3. Casco Antiguo
Two years after the sacking of the Original Panama city, Casco Antiguo or Viejo was built at the foot of Ancon Hill. Casco Viejo (Locally known as Casco) in Spanish Old Quarter is the historic district of the now very modern Panama City. This beautiful and charming district is a hot spot for Panamanians hosting 25+ restaurants and 15+ bars, coffee shops and night clubs in this small area only containing 4 by 9 streets. The streets are easily walked, shopping for local crafts is abundant and the buildings and colorfully dressed Kuna Yala will capture your eyes..
4. Ancon Hill
Ancon Hill is 654 feet high and has spectacular views of all of Panama. It was under the U.S. canal jurisdiction until 1977 as it housed the administration for the Panama Canal. You can hike up the hill which takes about a half-hour or with the time constraints we had, drive it in 5 minutes. Once on top you can enjoy views of Casco, the skyline of the modern city and even the Panama Canal with the Bridge of the Americas crossing the canal.
5. Amador Causeway Islands
Amador Causeway is made up of four small islands, Naos, Culebra, Perico and Flamenco and mark the pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. They were made from rock extracted during the excavations from the Panama Canal. and now linked together with a causeway. During World War II, fortifications were built to protect the canal and now the remnants can be seen. Best sights are the views of the city and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) where you can always see wild sloths in the trees.
6. Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal
Miraflores Visitor Center is a great location to get your introduction of the Panama Canal. The visitor center is four stories high, contains a museum of the canal, offers a short video in English of the canal and you can eat a meal while watching the ships come and go through the locks, The fourth floor has an observation deck where you have an up close view to see the operation of the canal locks.
7. The Metropolitan National Park (aka Parque Natural Metropolitano)
This 654-acre natural park is a slice of the tropical rainforest within the city limits of a modern capital city, Panama City. The park has three main trails, all are well maintained and wind easily through the tropical rainforest.
The ones we choose all lead to a lookout point where you can see the Bay of Panama, Panama City and the Panama Canal, all depending on which way you turn. Keep an eye out for various birds, monkeys, iguanas and deer. we've spotted all of them at times. We saw birds, monkeys and a deer on our last short tour.
Next week you dad is coming down for a visit and we will take him to the Summit zoo to see the many and different animals that live in Panama. Hope you two are well. We miss you and will see you soon.
Nana and Pap