Kapoors Year 7: Europe/Ecuador/Peru travel blog

Thank Goodness The Clouds Broke Up Enough For Me To See The...

I Could See The Ships Below, Waiting To Be Allowed To Enter...

From This Angle, It Looks Like That Ship Is Going To Be...

The Tide Was Going Out And It Made A Lovely Ripple Pattern...

Here's A Shot Of The Interior Of Our Fantastic Apartment. What A...

Here's The View From The Little Balcony On Our Third Floor Apartment

The Old District Us Undergoing A Massive Refurbishment, The Buildings Had Deteriorated...

Many Of The Narrow Streets Are Blocked Off, They Plan To Do...

Some Of The First To Be Renovated Are Located Around Little Independence...

Here And There We See Glimpses Of The Glorious Buildings That Once...

Some Churches Are Still Functioning, But This One Is Just 'A Shell...

Here's A Glimpse Of The Bridge Of The Americas, It Joins The...

On Our Walk Around The Tip Of The Peninsula We Came Upon...

Here's A Closer Look, It Reminds Me A Great Deal Of The...

The Contrast Of The Old And The New Couldn't Be More Dramatic

Speaking Of Old And New, Even The Trash Cans Are Getting A...

And Speaking Of Faces, This Little Ink Drawing On An Old Wall...

Our Route Looped Us Back To The Square And We Got A...

It's Hard To Tell If These Decorations Are Ever Taken Down From...

'Still Struggling' Interesting Graffiti Here And There

I Think Of This As More 'Street Art' Than Graffiti, And I...

On A Newly Paved Side Street, A Thoughtful Father Was Filling A...

In The Late Afternoon We Went For A Second Walk, Here The...

We Walked Along The Sea Wall Towards The Downtown, What A Contrast...

We Arrived During The 'Carnival' Celebrations, It Was A Great Introduction To...

This Pales In Comparison To Rio, But We're Happy To Wait Till...

There Were Several Young Men Dressed As 'Devils', The Locals Loved To...

We Spent Our First Several Mornings Walking Around The Casco Viejo District...

The Verandahs Looked Inviting In The Sun, But Rather Run Down And...

We Stopped To Admire This Monument To An Educator From Days Gone...

This Bust Commemorates An Important Builder Of The Nearby Panama Canal

I Don't Think I've Ever Seen A Monument Topped By A Rooster,...

We Thought About Getting A Panamá Hat For Anil, Until We Learned...

When Shopping In The Local Market We Spotted Some 'Real' Panama Hats...

I Love These License Plates, Wouldn't It Be Cool To Drive A...

I Chuckled At The Sight Of These Sky-High Heels Sitting Atop A...

If You Turned Right From Our Little Restored Street, This Is What...

On The Opposite Corner Stands A Newly Renovated Colonial Building With A...

We Chose A 'Middle-Of-The-Road' Establishment One Night Because Of Their Sign Advertising...

After Ten Days In Panamá We Were Ready For A Day Tour...

You Have To Arrive Early To See The East Bound Sips Passing...

By Late Morning There Is A Lull While The Workers Wait For...

A Wider Canal Is Under Construction In Order To Accommodate Much Larger...

There Are Three Sets Of Locks In The Canal Zone, With A...

We Left The Canal Zone And Headed To The Marina Near The...

The Others In Our Group Were Over The Moon To Eat Fresh...

Here's A Cup Full Of The Local Favourite, Anil And I Munched...

The Next Stop On Our Tour Was Panama City's Tiny China Town

The Meat Was Closed For Inspection (Horse Meat?) So The Vultures Had...

This Charming Little Wooden Building Has Somehow Survived The Wrecking Ball, And...

These Old Colonial Buildings Stand Along The Avenue Central, Where Streetcars Once...

There's Some Interesting Architectural Features On This Building, A Facelift Will Bring...

Locals Flock To These Typical Shaved-Ice Stands, I've Never Seen A Metal...

The Cup Of Shaved Ice Is Upturned Into A Fresh Cup, Smothered...

A Portion Of Avenue Central Has Been Closed To Traffic And Fountains...

I Loved The Way This Old Gent's Vest Matched The Colour Of...

Fruit Stalls Line The Last Few Blocks Of The Avenue, Adding Colour...

We'd Heard About The 'Red Devils', Old Painted Buses That Were Supposed...

Compared To Some I've Seen In Other Parts Of The World, They...

They Only Signs Of Life At 6:30am On Sunday Morning Were The...

I Tried Several Times To Capture The Beauty Of This Restored Hotel,...

Here And There One Sees These Little Touches, Old Railings Turning A...

Well I Have The Answer After Waiting Long Enough, Those Tattered Christmas...

It's A Good Thing The Sign Has Faded Along With The Glory...

Anil Needed His New Trousers Shortened, Where Else To Go But 'The...

We'd Tried For Three Weeks To See The Golden Altar In The...

I Had Little Problem With Allergies While In Panama, But Noticed That...

Had A Good Laugh At This Bar At The Airport - Air...


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BACKGROUND

To make my writing go a little easier, I have copied some excerpts from the Lonely Planet – Panamá chapter on Panamá City:

“The most cosmopolitan capital in Central America, Panama City is both a gateway to the country’s natural riches and a vibrant destination in its own right. A hub of international banking and trade, the city sports a sultry skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers reminiscent of Miami.

The capital rides the rails of urban chaos, with no shortage of traffic jams, wayward taxis, and casinos stacked sideways between chic clubs and construction sites. As a respite from all that buzz, is the colonial neighborhood of Casco Viejo - a dilapidated peninsula with ruins and cobbled streets reminiscent of old Havana.

After the city elite fled to live in skyscrapers, decades passed with Casco Viejo crumbling on the edge of the sea. Recently, artists and small businesses are moving back in and renovations are abundant. With luxury lofts, cafes and the hottest nightspots arriving, the Casco is approaching full-swing revival.

With arms open to the east and the west, Panama City developed as a hub of trade and immigration. As a result, urbanites hail from every corner of Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. Increasing numbers of North Americans and Europeans are adding to the mix. The result is a cultural mix that marks this capital as more dynamic and fluid than its neighbors. An ‘anything goes’ attitude proves a breath of fresh air.

Within minutes of the city’s center are tropical rainforests and verdant parks home to howler monkeys, toucans and sloths. You can also escape the bustle by hitting a broad sandy beach (Pacific or Caribbean) or by hopping a train to Colón.

Panamá City was founded in 1519 not long after Balboa first saw the Pacific. Although the Spanish settlement quickly became an important center of government and church authority, the city was ransacked and destroyed in 1671 by the English pirate Sir Henry Morgan, leaving only the stone ruins of Panamá Viejo.

The Iglesia de San José protects the famous Altar de Oro (Golden Altar), which was about the only thing of value salvaged after Henry Morgan sacked Panamá Viejo. According to local legend, when word came of the pirate’s impending attack, a priest attempted to disguise the altar by painting it black.

The priest told Morgan that the famous altar had been stolen by another pirate, and even convinced Morgan to donate handsomely for its replacement. Morgan is said to have told the priest, ‘I don’t know why, but I think you are more of a pirate than I am.’ Whatever the truth, the baroque altar was later moved from the old city to the present site.

Three years later, the city was reestablished about 8km to the southwest in the area now known as Casco Viejo. Although the peninsular location made the city well defended, the Spanish overland trade route faded upon the destruction of the Caribbean port at Portobelo in 1746.

Panama gained independence in 1821 and became part of Gran Colombia, though a decade later the regional confederation dissolved and Panama belonged to Colombia. Panama City subsequently declined in importance, though it would return to prominence in the 1850s when the Panama Railroad was completed, and gold seekers on their way to California flooded across the isthmus by train.

Panama declared its independence from Colombia on November 3, 1903 and Panamá City was firmly established as the capital. Since the Panama Canal was completed in 1914, the city has emerged as a center for international business and trade.

The city’s greatest setback in recent times occurred in 1989, when it was invaded by the USA to oust dictator Manuel Noriega from power. The capital suffered damage both from the invasion itself and from the subsequent looting, and several residential blocks of the El Chorillo district were destroyed by combat- ignited fire.

Following the handover of the Panama Canal in 1999, and the subsequent closure of American military bases in the country, Panama City has finally taken charge of its own destiny.

Today, Panama City is by far the wealthiest city in Central America, and residents are optimistic about the future. With the Panama Canal expansion, the city is poised to continue its constant transformation.

KAPOORS ON THE ROAD

We decided we wanted to rent an apartment for our three-week stay in Panama, but after searching through the offerings on AirBnb, we decided that we really didn’t want to be in the high-rise jungle of the downtown district of the capital.

We were more than a little concerned about what we’d read regarding the state of the Old Town (Casco Viejo), but felt when we found a beautiful apartment on FlipKey; we knew that’s where we wanted to stay. Our correspondence with the owner of the apartment was very positive and we learned that her husband gave small-group guided tours of the city and the outlying sights of interest to tourists.

We hired at taxi at the airport and gave him the instructions for the location of the apartment in Casco Viejo. Before we knew it, we were whizzing past the forest of skyscrapers and onto the main road that runs along the wide bay. What we hadn’t anticipated were the road closures that Sunday afternoon resulting from the preparations for the Carnival season in full swing.

The taxi had to detour through the rough neighbourhood of El Chorillo and we began to wonder what on earth we had let ourselves in for. Once we found our way into Casco Viejo, the taxi driver had to call Patty for directions to the apartment building because so many streets had been closed off in order to restore the original paving stones.

The contrast between the slums dwellings we had passed in El Chorillo, and the immaculately restored 17th century building where our Panama home was located could not have been more striking. Patty has a real flair for decorating, and the kitchen was so well stocked I would have been hard pressed to think of anything more she could have added.

I was particularly pleased that the large screen television was connected to a satellite dish and that we could access our Netflix account while in Panama. We knew we wouldn’t be roaming around much at night, and the prospect of watching several movies and taking in the Academy Awards on Oscar night made us feel right at home.

We decided that we wouldn’t look into any tours for the first week of our visit, but that we would explore the Casco Viejo district on foot in the early morning and take long walks along the waterfront in the early hours of the evening. The weather took some adjusting to, it was very hot and humid, quite a change from Arizona and Mexico in January and early February.

Just as I had hoped, my coughing settled down with the change in climate and I no longer had to take drugs every day or stay within arms reach of a box of tissues. I’m beginning to see that our choice of travel destinations will more and more depend on the climate and the time of year. As if food allergies weren’t enough, now I’ll have to take flowering plants and trees into consideration.

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