The Old Sites of Panama City: Panama Viejo and Casco Viejo

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Our first two full days in Panama have been spent checking out the historical sites in the capital city. Yesterday we visited Panama Viejo, the orginial site of Panama City that was founded in 1519 and destroyed in 1671 by the English pirate Henry Morgan. And today we visited more recently built Casco Viejo, which was started after the destruction of the old city.

The ruins at Panama Viejo have been turned into a very nice park, reminiscent to me of Thailand's Ayuthaya and Sukhothai parks. The building material was very different (bricks in Thailand and coral blocks in Panama) as was the religion of course (Buddhist vs Catholic), but the result for today's tourist is much the same. As I walked around the ruins I kept expecting to see a Buddha head here or there. (I didn't find any.)

Casco Viejo, on the other hand, is still in use, although it is in much needed repair. The old cathedral on the main square (started in 1688, but taking more than 100 years to complete), is still impressive, as is the President of Panama's residence on the water. Many people had warned us that this was not a very safe part of town, especially at night, and I could see why. Most of the people who live in this area are very poor, and seem to resent the camera-toting tourists who wander through. But the area is slowly gentrifying, so hopefully in the future it will be an even nicer place to visit. (And hopefully the government will find some way to give the people living here a better life.)

After getting back to the hotel, I met up with a friend of a friend and he joined Dad and I for an Italian dinner on the Causeway near the Panama Canal. The five kilometer causeway links what used to be three small islands and was built with rocks dug up from the Canal construction. Now there are a few good restaurants and a very popular exercise trail that allows the residents of Panama City a chance to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant that our new friend Edrin recommended. It was indeed a good choice, with tasty food and a nice view of the lights of downtown Panama City across the bay. Edrin is training to be in a Merchant Marine, and so we enjoyed getting an insider's view of what it's like to work on the ships going through the Canal.

Speaking of the Canal, tomorrow Edrin will join us for a tour of the locks and a trip up to Portobelo to see some old Spanish forts. But until then, I will leave you with the funniest quote of the day, from Edrin. As I worked on my extremely cheesy chicken lasagna, I was explaining to him that I never eat cheese in Thailand, because it's just not a common ingredient in Thai food. His reaction was to incredulously let us in on the wise maxim "A country without cheese? That's like a country without water!"

Indeed.

3 Comments

Hi, Uncle Stuart Grant!!!! What's with your apostrophe key???

Congratulations and hope Ava Marie is doing beautifully!!!!

Love, Sharum

"Uncle Stuart Grant" has a nice ring to it, right? I will post the good news soon. And thanks for the note about the apostrophe key. I cut and pasted from Microsoft Word and it messed it up a bit, thanks to the "auto-correct". But now it is fixed.

"A country without cheese is like a country without water." Amen to that.

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This page contains a single entry by Stuart published on January 4, 2007 9:40 PM.

Our First Day in Panama City was the previous entry in this blog.

Panama Canal Road Trip to Colon and Fuerte San Lorenzo is the next entry in this blog.

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