Saturday, February 13, 2010

Welcome to Panama

Today we took a city tour of Panama often called "Crossroads of the World". The other tourists were from Colombia. We were the only Americans. The Panama Canal is truly one of the engineering wonders of the world. It was awesome to stand on the observation deck at the Miraflores Locks and watch a massive container ship glide by. Panama is an Indian word that means "an abundance of fish". One of my favorite exhibits at the Visitors' Center was a trio of fish tanks. One contained a sampling of Atlantic ocean fish, one the fresh water fish that live in the canal and one the Pacific coast species. The ships pass through three giant locks in their journey across the isthmus. We all know that building the canal was a hideous struggle for workers with the jungle and disease claiming many thousands of lives. The size of the cockraches and bees on display today were enough to send shivers down my spine and I am not kidding!
We also toured both the ruins of Old Panama and Casco Viejo or "Colonial Panama" which is currently crammed with restoration projects. We saw ancient buildings, balconied streets, plazas, and sidewalk cafes. . We stopped at San Jose church, built in 1675, that contained a huge Golden Altar that was thought to have been made in Ecuador. It was hidden from the English pirate, Henry Morgan when he captured and destroyed much of the city and then moved to it's current location in a more defendable part of the city behind an ancient city wall.
The Hotel Radisson Decapolis is ultra modern with it's blue lighting, loud music, fancy pool and huge attached casino and shopping mall (the largest in Central America). We do have a lovely suite with a magnificent view of the Pacific ocean and a skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers that reminds me of New York City. This city is very rich and has become a financial hub for all of Latin America.  Locals call the skyscrapers the "coke towers" and they do not mean Coca Cola.
Good thing our room is sound proof because Carnival begins tonight. Didn't stop to think that the four days before Ash Wednesday represents some serious merriment in Panama. The whole country shuts down for a party. No worries....the Foremans are safely tucked in bed by 9 or 10 PM every night. It has been good to experience the city, but I am ready to move on to view the mountains, rain forest and beaches that I have read so much about. We have one more day in the city.....guess I'd better visit the mall today  :) Gail

No comments: