Feb 12, 2020

Panama City, Panama

Panama City is the “New York City” of Central America. It has become a skyscraper city. It is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas.  John and I were here in 2002 and the changes are amazing. The modern airport was extremely busy and I am impressed by the diverse nationalities I see represented here at the hotel. There are tourists from all over. Caravan Tours, which the people I talked to seemed to really like, bring in groups almost every day. A recent final Jeopardy question asked “What Central American capital is the farthest east?”  The correct answer was Panama City.  

There are three distinct parts to Panama City.  One is the old city called Panama Viejo founded in 16th century and is a World Heritage site.  There is a museum and some ruins. The city was destroyed in 1671 when it was attacked by Henry Morgan and his band of pirates. The “new” city was built in 1673 and is also a World Heritage site. 

Why am I in Panama you may wonder.  Simple.  I had frequent flyer miles on United and for only 38,000 miles I could fly round trip.  They wanted 36,000 miles to fly one way from Syracuse to Portland, Oregon.  Plus, I had points with InterContinental Hotels (think Holiday Inn) so I booked the InterContinental using points and for only $20 a day I was able to upgrade to Club Level.  I like Club Level because it is quiet with a lot of single business travelers so I don’t feel strange being alone, plus it includes breakfast, and evening cocktails with snacks.  For me it is a perfect world. One reason I picked the InterContinental is because they have a beautiful pool and are located on the water; plus. it is centrally located. 

I took a cab into the “Old Town” to visit the Cathedral and other attractions. The Old Town, called Casco Viejo, is being rejuvenated and the Cathedral is being painted. Construction on the cathedral started in 1688. There is a statue of a young boy in a glass casket, Saint Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, who refused to
denounce his faith under torture.  Typical of many places, in the beginning the wealthy lived in the area around the Cathedral, then they moved out to the “suburbs,” and the poorer people took over, now wealthy are moving back in.  A cycle that happens in many places.

I like to go to folkloric shows when I am in a foreign country. Even though such shows have become commercialized I still like them because it helps to preserve the culture and promotes national pride. I was fortunate because on Wednesdays the InterContinental has a
Panamanian night with a Panamanian buffet and folkloric show. It started with two “devils” which comes from their European heritage and the time of the plague.  It represents the battle between good and evil.  I would like an explanation of the dances. 

I am not a fan of buffets; too many decisions, but it is fun to watch.  There are several tour groups here and the people attack the buffet like piranha that have not eaten and others circle trying to find a way to get in the circling group.   There were several interesting desserts on the buffet made from coconut, yucca, plantains, and nance, a small yellowish fruit that takes a bit of getting used to as it is rather tart.