Panama. First Impressions

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On holidays in Panama!

After a rather long flight by way of Denver (points, what can I say?), we touched down at Tocumen International Airport early on Saturday morning. We arrived at our beautiful hotel, Las Clementinas, located in Casco Viejo, the old city, to be welcomed by my parents who had arrived the night before.

After a quick refresh, it was time to explore. We decided on an early lunch and headed off to the Mercado de Mariscos, where the locals go to buy seafood and dine on ceviche, fish and cervezas. Open air stalls and plastic tables made for a casual dining experience that didn’t break the bank. We all agreed that the ‘fish fry’ – deep fried fish – was the highlight of our meal.

The next day, and the main reason for our Panama vacay, a tour of the Panama Canal. A visit to this  engineering marvel was on my dad’s bucket list so when the opportunity arose to accompany him and my mother, we were off! Linking the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean, the canal cuts through the Continental Divide and firmly solidifies Panama’s place in global commerce. Built in 1914, an incredible accomplishment at that time, it still is a pretty awe inspiring feat. Our ‘partial transit’ tour involved passing through three locks, watching cargo and cruise ships safely pass through. It was a long day, but the experience of a lifetime.

Our last two days involved exploring Casa Viejo, the old town, which is experiencing a revitalization. Colourful old buildings sit alongside ruins. The area is filled with restaurants, rooftop bars, shops and history at every turn. This was the place to soak up history, have some great cocktails and experience Panama. We visited the ruins of Panama Viejo, the city’s original site, which was sacked by pirate Henry Morgan and resulted in a move to what is now known as Casco Viejo. The Frank Gehry designed BioMuseum was a stunning piece of modern architecture, which also explained the origin of the Panamanian isthmus and its impact on the planet’s biodiversity through interactive galleries.

Our last night in Panama was capped off at Maito, listed on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants List. We experienced a beautifully presented, inventive and delicious tasting menu in a gorgeous house.

Today, we are off to visit the Highlands of Boquette, before ending our trip at the islands of Bocas del Toro. Stay tuned for Part 2!