After a three months in the Caribbean with small towns and cities, we were smacked in the face with the multitude of skyscrapers in Panama City. Some spectacular shapes and heights.
We got to see a lot as we drove from the airport to our hotel in the centre of the city.
The next day we decided that we particularly wanted to visit two sights: the Panama Canal (naturally) and Casco Viejo (the old, restored part of the city). So we jumped on the hop on and hop off bus ($US29 and route takes around 2 hours). Click here for details http://citytourspanama.com/
The Miraflores Canal Visitors' Centre is right next to one of the sections where the ships get raised and lowered by water flowing into the lock system. There is an informative 3D film, interactive displays and a detailed written and photographic history of the Canal. I have to admit to enjoying playing with the models of locks and the new control tower.
The next ship was not due to pass the canal for about three hours and not being the most patient people, we decided to hop back on the next bus and go to the old town.
The original settlement of Panama City was destroyed by the Welsh pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. The city was rebuilt in a different, more defendable location, which is today known as Casco Viejo or Old Compound. This is Panama City's most impressive colonial legacy.
Casco Viejo has attractive colonial buildings and some ornate churches.
I like to look at the images and symbolism in the old churches. In one of them there were several different statues of various saints. One had a painting behind the statue of him helping souls get out of purgatory. Locals had written requests and placed them in the baskets at his feet.
Another, Saint Hedwig (wasn't that Harry Potter's owl ) was holding a small model house in her hand. She is the patron saint of housing. People had left many little models of houses at her feet as requests for a home.
Standing in the next niche was a saint holding a broom. No one had left him any requests.
We had time for a quick mojito in the French plaza while looking at the outdoor art display then back to the bus and the hotel.
A nice day out in Panama.