Tag Archives: Nice Person of Panama

Old Panama / Panamá Viejo

Jan 20 Today we took a municipal bus across the city to see the ruins of Old Panama. The bus uses the same Metro card we purchased yesterday, and whether you choose the subway or the bus, the cost is 35 cents. The bus was just as nice as the train, and allowed us to see different parts of this big city.

When we were three stops from the one that Google told us was ours, an old man in the seat in front of us started pointing and indicating (in Spanish of course) that we should get off. Sure enough, there was a building that said Visitors Center, but just as we saw it, the bus moved on. Better to trust Google, we thought.

We jumped off where Google suggested, and we were indeed at Old Panama – we could see it through the fence. We tried to walk through the gate, but a guard pointed back up the road – no admission here. We had to walk 20 minutes back down the busy highway until we got to the stop the old man had indicated. Nice Person of Panama, and Google, you let us down!

Once through the proper gate, we hopped on a tram that took us to a small museum.

Inside, we learned some of the history of the Spanish conquest of the area in the early 1500s, the establishment of the first European settlement on the Pacific Ocean in 1517, and the ultimate destruction of the old city in 1671 by the infamous buccaneer, Sir Henry Morgan. He took all the silver and gold, and burned the city down. The Spanish reviled him, but the British knighted him for his deeds.

Wood carving
Carvings from an early church
This baby looks like he’s up to no good!
An exhibit described the Crypto Jews – those who professed to be Catholic to escape persecution in Spain
The tomb of the musician – an indigenous female arranged in the pose of a dancer – one of many excavated tombs
We climbed the tower of the old cathedral…
…where we could see both the old and the new city …
…and out to the Pacific Ocean
We kept expecting to see faces in the stones, like in Angkor Wat
A big old cypress tree

When we were ready to go home, we hopped on the bus, only to discover that our metro card was out of funds. What to do? The card can only be refilled at a subway station. We offered cash to the driver, but he just waved us onto the bus. Another Nice Person of Panama!

Waiting for our food at Concolón

After an afternoon swim, we sauntered over to Concolón, a restaurant that promised authentic Panamanian street food. Unlike other central and South American countries, we have encountered no actual street food here, much to Jim’s dismay. Jim ordered a plantain lasagna and I chose chicken with macaroni, neither of which sounded like street food. Jim’s came in a tiny bowl, and mine on a huge platter – one to feed a chihuahua and one to feed a Great Dane! We were so flabbergasted that we forgot to take a picture. Suffice it to say that both were delicious, liberally seasoned with culantro (the national herb here, with a much stronger taste than cilantro) and between us, we managed to make all the food disappear. A satisfying day!

Panama City

Our hotel

Jan 19 – The Executive Hotel in the newer part of the city has everything we could want, including a swimming pool and a generous breakfast buffet. But silver skyscrapers are not our thing. Jim said the city bears no resemblance to the Panama City he visited back in the 70s.

Cool buildings

This morning we set out to conquer the Metro station and find our way to the Old Town, Casco Viejo. The Metro was modern and clean, with a helpful attendant in a glass booth who sold us a reloadable metro card and did her best with gestures and no English to let us know that we had to load the card with funds at a nearby machine. There is no English signage here. We stood dumbly in front of the machine trying to figure out what to do, when a woman strode up, inserted our card, pushed some buttons and showed us where to insert our dollar coin. Nice Person of Panama!

Wall art!

We got on a clean, shiny train, not too crowded, and, three stops later, we emerged in a grittier part of the city. Google said we had a 20 minute walk to Casco Viejo. Now, I know we’re here to warm our bones, but it is HOT and humid here. It may take me a few days to adjust.

We reached the Plaza de Independencia, which has the Palacio Municipal one one side, and the Metropolitan Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria the Ancient on the other.

Palacio Municipal
The Cathedral

Inside the Cathedral it was nice and cool, so we took our time looking around.

Lovely main altar

There is a reliquary and a wax statue of San Joselito here, a 14 year old Mexican boy who was tortured and murdered for his faith in 1928 and became a saint in 2016. First saint we’ve seen in blue jeans.

San Joselito
Life sized statues – looks like Jesus is in trouble again
Pretty Madonna, funny looking baby

Around the corner was the Church of St Joseph with a very gold altar.

Now, am I wrong, or is this a holy person taking a selfie?

Saint Selfie?

We walked around the Old Town and admired the colorful buildings:

Locks of Love, and a view across the bridge to the modern city

Arrived back home for an afternoon swim and a lovely dinner. An excellent first day.