Stop whatever you’re doing and book a trip to Panama. Don’t pass go, don’t collect $200, don’t ask if you can have the week off, just DO IT and hope it all works out. Seriously. Start in Panama City.
Book an apartment at Casa Antigua. Try to reserve one on the second or third floor; they have balconies overlooking Casco Viejo and the presidential palace (police everywhere!) and the newer, fancier Panama City skyline. The other apartments boast private roof access but then you don’t get to see the life going on in the streets below. Regardless, the views are both amazing. The units come with a full kitchen, living room, dining room and bedroom.
After you check in, head to Relic for a drink. If it’s a weekend night prepare for crowds and loud music but quick service at the bar. You can wear flip flops with cutoffs or a cocktail dress and fit right in. Drink a lot of water with your beer.
Wake up late and stroll around the amazing neighborhood that is Casco Viejo/Cacso Antiguo. We were in this area of the city for three entire days and I never got tired of simply walking around and looking at all of the buildings.
Eat dinner at Ego y Narciso, a cute little place on Plaza Bolivar where you can sit outside and drink delicious sangria.
Wake up early on day two, stroll the area some more and have coffee at Casa del Horno. Then find Braulio from Truly Panama and have him take you to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. He’ll point out all of the sights on your way there with a lot of history thrown in. If you’re a boot-in-the-ass-American who doesn’t want to hear about our country’s sore spots, just take a regular taxi. We have an interesting history down there and Braulio is a wealth of information.
The canal is bananas. To imagine such a feat of engineering back in 1914 is crazy. As The Mister put it: a marvel of human ingenuity, engineering, and exploitation.
You’ll be pretty tired when you get back to Casa Antigua, so have a bite downstairs at Ay! Carmela, the proprietor’s little restaurant. You can sit outside with a glass of wine and talk about all that you saw.
Dinner: Rene Cafe. Delicious, prix-fixe, lots of courses, outdoor seating.
The next day, take a walk down the waterfront at the edge of Casco Viejo. There is a beautiful promenade that stretches all the way downtown.
Then catch a taxi to Panama Viejo, founded in August of 1519 and the oldest settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas.
Find a taxi back to Casco Viejo and walk over to Tantalo, a hotel, restaurant, and rooftop bar that we visited on its 74th day open according to a manager. I really wish we had stopped in on our very first night in Casco Viejo. The cocktails were fantastic and the service was the best we had on our trip. The view from the roof was stunning.
A month to explore Panama City would have been better but it was time for us to move on to Isla Contadora. That will be part two.
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