We had some time at the beginning and end of our trip to explore Panama City. One of the things that struck me about Panama City was the huge differences from neighborhood to neighborhood. In most of the districts you would see construction going on and the city being revitalized.
A short drive from the Albrook domestic airport and the Albrook Mall where we had just dined on some typical Panama cuisine, is Ancon Hill. We drove most of the way up the steep hill to a parking lot and then set out on foot for the last hundred feet. The view from the top was worth it! We looked out through the trees on downtown Panama City with the giant skyscrapers and beautiful waterfront. Our guide pointed out a toucan in the trees above us and we spent a few minutes to get this photo before moving on. At the very top of the hill, our guide told us to look above us. Circling around where a couple hundred condors. Our guide introduced us a to a few volunteers who's job it is to count the condors. They travel up and down Latin America during their migrations and Panama City was the perfect intersection to see their movements.
The Waterfront in Panama City was another great highlight. We spent a few afternoons and evenings walking along different sections to see the many faces of the city.
Casco Viejo or the Old Town of Panama City was a unique experience. This part of the city had been abandoned at the beginning of the 1900s. Since then the neighborhood had been inhabited by squatters. Only recently in the past decade has Casco Viejo become popular again. Now there is a flood of people scrambling to develop in this area. It is an odd mix of old and new. I would recommend staying or at least visiting this neighborhood on your tour of the city. It would be a great foodie mecca as several internationals have come to set up unique restaurants, coffee shoes, gelato houses, and brew pubs. The sad part was seeing the squatters who would eventually be evicted from their homes in this district. Walking around we saw a newly renovated five star hotel next to a dilapidated colonial building next door. The old town looked like a checkerboard of old and new.
Metropolian National Park
We hiked through the Metropolian National Park one morning with my friend and her family. It is located right in Panama City but once you are inside the park, you feel like you could be miles and miles outside the city. Traffic noise is apparent everywhere we had been thus far. The sounds of the forest - the birds, the monkeys, and the millions of insects - created a white noise backdrop that drowned out civilization around us. We hiked up to the mirador at the top and once again had a lovely view of the city and waterfront.
Our final stop before leaving Panama was to the Fish Market down from Old Town. Our friends told us this was a typical Saturday for Panamanians to head with their families to the market for fresh ceviche. Each little shop had several types of ceviche to chose from. Our friends bought four different cups for us to share and taste. They give you a small cup and some saltine crackers to scoop up every delightful bit. We had the typical ceviche with fish, onions, peppers, and tomatoes. It was so fresh and we knew they had caught those fish earlier this morning. We also tried a shrimp ceviche, mayonnaise based ceviche, and a tomato paste and calamari ceviche. All were amazing and washed down very well with a Balboa beer.
Panama you did not disappoint us! We loved your people, your food, your animals, and your oceans surrounding you. We hope to return someday soon!