Wednesday, November 19, 2014

10 FOR 10: Trip #3
Panama City, Panama

"Todavía la lengua de Castilla
ensalza a Dios bajo tu limpio cielo
y en tus noches de seda y terciopelo
la misma estrella de la raza brilla."
-Ricardo Miró, 
"Patria de mis amores"


The third trip on our 10 FOR 10 was a tag-along trip for SC and I, while AC had some work to do.  We went a few days before his job started in order for us to tour the Panama Canal together, as well as some of the city.  Then, SC and I actually left to come home the day he started working, so that she would not miss Halloween and trick-or-treating.

We flew into Panama City, through Miami, on a Monday evening and had a delicious dinner at an Asian-themed restaurant (SC had the most expensive meal - shrimp scampi!).  From our hotel room we could see the lineup of ships waiting to go into the Canal, which was very exciting.  Tuesday morning we set out early with a local tour guide to first spend a few hours at the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal, and then touring the older portion of the city.  The locks and canal system was one of the most interesting and amazing things I have ever seen.  It was only more impressive to learn that none of the engineering and technology has changed in the one hundred years that the Canal has been in operation.  I could have stayed all day watching ships traverse the locks, and am so glad that we were able to experience the Canal this way.  

There is also a very impressive mini museum at the lock facility that gives a good history of the building of the Canal, as well as the history in the last one hundred years since the Canal opened.  For a country that has such a close relationship with the US, and one that could potentially have ended in oppression and hatred, the display (as well as the behavior of Panamanians we interacted with) was positive.  It was honest, though vague, about some of the past issues of protests to the US occupation and control of the Canal, but the fact that in 1999 via treaty the US handed over complete control to Panama seems to have wiped the slate clean and put the US back into the good graces of the Panamanian people.  It also helps that tolls paid on the Canal have helped to give Panama a top 100 economy (based on GDP) in the world. 

We had read online that at times tourists who are not fluent in Spanish can be taken advantage of or mugged, but having a tour guide who was obviously familiar to many of the people we walked past meant that no one bothered us.  He did an excellent job prompting us all to ask questions, and making sure everything was repeated in both Spanish and English.  The group was a mix of travelers from around the world, and it was interesting to hear the questions asked and what information other travelers were interested in learning. The guide was very well versed in the history of the country and city, and didn't seem to be worried when asked about some of the less savory parts of Panama's past.  

The old part of the city was beautiful, and we loved seeing the restored buildings, as well as the many empty shells waiting to be bought and restored.  The current custom is to purchase the old shells of buildings, and then renovate the inside to one's own liking (be it residential or commercial), while restoring the exterior to its original glory.  Below is an example of a shell, waiting to be purchased.

Tuesday afternoon and most of Wednesday SC and I spent relaxing, reading and hanging out at the pool at the hotel.  AC had some other work to do for other projects, but was able to do some from the poolside and spend that time with us.  We were not able to play in the ocean, mostly because the lineup of ships waiting for the Canal were probably making the water gross, but also because the Canal introduces fresh water into the ocean, creating a brackish area, which crocodiles love.  We didn't see any crocs, but were not going to take our chances.  Also, in spite of copious amounts of bug spray, I did manage to get bit by mosquitos a large number of times.  Luckily, I did not end up catching anything from those bites, but I was a worried, even though I had read that the "disease infecting" mosquitos were more prominent in the jungle areas, which we were not extremely close to.  

Thursday morning we spent a few last hours at the pool, and then SC and I headed to the airport to travel home, while AC went to work.  We didn't get home until around midnight, and SC was exhausted, but still managed to trick-or-treat the next day!  She was dressed as a Ravenclaw student (from Harry Potter).

In case you missed the first post ...
Next July, AC and I will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary, and as such have been discussing what sort of big trip to take.  However, it occurred to me that we typically take some pretty big trips every year, sometimes as a tag-along when AC works, and sometimes just using all the points and miles he has amassed from his work travels.  I couldn't help but wonder if another trip would really be that special and different.  So, I came up with the idea that instead of just one more trip, we should take ten trips to celebrate our years together.  I told AC, and told him that it didn't have to be just him and me (because SC is also part of our lives, obviously), but that I wanted to take ten purposeful trips, that are focused on celebrating us (and our family) as much as we can.  I told him that they didn't all have to be long or complicated trips, though we had already talked about a few places that will be, and we can start now (in our tenth year) and run through the end of 2015 so that we didn't take too much time away from work.  So, hopefully, these ten trips will make this a celebratory year, one that will stand out for us as we look back (in another ten years).

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