Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The City Tour

The city tour was a nice one, in that there were just two couples. The other people were from Bellevue and were here a couple days early before starting a Cruise West voyage through the canal and on up to Costa Rica. He was a retired power consultant and had done some work for the Chelan County P.U.D. The tour was in an air conditioned Cadillac so we were very comfortable, especially for a modest price of $35 per person. The driver and guide Eduardo was represented as an excellent English speaker but that may be by Panamanian standards. He did not overwhelm us with information but we got all the essentials.

The ride started with a visit to Ancon Hill which overlooks the entrance to the canal, the canal headquarters, what was the canal airport until it became the airport for domestic flights, all on one side of the cero. On one of the other sides were great views of the Amador Causeway which is a long peninsula built with the dirt removed from the canal in 1913 and now is becoming an upscale restaurant, recreation, and marina area. On the city side the view is of the new city and the old city of Casco Viejo.

We moved on to the Miraflores locks, which are the first locks on the Pacific side of the canal. There was a huge cruise ship going through the lock. We elected to skip the museum and viewing platforms as both couples would be returning to the site in the future. As an alternative Eduardo took us up the canal to the second set of locks, the Pedro Miguel, and crossed the beautiful new Centennial bridge just north of Paraiso.

Next it was off to Casco Viejo, the old city of Panama. It is actually the second city, as the first Panama City, which is referred to as Old Panama, is in ruins. Casco Viejo is under serious renovation and contains some very gorgeous buildings and homes. These include the president’s home (Palacio Presidential), the city hall, the Catholic Cathedral (Catedral de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion), the national theatre, and many beautiful squares. The area is becoming a very nice restaurant and high end housing area. We will certainly be back!

The tour concluded with a drive out the Amador Causeway. There are beautiful views from all along the causeway, and at the end on Flamingo Island, there is a marina with those yachts you can only dream about. All in all, it was a good orientation of the city and I am starting to recognize the main streets. That should hopefully be a help in the future!

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