Monday, January 19, 2009

Our First Full Day

Travel is Hard Work

Near our condo building, within a couple of blocks, is one of the major east-west thoroughfares. The Via Espana is a one way three lane street which separates the banking downtown from the hotel and resident part of the downtown area. This street is a major shopping venue, kind of the historical downtown retail before the malls were built. The first good news was finding the huge grocery store, the Rey. It has everything you would want from a U.S. supermarket, plus a lot of products a gringo might not recognize.

Next we check out a large cell phone and electronic store where we connected to the world. When we go on these foreign jaunts we take our cell phone, which is an unlocked variety, so we can buy a local sim card to access one of the local cell systems. We then buy a card with calling minutes on it, so we can now call out and can be called by the family and friends if they need to get in touch with us. This is just a bit of foreign insurance for the temporary expats!

As we are on an exploring mission, we cross the street and at this point there is a nice pedestrian overpass so we are not risking our lives as usual. Close to the crossing is a McDonald’s where internationally you can always find clean bathrooms. We find that this McD’s has a McCafe so we can relax with a Mocha Cappuccino and read the Panama edition of the Miami Herald. Then we walk on up the hill to the hotel district. We are really researching the finding of a city tour and looking for rental car agencies. We find all the rental car companies and do some price comparisons for when we work up the courage to drive in Panama City! In the Wyndham Veneto Hotel and Casino we find a tour desk and sign up for an afternoon city tour.

We have enough time to get some lunch and end up in the Crowne Plaza restaurant. It is obviously a meeting and convention hotel, as all the young professionals start streaming in for lunch. We discover that no one here really believes that they live in a hot humid climate as they all are wearing dark suits (both men and women) and seem to want to wear a lot more clothes than are really needed in Panama. The business community is much more formal than you would find in the U.S. workplace.

Our travel format is to try to always get a city tour early on any trip. This is to get some geographical perspective on where we are living and what we will want to do in the days to come. That will be next.

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