Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hola Panamá City

We arrived in Panamá City on Thursday, the 23rd. With all the American influence in Panama we immediately felt our proximity to the states and our sense of transitioning back to home.  The capital city looks like Miami from the air.  We couldn’t believe all the enormous modern buildings lining the coast.  One called "El Tornillo" was a crazy spiral-shaped skyscraper that we were told was built by an Arab oil tycoon.

We didn’t have much time to sightsee so we started off with a trip the Canal.  Like most of our time in South America we got the low down from the taxi driver.  We learned about the American occupation of the area and the resulting week-long party in 2000 when Panamá gained full control of the Canal (but with the deal for US ships to never pay the average $450,000 crossing fee.)  We watched a couple enormous boats move through the intricate system of locks and it was more interesting and impressive than we expected.

A group of Columbian tourism students came through the canal museum at the same time as us.  It always catches us off-guard when people ask to take photos with Harper and Cal.  They are good sports but it is a little weird.  
The tugging railcar system to help keep the boats moving straight through the canal.
We also had time to visit Casco Viejo, the oldest Colonial area in Panamá City, full of winding cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies overflowing with flowers.  We walked all along the sidewalks and through the brick plazas checking out the artisan and tourist trinkets.  We visited the site of the church and convent of St. Dominic where the "Flat Arch" was built in 1737.  This historical site was actually one of the determining factors for building the canal in Panamá because it demonstrated the stability of the land and the rare occurrence of earthquakes.  While wandering we found a little café full of familiar snacks and groceries- some of the first American brands we had seen in a while.

The site of St Dominic church and convent

Plaza next to the church with intriguing white circles to jump into.
Cow-vertebrae at closer inspection.

The arch finally succumbed to the elements and gravity in 2003, but it was rebuilt in 2007 with all the old bricks.

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