My first impressions of Panama City are a mixed bag…just like this city. The first thing that strikes you is the infernal heat and its associated humidity. I’m hoping that this will grow on me, in time. Probably not. I’ve been in California too long. While I’ve given up on looking and smelling fresh and clean, the Panamanians seem to do this with no problem. The other juxtaposition is the mix of the really old, and the really new.
I’m staying in a private home in the Casco Viejo area of Panama City. My host Patrick is an interesting study in his own right. He was born in Munich. Lived in Spain for twenty years, then moved to Columbia, and is now living in Panama. He can easily flip from Spanish to English to German. Maybe even others for all I know. The “Casco” is the old, colonial section of Panama dotted with nearly ancient cathedrals, upscale eateries, narrow lanes, and police. It’s a work in progress as it was allowed to become practically extinct before the locals began the current restoration craze. Visible from the Casco is a spectacular modern skyline that rivals Miami.
I enjoy walking around the Casco, when it’s not raining, which so far seems to be not very often. Last night it absolutely poured down rain. I watched a very impressive lightening display from a rooftop establishment. I was trapped there for some time before it finally passed.
Today I was going to explore the Amador Causeway but because it was once again raining cats and dogs I figured a two mile stroll was not in order. So, I decided to master the bright and shiny Metro subway system and find a mall to kill some time. The subway is easy enough even though they could install better signage; it’s not very tourist-friendly. But, walking to the station is a trip. Pedestrians here have absolutely no rights. Nada. It is not unusual to see marked pedestrian crossings that end in a concrete barricade. I’ve crossed streets in Hanoi with more ease. At least in Viet Nam, the traffic moves much slower. Sidewalks here just run out of gas and end at the most bizarre places.
But I did find the mall and it ended up being a whopper. Mall shopping is not usually my cup of tea but with the heat, humidity, and rain it ended up being a pretty good way to spend some time. Being Saturday, the rest of Panama seemed to think so also. By the time I left it was absolutely packed. You can get everything there from butter to an Armani suit to a root canal. I got a new pair of Clark shoes. The sales clerk told me they are specifically designed to aid in crossing the street. I didn’t even tell her what sized I needed. I just said give me a pair!
Did I mention it’s hot here?