In January 2016 I was privileged to be able to travel to Panama with my family, as something related to the family owned business. We stayed in Panama City, but we also visited Casco Antiguo, which means the Second City, and the remains of the first European settlement on the Pacific coast, called Panama Viejo. Individually these places were memorable, but seeing these drastically different places side by side provided me with one of the most satisfying trips I’ve ever taken.
Panama Viejo was not originally on our itinerary, but we had a morning off and I wanted to make sure I did something to educate myself about the history of Panama, especially the part that had nothing to do with the Panama Canal. Don’t get me wrong, the Panama Canal is incredible, however our trip revolved around the Canal so much that I was ready to delve into something different.
While everyone else spent the day shopping or tanning by the pool, I rounded up my Mom and two of her friends and we ventured out to a World Heritage Site. The site itself was significantly larger than I thought it would be, but they provide a small tram to help you get around. The buildings ranged from crumbling, to pristine quality.
This city was unique in its time, because it was one of the first cities to move away form the traditional hub design of European cities, and instead it gravitates toward the grid design of modern North and South American cities. The greatest part for me however, was the view of metropolis Panama City, and the juxtaposition it provides.
When the original site was destroyed in by pirates in 1671, forcing Panamanians to relocate. Casco Antiguo became their next home, and it was designed to nearly replicate the original settlement. The one major change however was the that the new settlement had signifignat natural defenses. The arcitecture here consists of a combination of antique brick walls, French inspired and Spanish inspired structures. Stunning modern buildings find themselves nestled between tiny apartments with gaping windows, which is anchored by a crumbling memory of a building that was built 300 years ago. This was my favorite part of town, by far. It was a hub for bright colors, beautiful details, and delicious food. (I think we ate here 4 or 5 times.) Kids were swimming in the Gulf of Panama, 40 feet from the street. There was a lot of spirit in this part of town, and it made me feel energized just walking though here.
This leads me to the last area of Panama City, the current city. Admittedly, this was our least traveled section of the city, even though our hotel was located there. This was like any major tourism city, complete with (the only site we visited) a Hard Rock Hotel. My mother, CherBear, collects their pins, so we stop at every place we visit. The arcitecture I did notice was stunning. There were lot of modern buildings, our hotel was only 5 years old, and that’s the same vibe I got everywhere around us.
Overall, the comparison of these 3 areas was one of the most interesting parts of my Panamanian vacation. They were obviously very different, but at the same time there was a familiar feeling no matter where you went.