|We meet our group this morning who we will be travelling with for the next 24 days. There are only 5 of us in total, a Canadian couple (Chrissie and Brian) and a single lady (Anita) from London. Tomas from Guatemala is our guide, so three males and three females. A nice small group. The first thing we do this morning is go to the Miraflores locks, the closest locks on the Panama Canal, to Panama City, and the nearest locks to the Pacific Ocean. These locks are the old style built in 1914 by the Americans. We see two large ships go through the locks and unlike the newer locks we saw the other day, where the ships power themselves through, these ships are pulled along by trains on tracks beside the locks. The other difference from the Agua Clara locks, is the lock gates open like a door instead of sliding back into a recess. Here we got a much clearer view of the difference in water levels between the locks which is much bigger than we imagined. There is a great museum which shows the construction challenges and a short video on the history of the canal which turned 100 in 2014 and has had one million ships pass through.
Afterwards we take a tour of Panama City, the new city with its many skyscrapers. Then just near the coast we see the ruins of the first city of Panama which was destroyed by the pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. Not much remains at all. Finally we go to the Casco Viejo, the site of the second 'old' city of Panama. Here the beautiful buildings are slowly being restored and there are wonderful cafes, bars, shops and boutique hotels lining the narrow streets and many open squares full of trees, gardens and places to sit. It's a lovely place to wander and full of character.
Nearby, we eat a local fish market. The fishermen's catches are sold in the early morning and then the makeshift restaurants open up for the rest of the day selling the fish and seafood dishes. Phil has red snapper and me calamari served with plantains. We haven't had plantains since we were in Peru, where they are a staple part of their diet.
We then travel over the causeway which connects the 2 small islands off the coast to the new city of Panama. This causeway was built from the earth removed during the construction of the Panama Canal. In the distance we can see the Bridge of the Americas connecting the north and south American land masses spanning the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.
The others head back to the Hotel but we are dropped off at the Casco Viejo as we would like to have more of a look around this area. First we enjoy a coffee at a little cafe and then wander around some more of the area. It's so beautiful. Then we are tempted to have a wine and beer at an outdoor bar before catching a taxi back to the Hotel. The trip back took ages as it is peak hour on a Friday.
Tonight we eat an a typical Panamanian restaurant El Trapiche near our Hotel. The food is good, we choose a mixed platter of typical Panamanian dishes, Arroz con Pollo, Ropa Veija (shredded beef in homemade sauce) Tamal de Olla (casserole). Delicious!!!