Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Casco Viejo

The start of our journey to Panama began actually in San Pedro Sula's airport. A flight delay. Our plane wasn't going to be arriving at the airport in time to take us to San Jose, Costa Rica to catch our connecting flight, so we were granted the wonderful opportunity to hang out in the airport for 6 more hours. We actually headed back into town, had a leisurely lunch, shopped, and then headed back out to the airport to catch our new flight, which was headed to San Salvador, El Salvador instead. I was a little bummed, since the San Jose airport has Papa John's pizza, but I would just have to deal with it. Once we landed in Panama City, we caught a cab and headed to our hotel.

Our hotel is a new hostel in the Casco Viejo region of the city. "Casco Viejo" means old quarter, and this was where the city was rebuilt after Henry Morgan sacked the old city in 1671. The area has seen some better years, with buildings becoming run down and such. However, it was granted a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition a few years back, and now renovations have been going on to put the area back into its traditional glory. The area is surrounded on two sides by water, and comes to a point into the Pacific Ocean. After the original city was sacked, the townspeople decided to start using the natural protective barriers around them. The quarter is home to the gold altar,a church altar made completely of gold, which, story goes, a priest covered it in coal dust to turn it black, and told Henry Morgan that the original altar had already been pillaged.

Below is the Catedral of Panama. It is a beautiful old church, complete with a the Plaza de la Independencia outside of it.

The quarter also is home to the Plaza de la Francia, or the French Plaza, which tells the story of the France's role in buiding the canal. It shows some of the original wall that was around the city and the Puente de las Americas, or the Bridge of the Americas, which links the two continents. Casco Viejo is also the home to the Presidents Palace, which I think it really cool. The president lives in the historical part of the city instead of the flashy, modernized downtown.
The French Plaza

The President's Palace

Casco Viejo with the new, modernized downtown in the background.

Panama City, in itself, is incredibly rich in history and is moving towards the future. I enjoyed staying in the old quarter, where I felt the traditional feel of the city is still alive, in its cobblestone streets, and tall, stone buildings.

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