Visit to Casco Viejo, Panama

Thursday, December 14, 2006 
A visit to Old Panama, Casco Viejo  

Today we took off by catching the mini-bus to Cinco de Mayo plaza and the start of the walking street that leads to the Old City called Casco Viejo.  The “walking street” is Avenida Central and is like an open mall.  It has been closed to car traffic and the vendors have stalls that line the street.  Since it is almost Christmas there were lots of shoppers.  The street is a shopping mall all the way to Plaza Santa Ana and the beginning of the old city.  Panama City was moved to this site to prevent its sacking by the pirates in the 17th century.  It was constructed inside a defensive wall and the shallows of the bay made it difficult for the pirate ships to get close.  There are many old buildings with hanging balconies and restoration is in process on many of them.  Others have already been restored and some are still homes to some of Panama’s poor.  We walked to the central plaza and then got hung up in the very nice Panama Canal museum in the old post office building; its all labeled in Spanish, so there are seldom many tourists in this excellent and comprehensive museum.  As we got too tired to view more exhibits the rains started.  We waited in the lobby until the downpour cut back, then with umbrellas we walked out to the point discovering a new walking park built above the old wall.  There were several Cuna women selling their molas, but otherwise the path was mostly devoid of people.  We followed the streets closest to the water – with great views over to the new city – and ended up passing the president’s palace, which we only knew about because guards searched our bags as we entered this area.  We got a nice view over the fish market, but turned back toward the main streets before getting that far.  We stopped for lunch at what looked to be a new café in one of the restored buildings before continuing on to plaza Santa Ana and the walking street.  Back on the walking street we purchased some fresh veggies to take back to Lanikai and caught a minibus back to the causeway and home. 

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Street of Casco Viejo, the old City of Panama

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Looking from the old city to the new buildings of the new city

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Molas for sale in one of the plazas of the old city