Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"Panama is one of the most picturesque cities on the American Continent." - Bayard Taylor

2014.09.21-IMG_1581"Panama is one of the most picturesque cities on the American Continent. Its ruins — if those could be called ruins which were never completed edifices — and the seaward view from its ramparts, on a bright morning, would ravish the eye of an artist. Although small in limit, old and terribly dilapidated, its situation and surroundings are of unsurpassable beauty. There is one angle of the walls where you can look out of a cracked watchtower on the sparkling swells of the Pacific, ridden by flocks of snow-white pelicans and the rolling canoes of the natives — where your vision, following the entire curve of the Gulf, takes in on either side nearly a hundred miles of shore. The ruins of the Jesuit Church of San Felipe, through which I was piloted by my friend, Lieutenant Beale, reminded me of the Baths of Caracalla. The majestic arches spanning the nave are laden with a wilderness of shrubbery and wild vines which fall like a fringe to the very floor. The building is roofless, but daylight can scarcely steal in through the embowering leaves. Several bells, of a sweet, silvery ring, are propped up by beams, in a dark corner, but from the look of the place, ages seem to have passed since they called the crafty brotherhood to the oracion. A splendid College, left incomplete many years ago, fronts on one of the plazas. Its Corinthian pillars and pilasters of red sandstone are broken and crumbling, and from the crevices at their base spring luxuriant bananas, shooting their large leaves through the windows and folding them around the columns of the gateway."

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Eldorado; or, Adventures in the path of empire; comprising a voyage to California, via Panama; life in San Francisco and Monterey; pictures of the gold region, and experiences of Mexican travel. by Bayard Taylor (1850), p.28-29

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