Thursday, October 09, 2014

A September visit to the Casco Viejo, Panama City

2014.09.22-IMG_1706After a morning at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Library, I zipped to the Tryp Hotel. Checked in and freshened up and then downstairs to find a ride to the Casco Viejo (the old 18th century part of town that is a lot like New Orleans in architecture). Hotel gives me Edgar as a driver and we zip around the very confusing streets and highways to the Casco. Edgar offers to pick me up again, so we set a time (1630hr) for him to get me. He drops me at the cathedral and I start to explore with no firm goal but lunch in mind.

2014.09.22-IMG_1735As I wander around the streets, who do I see by Conrad Grant. He's the same guy who toured me around last time. 78 years old, born on BCI, taught in the American schools. See previous blog post from 2013 for his full details. Needless to say, he doesn't remember me, but says, "ah you must be from Ecuador, since you have on an Ecuadorian hat" (Panama joke, Panama hats are all made in Ecuador!). I say, you should know, you helped me buy it. He asks for a BHL button (since I have one on my hat). I give him a button, he asks for money for some coffee, I say "If I can take your picture". Give him $5 and take his picture. He offers to take me to the "rice and beans" lunch spot, but we went there before, so I pass. We part ways and I keep wandering and then run into him again. He says, "let me take you to an even better spot." So we go to Diablicos. We take a seat; he talks to the waiter in Spanish and they let him stay. I order Lechona Santena (pork with tamale and ripe plantains) with a side of jerk sauce and two Balboa beers (one for each of us). Conrad tells various stories and I get a second beer, he passes on a second and we strike up a conversation with an American couple from Texas. We all talk for a while and then Conrad ends up taking them off for a tour.

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I pay up and stroll around some more. Pass the three of them out on the shorefront walk (where you get Panama hats!). I find the St. Francis of Assisi Church (can't get in) but it has an amazing pair of vulture perched on the Christ figure at the top of the nave. More wandering around. Stop in a craft shop and get some souvenirs. Wander out of the main tourist area just as it starts to pour; wander through the "real people" shops (lots of plastic and aluminum pots and pans). Rain stops as I get back to the tourist part of Casco. Decide to stop in at the Havana Club and have a Cuban rum drink, but fate intervenes and I can't for the life of me find it through I seem to go down every street.

2014.09.22-IMG_1711Almost 1630hr, so back to the cathedral where the vultures are now perched on the towers and spreading their wings to dry after the rain - quite interesting! Edgar calls out for me, he's a bit early and I'm pretty tired. Hop in his car and head back to the Tryp.

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