Old City Panama City

Last week I shared my thought process on flying. During our recent trip to Peru, Sydney and I had to choose between a layover in Panama City or one in Bogota.

Ultimately, we decided on Panama City.

The deciding factor was the fact that 2014 is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal. Neither of us having ever seen the Panama Canal before, it seemed somehow special to get to see it for the first time during its 100th anniversary year.

For the most part, we found Panama City itself to be a big disappointment. It’s so Americanized that, were it not for the fact that all the signs are in Spanish, you would swear you were in any large U.S. city. Our driver, who is an ex-pat from Michigan, even joked that Panama City is exactly like Miami except that it has more English speakers.

Our flight landed a little after 8pm, long after commercial tours of the Canal Zone ended for the day. The people at Roadrunner Limousine were wonderful. When I first contacted them with my flight information and an explanation of what I wanted, they actually tried to talk me out of it! They told me there wasn’t much to see in Panama City at nighttime and it would be a waste of my money. Only after I insisted (after all, this would be our only chance to see the Panama Canal during its 100th anniversary year) did they brainstorm and come up with a customized tour just for us.

Once we got outside of the commercial, everyday part of the city did we start to see the beauty of the area.

Ship passing in the night. Panama Canal, 2014

Of course we got our wish and saw the Canal during its 100th anniversary year. We stayed long enough to watch two ships go through the locks. It’s an industrial operation and really not all that exciting unless you’re into that sort of thing. Mostly, it had historic significance for us.

The other really nice area we got to visit was Old City, Panama City.

Old City, Panama City

By the time we got there it was already well past midnight. The streets were mostly deserted so the whole area was pretty and peaceful.

Old City reminded me of New Orleans, pre-Katrina. It has narrow streets that are mostly made from brick, fantastic architecture and a good bit of wrought ironwork.

The empty midnight streets of Old City, Panama City.

After three hours or so spent touring Panama City and the Canal Zone in the middle of the night, our driver dropped us off back at the airport where we got some rest before our early morning flight to Lima, Peru.

Sleeping in the airport in Panama City at the tail end of an 11 hour layover.

Sleeping in the airport in Panama City at the tail end of an 11 hour layover.

(Interested in my travel itinerary? I share the whole thing here.)

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