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Panama

6/7-6/10/2016

Our kids were both going to Pine Springs church camp together for the first time, so Susan and I had a full week to take a trip somewhere. I found good direct flights to Panama using air miles and the hotels were great and cheap. After I had already booked it, the Pickett’s asked if we wanted to go somewhere with them, as both of their kids would be away at camp too. I was able to reserve the same flights and hotels as us. The fun thing would be that this would be the first time either of them had been out of the country.

We dropped the kids off on Monday morning and flew to Panama City on Tuesday afternoon. We arrived at 8pm and Uber’d into the city. I bought a SIM card at the airport for $30. This would give us internet access for out time in Panama. We were staying at the Waldorf Astoria. I booked 2 rooms in my name. One using points and one using a Virtuoso rate. We got one huge suite overlooking the ocean and another regular room. The 2nd night, our small room was upgraded to the same type of large suite. The suite was huge and amazing! We had a great view of the water and the huge cargo ships waiting to cross the canal.  We hung out in the Pickett room and ordered some room service before turning in for the night.

The next morning, we got up and had breakfast at the Waldorf. It was a really nice buffet. Next, we Uber’d to the Miriflores Locks to see the boats cross the Panama Canal. It was really neat to see it raise the boats and move up each section until the boat was at the same level as the lake. We stayed a little over an hour, and got to see several ships cross through.

Our next stop was the Amadoor Causeway. We’d heard that is was a great place to ride bikes and do some shopping. When we got there, there was a ton of construction and nothing was open yet. After asking around, they said it was really hoppin’ on weekends but not so much during the week. Our next stop was Panama Vieja. We took an Uber across town to Panama Vieja and once we got there saw that it just a bunch of ruins. We told the driver to wait for us. We walked down to the entrance and looked around a little bit, then returned to the car. Our driver returned us to the Waldorf for some R&R time. Uber in Panama are really cheap. We could take a 20 minute drive and it would cost about $3. Before going to the hotel, we had lunch at a really good Central American restaurant in a shopping center. The menu was all in Spanish so the waitress translated it for us.

Back at the hotel, Susan and I changed to our larger room and then we went swimming and lounging by the pool. The pool and hot tub at the Waldorf were awesome and felt great and we had the pool to ourselves. The only issue was that the building next door was under construction, and a bunch of workers had a great view of us in the pool. At 5, we took another Uber to Casco Viejo. This is another old town, but lots of the building have been restored into restaurants and shops. This was our favorite part of Panama City. We had a great time wandering the streets and shopping and taking pictures. There are some ruins and several active old churches. We got a shaved ice called raspao’, from a vendor.We had dinner at a Panamanian restaurant called Diablicos. It wasn’t our favorite kind of food. When we left there, we went to mall in the city. It was very high end but there weren’t any customers. We got some gelato and also got a few treats at LaDuree, the French macaroon place. After that, we went back to the hotel and hung out in our room for a while and watched the NBA Finals in Spanish.

The next morning, we had another great breakfast at the Waldorf. Their was lots of Panamanian food and well as the normal American breakfast items. We called an Uber and went to the Metropolitan Nature Park. It is a rain forest that is really close to the city. We spent about 2 1/2 hours hiking up mountain through a thick rain forest. We saw a toucan, a family of monkeys and right at the end of the walk, we saw a sloth. The walk was a little strenuous but we loved every minute of it. We had a good conversation with a British couple who were on a 2 year trip around the world.

We went back to the hotel and packed up. We checked out and walked to a grocery store. We bought some bread and cheese and drink and had a picnic on the street. After that, we got a car and went to our next hotel, the Westin Play Bonita. It was about 45 minutes outside of the city and we drove over the Bridge of the Americas. The hotel was nice, but empty. The resort had an great pool area. We spent several hours lounging and swimming. The beach was just mud, until the tide came in. Dale and I got in the water and it felt warm and amazing. The girls got a short massage at the end of the day and we all hung out in the spa for a couple of hours. That night, we had dinner and ice cream in the hotel. We went to bed early because we had an early flight out.

Both directions, we were flew on a newer American Airlines plane where each seat had it’s own TV with free movies. It made the 4.5 hour flight pass really quickly.

Panama was a great place to visit with lots to do and see. It was easy to get in and out of and they even take the US Dollar everywhere. The people were friendly for the most part and most spoke some English.

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