The Old City Ruins
Jul 18, 2013
|Today we had nothing scheduled so we stayed in bed late and had a leisurely breakfast. We chatted a bit and decided to take a taxi to Panama Viejo, the ancient first Spanish city of Panama.
We packed up our bags and headed to the taxi stand. The first taxi wanted way too much so we wandered down the street and found another cab. The driver asked for a lot less but still more than the fare should have been. On the plus side he spoke pretty good English and gave a running commentary of the trip – mostly Bank… bank… bank… bank. Well worth the $8.00.
We arrived at the museum and paid the admission fee to a rather uninterested cashier. There were also a couple school groups around – middle school it looked like. Anyhow, into the museum and all the displays were in Spanish and English. A nice layout but rather small – several videos available but the school groups sort of took over…
After the museum we wandered down toward the ruins. There was a small beach that we wandered out on – mostly trash and other stuff – some sand! The most remarkable thing was that there was a major highway that went out over the ocean – really ruined the view. The mud flats were also visible adding less to the view… We also say a desiccated skate and three or four large lizards in the rocks on the shore.
The ruins had signs in both Spanish and English but several of the signs were stripped off so they were either wholly or partially unreadable. But the ruins were very nice. Gray stone – probably limestone with some very large bricks interspaced. Most were about five or six feet tall but some were much larger – held up by scaffolding.
The first partially restored building was the nunnery – there were steps inside that led up to a second story. There was also a statue of the Virgin Mary at the main wall. Folks were cleaning the brickwork with pressure hoses (and their car engine) but there were few other people around.
We continued on and saw some remarkable trees and finally ended up at the old cathedral tower. The town was destroyed in 1671 by a raid from Henry Morgan and relocated to the current Old Town on the other side of the bay. The tower too had been partially restored and had a steel staircase inside that allowed up to walk up to the top. There was no one at the base (there was supposed to be a charge) but there were two Tourist Police at the top.
At the top there was a great view of the city, of the road over the ocean, the islands off in the distance, and the old town. But there was also a great view of a HUGE thunderstorm and lots of lightening… coming our way (though we weren’t sure originally). We took a couple pictures then decided it would be best to head back to the Artisan Market near the museum.
As we headed back the clouds got closer and darker and there was more lightening – so we hurried the pace. Luckily we made it in time, but in reality we had another 15 or so minutes before the storm hit. And then it REALLY rained!
The market was quite nice – everything was hand made and the vendors were usually the artists (but not always). There was a painter and many folks making Molas – some by hand and some with sewing machines (which was cheating). We spent a good 90 minutes in the market – mostly waiting for the rain to end. We bought some stuff – prices were higher than at the village but much lower than in the shops in town.
We walked across the street in a bit of a drizzle to the Panicked Artisans store – run by an Indian (subcontinent not native) woman who was quite ready to bargain. We got a couple more things then a taxi back through rush hour traffic – for $5.00.
A quick drop at the hotel then down a couple blocks to some stores. We had chicken kabobs from a street vendor then did a bit of shopping. Back up the street and stopped in some more stores looking for a monkey.
Back at the hotel we dumped the stuff then up to the roof to do the trip journal and plan tomorrow. We’re going to take the train to Colon then be driven back. Should be interesting but we’ll be picked up at 6:10 AM…
Now off to dinner..