In Panama City, we stayed in Casco Viejo. The hotel we had wanted to stay in was booked; so, we ended upstaying in a hostel. That has turned out to be really great. We ended up staying in Hostels the whole time we were in Panama. The rooms have been wonderful and we shared kitchen and living space with travelers from all over the world. This has lead to interesting conversations and we have gotten very good advice (and a thumb-drive full of books) from other travelers as to where to visit.
Casco Viejo is a crazy place. Most of the buildings are several hundred years old. The place we stayed in was built in the 18th century. There are gorgeous buildings right next to crumbling, abandoned ones. There were times when the whole neighborhood would be without power. That means no water either (it runs on pumps)…no toilet flushing, no showers…
During our first week in Panama, the whole family took intensive Spanish lessons at Casco Antigua Spanish School. It was a great way to start this trip, but boy, do we have a lot to learn. And, talk about crazy, there was an aerial dance studio across from our Spanish school. So, Audrey and Oliver got to check out the silks doing open-air aerial! One afternoon, we went bicycling on “the causeway” with our Spanish School. Since I couldn’t pedal, we took a cycling-cart (much like a golf cart, except you pedal). The causeway is a trail that goes to some very small islands. It was built from the land moved to make the canal.
We spent our last day in Panama City, before heading to the beach and mountains, visiting the Canal. They have a wonderful interactive museum there and it was amazing to actually see the Panama Canal in action! We learned so much while we were there. The canal turned 100 years old last month. They are in the process of enlarging it. This means larger ships are being made, too. The canal size determines ship size to a large extent.