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Tuesday 26th - San Jose / Panama

Before departing to the airport, we went for a walk into the city centre early morning and
had some breakfast at a local bakery - fresh bread and coffee to start the day was a nice change.
Afterwards we had a walkabout to see the National Museum, the National Theatre and
the central market, then headed back, packed and left for the airport. the Airport check-in process went smooth,
plus we avoided paying the departure tax of $29 each ! , which was a nice bonus as we were flying Copa Airlines.
After sampling lots of free Costa Rican coffee and chocolate in the duty "free" we departed for Panama City.
We landed about 30mins late, but went straight through passport control and our bags were already waiting for us at the carousel,
so we made up for the late arrival.
The taxi ride took around 40 mins as we had to drive through the metropolis of the very modern Panama City,
full of massive skyscrapers overlooking the shore line, passing the trump tower, the highest point in the city and
also passing the old original town of Casco Viejo before heading north towards the Miraflores Locks and our hotel.
We got a great room on the top floor overlooking the massive Panama Canal and the Miraflores Lock.
After checking in, negotiating a free late check out and getting some complementary cocktail vouchers !
we got unpacked for the last time and went for an apperitivo !

Wednesday 27th April - Panama City

We woke up to the sight and sounds of massive container ships passing through the canal,
although we were on the top floor, with double glazing, so it wasn't that bad.
It was like watching lots of massive hotels go sailing past.
We had a quick breakfast and got a taxi to downtown Panama to meet a local guide for a day out in Panama City.
We started out in the old city; Casco Viejo, although now referred to as Casco Antiguo or San Felipe,
it is the old historic district of Panama City.
Completed and settled in 1673, it was built following the near-total destruction of the original Panamá city,
Panama Viejo in 1671, when the latter was attacked by pirates, namely a famous Welsh Pirate -
Henry Morgan who burnt most of the city to the ground. We managed to still see a few of the remaining buildings and
then went on to the Miraflores Lock at the Panama Canal,
A few facts...
The Panama Canal took 10 years to build from 1904 to 1914 and involved some 45,000 workers,
it actually has 3 locks that raise the water level by around 25m.
It runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean and is 77km long. Each lock takes around 8 mins to fill and
the ships pass through in around 45 mins.The lock size is approximately 300m long by 35m wide and
the container ships are made to practically the same size, to the point whereby there is only an
8 inch gap on each side of the boats. 8 "Mules" or Tugs are tethered to the boats, which run alongside on land,
on a rail system and keep them parallel and pull them through the lock.
It costs each Container vessel around $30k to pass though, dependant on its weight and
takes a total transit time (of the whole canal) of around 24 hours, compared to around 22 days,
if going around via Cape Horn, South America and also costing approx. $1M in fuel.
After a spot of lunch just off the Amador Causeway, we visited the Smithsonian Tropical Reserve,
a short drive from the old town. Within minutes of arriving we starting seeing Sloths and
there were 3 in trees, just in the car park !
We walked through the nature trail down to the sea and its tropical centre,
spotting even more Sloths and Iguanas on the way. At the end there were tanks breeding Star Fish and Sea Slugs,
plus a pool with Turtles and Nurse Sharks in.
Our guide then dropped us off back in the old town where we went to find Panama's one and only Microbrewery -
La Rana Dorada (The Golden Frog Brewery).
They had a tap room bar right next to a very small plant, which you could see via a glass screen,
but, the Brewers and owners were away,
However I managed to persuade the bar chap to let me have a look around and take some photos.
We then had a tasting tray of their 6 beers, a couple of which were quiet nice before returning to our hotel for our final night out.

Thursday 28th April - Panama City

Day 35 - Our Final Day
After a busy and exciting day yesterday, we went back into the City for another look around.
We got a taxi to the Amador Causeway, a 2km strip that connects the mainland to 3 small islands.
We started at the Islands and walked back towards town along the 2km strip,
getting some good views of the entrance towards the Miraflores Lock from the Pacific side and also of the city.
We passed the BioMuseum which was designed by a "famous" Architect and
basically looked like a load of coloured tin roofs on top of each other.
After reaching the town, we took another taxi all the way to the new very modern side of Panama,
filled with skyscrapers on top of each other and new ones being built in the small gaps in between.
The main reason was to visit the Trump Ocean Club Hotel & Casino with its 66th floor infinity pool.,
sadly though, the Casino and Pool were closed until 5pm, so we only got up the 13th floor,
However there were 2 infinity pools there and it had some nice views of the city too.
We then returned to the old town of Casco Viejo and had a final walkabout before returning to our hotel.
After a shower and some lunch we managed to get a free shuttle transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to Amsterdam.

Friday 29th April - Amsterdam, Manchester and Home !

We flew into Amsterdam, arriving about an hour later that scheduled, which was fine -
as it meant we had less time to wait for our next connection back to Manchester.
We arrived back into the UK around 5pm and caught the Airport train back to York &
finally walked through our door at 8.30pm, 35 days later, home at last.
It's a cliche, but the 5 weeks had passed so quickly (as they always do) and
had we'd travelled through all the 8 Central American Countries and
taken over 1,100 photos and around 40 video clips !
Plenty of homework then !


Posted by Andy-Irene 16:07 Archived in Panama

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