Because Mike and I are totally immature, we would giggle about the prospect of going to see the Panama Canal. Why? Because of a ridiculous scene in the movie Team America when terrorists blow up the locks and a puppets who is being washed away in his truck says “no me gusta!” which is totally middle school Spanish. Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Keeping it classy as usual.
So we went to see the Panama Canal. While we were there, a few ships passed through the Miraflora Locks. The ships are huge and the locks are narrow. It’ pretty cool to see the whole thing happen. Though honestly, the story of how the canal was built is far more interesting than milling around while trying to see over tall people on the observation deck. But now we can say we’ve seen the Panama Canal.
After the Canal, we headed over to Casco Viejo, which is Panama’s 2nd original downtown. The first downtown was on the Atlantic side of the canal and was ransacked by pirates. So a new downtown was built on the Pacific side. Then many years later, another downtown (the current one) was built a little more inland and away from the canal. So we went to Casco Viejo. (Though it’s only a hour train ride along the canal to get from the Pacific side to the Atlantic side.)
This is an interesting neighborhood. It is full of old architecture and lots of character. Since it is so old and is no longer the city center, lots of buildings have been left to crumble. People are living in crumbling buildings. There are scraggly dogs and one-eyed cats roaming all of the streets. But the neighboring parts of town that we saw appear to be even more unhealthy. And the reason is that Casco Viejo is now the new up and coming area. Posh art galleries and cheeky restaurants are popping up in refurbished buildings between the buildings that are in ruins.
Going to see Casco Viejo is all the rage on the tourist circuit at the moment, which is odd to me because usually the tourist spots are more polished. Though this neighborhood is beginning its transition to revitalization, it is still very raw. If you’re in the area and are considering visiting, this neighborhood is certainly an experience.