Panama Hats and the Panama Canal

We arrived in Panama City and headed straight to our home for the week, the Global Hotel in Obarrio.  As we drove into the city, we immediately noticed the quality of the roads and the clean air!  We were overjoyed to realize we could not only drink from the sink, but the water was clear and not black! Everyone was so happy to have all these amenities again.  Gratitude for the amenities we see as basic in the US, but for a lot of countries are a rarity.

We were thrilled to explore Panama City, but mostly, we were excited to see family again! James’ parents, Shirley and Ernest, flew in from Asheville to tour around with us. But, we had a one sleep before they arrived so we ate dinner at a local Italian restaurant, Frank’s Place.  The manager was so kind and we learned he actually attended the Citadel and lived in Charleston for nine years! 

We also learned the Panamanians were voting for their new President the following day. As a result, they have a holiday called Ley Seca, where the sale of alcohol is banned for 48 hours during the election period.  Learning the different rules and cultural nuances of the countries we have visited has been one of the most interesting experiences! The food was delightful and we already made plans to return with the grandparents…when we could have an adult beverage!

Dinner at Frank’s Place

Our first full day in Panama, we went back to the airport to pick up Shirley and Ernest.  It was a reunion for the ages! The kids had made signs welcoming their grandparents and we all shared long hugs. 

Welcome, Grandmama and Granddaddy!

It was so good to see them after nine months! We made our way back to the hotel and the spent the first day visiting, swimming at the hotel pool, and enjoying a leisurely dinner followed by the first of seven nights in a row of gelato!

The sweetest airport reunion!

Our goal during our visit was to experience a part of Panama City every day and spend the other part of the day just soaking in family time.  We definitely met our goal! Our first day together, we did a walking tour of old town Panama City, known as Casco Viejo.  It was a gorgeous Spanish style city; however, the first thing we noticed was how quiet it was.  Since we had just come from Antigua, we expected more of a buzz and definitely more tourists. 

Our guide did an excellent job showing us around and giving us some background on the Panama Canal.  We even stopped at a shop that makes Panama hats. However, after using their bathroom in the back room, we noticed the boxes of hats were labeled “made in China.”  I guess the production has been outsourced!  After two and a half hours of walking and history, the kids were in surprisingly good spirits, so we had dinner in Casco Viejo before heading back to our hotel.

A Panama hat for James?

The following day, we went to the Causeway and followed the bike path along the waterfront where we could see the area of the Pacific Ocean where boats enter and exit the Panama Canal.  It was a hot day but the waterfront breeze provided a little comfort for our hour long journey.  We followed it with lunch nearby where Goose and I had the worst Pad Thai ever (more like a peanut alfredo pasta)! Thankfully, the packed snacks helped before we headed to the biodiversity museum, Biomuseo, nearby.  As a nice surprise, the museum was a hit with everyone.  It discussed the diversity between North and South America and how those two environments merged in Panama.  It also showed the differences in the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the ocean which surround Panama.    

We also spent time in the rain forests surrounding Panama City by way of Metropolitan Nature Park and Gamboa Rainforest.  In Metropolitan Nature Park, we hiked to an overlook and to say it was hot was an understatement.  The humidity level was 100, but it was a cool experience seeing lizards that run across water!  We even saw a sloth in the distance, curled up between branches of a tree. 

Thankfully, we had a chance to see sloths up close at Gamboa Rainforest Reserve a couple days later.  The nature preserve was about 45 minutes from Panama City and is home to a beautiful resort that provides lots of activities that help you explore the rainforest.  We took a tram over the top of the trees and were able to take a boat ride on Lake Gatun.  Lake Gatun is the manmade lake where the boats traveling the Panama Canal pass through.  It’s also home to a lot of wildlife!  We saw crocodiles, monkeys, bats, and lizards.  We had a fun time passing by all the large cargo ships as well!

Our visit to Gamboa

Our final experience in Gamboa was a visit to the sloth sanctuary where we spent time observing four rescued sloths as they napped and leisurely ate some flowers.  They are cartoonish looking animals and it’s unbelievable how truly slow they are!

Sloth up close at the Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary

Our final activity in Panama City was, of course, the Panama Canal.  The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center is home to an amazing view point of the ships passing through the locks.  We spent an hour watching cargo ships and even a sailboat motor to the lock, wait for the water to lower, and then pass to the next level.  We then proceeded to watch an hour long Imax (narrated by Morgan Freeman!) about the history of the Panama Canal!  It truly is an unbelievable engineering feat, not only to complete the canal but to do so over 100 years ago! The kids were even in awe!  Yet again, another amazing worldschooling moment for all of us!

Visiting the Panama Canal

We spent our last day in Panama City, relaxing poolside and visiting with grandparents.  The perfect way to end a perfect week with family, once again!

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