Sunday, January 24, 2010

Panama: Day 10


Leaving Panama City in the morning. Always a great time. Plenty to see and do. Here are a few of my favorite sights. Top photo is a shot of Panama City, old and new. Took that shot walking back to the Sheraton Caesar Park from Los Anos Locos. The sidewalks are a little uneven and steep, but it's a good hike back to work off the ceviche.

Had our own mini eco-tour right outside the 14th floor window. The day we arrived, I thought it was a powdery smudge on the glass. Over the next few days, it became larger and more defined (about the size of a 50-cent piece).

By the last day, little insects emerged and were clustered around a colony, the size of my fist. By tomorrow, they'll all be gone.


The bus is parked outside the visitors center in the national park. You can see all kinds of critters, bugs and birds up close and personal - no walls, no nets.

Next 2 pictures are views from the living room (Pacific ocean, and dusk descending on the city).

Here in Panama, you'll meet some of the friendliest folks around while enjoying fresh seafood right off the boats.

Thanks to ESPN, I can watch the play-offs while packing.

Adios amigos ... on to Montevideo, UR

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Panama: Day 9


Jean Pierre drove us to the Amador Causeway for lunch at Lenos & Carbon. This is Tom's fish (grilled red snapper). So good that only bones were left. Our table was just inside the wide, breezy veranda.

The causeway road is 2 lanes wide (one in and one out) connecting 4 small islands that were once a part of Ft. Grant, built in 1913 to protect canal access during WWI and WWII.

Today, visitors will find a number of restaurants, shops and a marina. Closer to the mainland is the Frank Gehry-designed museum of biodiversity currently under construction.


In the old Canal Zone, many of the US military buildings have now been converted into educational institutions or private enterprise.


A new (wider and deeper) channel is being dug for the Canal itself, so that it will eventually have 3 shipping lanes. It continues to operate 24/7 with thousands of ships passing through every year.

Everything from enormous ocean-going container ships to cruise liners to small tugs fill the 3 locks that span the canal, crossing from the Atlantic to Pacific - or the reverse. Cuts the shipping time by 14 days (around the Cape), is much safer for shipping and provides a steady income for the country year round.

Last stop was the American cemetery outside the city limits.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Panama: Day 8 (Continued)

Finally getting down to the business of researching my article on medical tourism. Visited some of the major facilities in town.

Panama has a 3-tiered system of health care delivery. At the top are the private hospitals. A good example of this is the Hospital Punta Pacifica, in the "high rent" district. The facility is affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Also included in this group is the privately owned Hospital Nacional.
The next tier is semi-public/private. On the bottom rung are the public hospitals like Santo Tomas.

Lots of information to juggle and put into context.

Many thanks to my driver and hospital administrators who took time out of their busy Friday to answer my questions and conduct a tour.

Did you know that many facilities will not allow flowers in a patient's room? Many oversized bouquets and baskets sit in the hallway outside a closed door. They are concerned about allergies, and insect bites. After all, it's malaria country here in the tropics.

Panama: Day 8


Finally getting down to the business of researching my article on medical tourism. Visited some of the major facilities in town.

Panama has a 3-tiered system of health care delivery. At the top are the private hospitals. A good example of this is the Hospital Punta Pacifica, in the "high rent" district. The facility is affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Also included in this group is the privately owned Hospital Nacional.
The next tier is semi-public/private. On the bottom rung are the public hospitals like Santo Tomas.

Lots of information to juggle and put into context.

Many thanks to my driver and hospital administrators who took time out of their busy Friday to answer my questions and conduct a tour.

Did you know that many facilities will not allow flowers in a patient's room? Many oversized bouquets and baskets sit in the hallway outside a closed door. They are concerned about allergies, and insect bites. After all, it's malaria country here in the tropics.

Panama: Day 7


Great day to visit 2 of our favorite restaurants. Los Anos Locos ("the crazy years") and Restaurant 1985. Kooky names, but terrific food.

We walked to the first restaurant for lunch and ate ceviche (no, I never learn and keep repeating the same behavior), shrimp cocktail and corvina (sea bass).

Met a sign painter along the way.

Walking back several blocks to the hotel, we worked up an appetite for dinner at Restaurant 1985.


Located close to the business district, this complex has a full bar, French restaurant and Swiss restaurant. Aside from the terrific food, they had a musician who played my favorite, "Cielito Lindo".

Panama: Day 6

Rough day on the road, and a good day for some R&R. Despite my best efforts, some of the spicy ceviche was hard to tame. Spent most of the day reading Vince Flynn, while Tom manned the internet.

Got both laptops up and running, and Slingbox - a real treasure for those of us who don't speak the local language.

It's easy to communicate with the folks, but TV broadcasting is another matter altogether - although it was interesting to see the playoff games en Espanole last weekend. (I've gotta get a copy of Rosetta Stone software!)


Panama: Day 5



Sunrise in Panama City.

Time to move to the other side of town. Four years ago we stayed at the Caesar Park Hotel. Had a spectacular view of the ships lining up to sail through the Panama Canal.

Today, although the room is terrific, the view is blocked by several buildings. We catch a squint of the ocean, but the broad vista is interrupted.
Tom says they're doing so much building here, the "state bird" must be the crane.

They've even changed the name of the hotel to the Sheraton Panama. Service remains terrific. The Cafe Bahia on the lower level still serves a terrific ceviche.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Panama: Day 4


There's so much to eat in Panama. Starting with lunch at the Continental Hotel - lots of ceviche, followed by dinner at Gauchos. Bife de chorizo rivaled anything we had in Buenos Aires. We met up with our new friend from New Zealand and had a great dinner and lots of laughs. The photo above is poolside at the Continental Hotel.
This is the grand staircase at the Continental Hotel. Yes, there's a Continental/Copa Airlines office right in the building. This is what led us there - to change flight times.

Entrance to Gauchos Restaurant in Panama City. Terrific steaks on an asada grill. (photo on the right)

One of the great things about Panama is the cosmopolitan flair it has, with folks from all over the globe stopping in to enjoy its bounty.

This is the bar at the Bristol Hotel (below).



Sunday, January 17, 2010

Panama: Day 3

Top 10 Things I like about Panama City
1. Friendly people
2. Ceviche - you can get it everywhere and anywhere3. Sailing across the Panama Canal - or even watching the ships from shore
4. $5 taxis to any spot in the city
5. $USD is the official currency
6. Casco Viejo - the 400+ year old city










7. You CAN drink the water
8. Plantains
9. Most everyone speaks English
10. 110 Volt electricity - leave the converter at home
... and so much more!

Panama: Day 2

Ever building skyward. The city seems much cleaner and the automobile traffic more disciplined than four years ago, our last visit. From the street in front of our hotel - about four blocks from the ocean - we can see at least seven more condo buildings under active construction.

The newly-elected President is putting in a new
public transportation system. Today there are plenty of colorful busses around town, and visitors can still hail a taxi to take them just about anywhere for $5.

We stopped for ceviche at the poolside bar in the
El Panama hotel. Cool breezes off the Pacific ocean, pina coladas, and football play-off games on FOX TV
.

Chicago to Panama: Day 1

Panama sunset at 37,000 ft.

Another cold, grey January day in Chicago. Time to leave for one of our favorite Latin American cities: Panama.

First leg: 2-1/2 hours from Chicago to Houston, then another 3-1/2 hours from Houston to Panama. Ran into some weather just outside of Houston (all the way to Cozumel). 90-minutes of heavy chop - so bad, it shut down the in-flight Direct TV. The seatbelt sign never went dark. Then, when they could finally navigate the aisles, the
flight attendants passed out a lunch that included a large serving of (meat or fish) and spiced lentils. As if the bumpy ride didn't produce enough intestinal disturbance ... they load you up on enough legumes guaranteed to set off a smoke detector. Who thinks these things up !?!?!

Our flight attendants were from
Columbia, and asked if I spoke any Spanish - to which I replied, "I know 3 words: ceviche, cerveza and banos". They assured me this would cover all my needs.


Arriving early in the evening, we stowed the luggage, we headed down for dinner at Barandas in the Bristol Hotel - in the heart of the business district.