As mentioned in my previous Panama post, on my first morning I took a walk around the El Cangrejo neighborhood, which is where my hotel was located (along with most of the city’s hotels). The area was a nice mix of residential buildings, stores, hotels and casinos, though I have to admit I found the architecture disappointing. The gorgeous latticework strewn Iglesia del Carmen was the only building that stood out in my mind as being exceptional.
As someone who loves visiting historic hotels, I also found the city’s hotels to be a letdown. There were some very upscale hotels like the Rui and Le Meridien, but they were all new and glitzy looking rather than grand and elegant. Even the city’s oldest hotel El Panama was renovated to look like a home furnishing catalog – nice, but completely lacking style. On my walk around El Cangrejo I also got a preview of what I would see all over Panama City: construction, construction, construction! There was literally a work site on every other block. I have never seen anything like it! Unlike in NYC, there were rarely walkways around the construction sites, so you just had to walk in traffic. I am curious to know how many tort cases are filed per year because there are so many accidents waiting to happen. On a more positive note, other than the many construction sites, I felt quite safe walking around El Cangrejo, which was most important!
After going on the previously described historic trolley tour of the city, I had a late lunch in the neighboring area of Marbella. I ate at my favorite Columbian chain, Crepes & Waffles, which sadly seemed much better in Columbia. It started pouring as I got to the restaurant, but luckily I missed it, which was a common theme of the trip since it rained every afternoon for about an hour or less. Following lunch I explored Marbella, though the 92 degree heat and extreme humidity made it a bit unpleasant.
I returned to my hotel to rest and shower before dinner. I then took a taxi back to Marbella to eat at La Posta, which is considered one of the city’s most popular restaurants. I can definitely see why! The food was Latin American-European fusion and was exquisitely presented. I also loved the atmosphere, which was evocative of old Cuba. The waiters wore guayabera shirts and were very attentive.
After dinner I decided to call it an early night so that I would be well rested for my day 2 excursion to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort.