Christmas Day in Panama City

"Why Panama?" they all asked.  Well, why not?  I had heard from some expat friends that it was THE place to go, so "untouched" and "just like Costa Rica was 15 years ago."  My office mate had been there a year ago and she had nothing but love for the country, so the decision seemed obvious.  We absolutely had to go.   And our thoughts on a Christmas spent in the tropics?  Well, "Feliz Navidad!"*   

Our adventure began with taxi cab negotiations for a ride around the city, including a trip to the very famous, Panama Canal.  (Which truly is an engineering marvel, insanely impressive!  And to think that it was created 100 years ago and very little has changed with the process, is mind-blowing.)  

The Miraflores locks are only 20 minutes outside of the city, with an incredibly informative museum, which shows visitors how the boats are raised and lowered within the locks to match with sea level or Lake Gatun-level.  Be sure to watch out for crocodiles though!!

After our adventure to the canal (where unfortunately we were unable to see any ships pass through), we headed across the Causeway to see the three islands, which are just outside the city.  With not much to do there, we headed back to the Casco Vieja (the old city and Unesco heritage site that made me giddy!)

Streets upon streets, of photogenic moments: the colonial neighborhood, where upscale hotels meet the slums.  If only it weren't Christmas day and the shops and restaurants were open, I felt like this was a neighborhood that we could really sink into.  

Although, our time in Panama City was short (just 2 days!), it did feel just right.  Neither of us felt like we missed out on anything.  We even managed to make it to the newly opened, Gehry-designed BioMusee.  Which is fascinating to look at, but not quite yet worth the cost of admission.

*I do have to warn you though, if you decide to head to Panama for Christmas or New Years, be mindful of the fact that very few places are open.  You may need to base your food choices on available hotel restaurants, so study up.