Monday, April 20, 2015

Shopping in Panama City’s Casco Antiguo, Albrook Mall, and Visiting the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum

Old Section of Panama City
March 2015 - On our last full day in Panama we drove to the old city to do the walking tour and some shopping. Again it was a bit challenging traversing the slums and one-way streets, but easier in the daylight than in the nighttime as we had done previously. Using a tourist map, we managed to find the paid parking lot at the end of the peninsula on which the old city is situated.  It only costs 30 cents per half hour, so 90 cents for our total visit.

We wandered the streets and felt like we had gone back in time. Built in the 1600’s, this section of Panama City is currently being restored and is a Unesco World Heritage site. It reminded me of New Orleans, with ornate two-story buildings with balconies, beautiful old grill work, and huge carved doors.  It is still only half restored and there is much construction going on, but the charm is apparent. I would like to come back in 5 to 10 years to see the complete renovation.

Gold Altar of San Jose Church
We visited the historic plazas and 3 churches, including Igelsia San Jose that has the famous golden altar. We stopped in several shops where local artists were selling carvings, embroidery, leather bags, and jewelry. We also stopped by the president’s palace, but weren’t allowed to go in. It was very hot walking the streets, and we were dripping with sweat by the time we got back to our very hot car.

Next we drove to Albrook Mall, which is the largest mall in Central America. It has all of the shops we have in the US, plus many more. I found the prices very good and bought some sandals and clothes.  It is an inside mall and air-conditioned, which is nice.

Amazing Architecture of BioDiversity Musuem
Later we headed to the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum, which took 10 year to build, but just opened 5 months ago. The exhibits are not yet complete, so the current $22 price tag is a bit of a rip off. I opted for the $5 temporary exhibits, which I felt were a good deal, but my friends who paid the $22 felt disappointed. I’m not sure why they are charging so much when the museum is not yet completed. The best part is the architecture, which is an amazing display of bright primary colored slanted roofs in red, blue, yellow, orange, and green. It looks like a giant child’s toy, but is apparently modeled after all of the bright colors in the Panamanian jungles, ocean and cities. Its location on the Amador Causeway, balanced between two bodies of water, is visually stunning. Plus the views of the skyscrapers of Panama City are excellent.

Beach at Playa Bonita Resort
Back at the hotel, we spent a couple of hours relaxing by the pool and walking the beach, before showering and heading out to dinner. Our last evening we had been planning on having dinner at one of the many restaurants just north of our resort, but they are all closed on Mondays. The concierge suggested Alberto’s, so we headed back to the Amador Causeway – only a 15 minutes drive – to enjoy a last meal of fresh seafood (see post on Wine & Food of Panama).

No comments: