The Kalu Yala Blog
September 13, 2010by Betsy Dienes
Posted In: Adventures in the Tropics
After taking the new interns to Market for brunch, Anne Walker and I decided that it was too pretty of a day to sit in Hispania. We pondered our options for a while, but every activity we could think of required us to spend money. We finally came to the realization that our best bet would be to explore the city in search of a nice park where we could relax and soak in the sun. We did some quick internet searching and found Parque Omar located on Via Porras in San Francisco. We packed a small bag consisting of two books, a blanket, sunscreen and my iPod and headed out.
Due to my poor navigation skills and lack of sense of direction, we had a more difficult time finding our way than we had anticipated. During our so-called “exploration of the city,” we ended up driving through the archeological site and historic district of Panama Viejo. Having never seen this part of town, we thought it best to park the car and do some exploring on foot. We paid a $2 entrance fee, and were then free to do all the exploring our hearts desired.
As we walked through the deep grass surrounded by ruins, we felt as though we were in Rome rather than Panama. We climbed our way to the top of the four-story bell tower of the Cathedral and were greeted by breathtaking views of Panama. After a solid 30 minutes of wandering through the ruins it started to storm, so we took shelter in the artisan market right next door. The market had an extensive selection of native crafts and local art that I feel highly represented the talent and culture of Panama. It’s definitely the best souvenir shop I’ve seen here so far.
Due to the weather, we decided to reschedule our trip to Parque Omar, but we left Panama Viejo feeling thoroughly satisfied that we had stumbled upon a new part of Panama in which we were able to get to know. Once we were home I googled Panama Viejo, and found out that it was the first European city on the Pacific coast of the Americas. It was built in 1519 by Pedro Arias de Ávila and destroyed in 1671 by 1,200 English men led by Henry Morgan, the English buccaneer.
I recommend paying the $2.00 to travel through the ruins or at least passing by to get a look. It’s something interesting, cultural and fun to do within the city which won’t break the bank.
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