Mick and the kids had a three week break from school, and we decided to make the most of it! Since Mick agreed to living in the mountains of Guatemala, I'd promised her the beach for Christmas. But where? We've been to the Pacific Coast of Guatemala twice and love it, but we wanted something different. Something outside of Guatemala. I began researching and found exactly what we were looking for. Cheap flights from Guatemala City to Panama City and a country with 5 Marriotts.
Our flight was not direct. We had a brief stop in the airport in Costa Rica.
Surprisingly, after our long road trip this summer, we still have some Marriott Rewards points left. We decided to use points for 4 nights in Panama City and cashed in an additional 2 more free nights. This gave us 5 full days to explore the city and enjoy the benefits of better-than-third-world shopping. There was a mall and food court next door!
The mall next to the hotel was huge and full blown American. They had all the mid-upper end stores you see in the States. Outside of the difference in language, you'd think you were in the States. With Christmas fast approaching we needed to get our annual Santa pic and the mall obliged. Three times actually.
Panama's currency is the Balboan and the US dollar. We'd pay for something in dollars and receive a $1 US bill and an equivalently valued $1 Balboan coin as part of our change. Balboan and US coins share the same size and composition.
Our first big outting was a visit to the original part of Panama City (called Casco Viejo). Since we did not have a car until later in the trip we took a taxi. Transportation around the city was one of our least favorite features of Panama City. The traffic was horrendous.
Casco Viejo is currently in the midst of a major revitalization. About half the of buildings have or are being refurbished. The architecture reminded me of a cross between the French Quarter in New Orleans and the Bahamas (which kinda works historically and geographically).
The neighborhood was very cool. There was a lot to see culturally. But after a while the kids got tired of walking the neighborhood and began to balk.
So we did what all good vacationing and desperate parents do...we bribed them with food.
We wrapped up the day in a park overlooking the city.
We also took a trip to Ancon Hill which provides incredible views of the city.
Lastly, I had the chance to get a few runs in during our stay in the City. With sidewalks that randomly appear and disappear it's not the most pedestrian friendly city but I did find a few good spots to run.
Next up, our trip down the Azuero Penisula for Christmas and some solid beach time.