June 26 - July 30, 2004
We arrived in Panama City one mid-afternoon looking forward to some big city comforts and ended up in some big city confusion. Matching the real world to our two, inadequate maps was not easy while on the move. As usual we were looking for Lonely Planet-recommended hotels and were striking out at every turn. We stopped a couple of times to pore over our maps, talk to the locals, and look for landmarks. We checked out a couple of non-LP hotels and then by a fluke found the third of our three picks, the Hotel Lisboa, and liked it so much we moved right in.
Our fifth-floor room had big picture windows that gave us a view of the Bahia de Panama which began three blocks away. We couldn't see the canal entrance, but we could see the line of freighters waiting to go through it. Nor could we see the old city, but we were within easy walking distance of it as well as the nearby legislative assembly. What we could see was an amazing sight to our eyes — an olympic-sized swimming pool. It turned out to be a public pool open to anyone with 50 cents and an ID and we swam there several times a week during our seven week stay.
Why seven weeks? Several reasons: first, we had access to enough physical comfort, air-conditioning, size of room, quality of beds, cleanliness of linens, all facilities were more than sufficient to tempt us to stay. We had lots of TV entertainment with cable TV in Spanish, English, French, and German. We had a good daily paper to read, La Prensa. We had a fruit market on the corner and a supermarket two blocks away making it easy to eat a varied diet in our room. Although we didn't have our own fridge, we could get ice simply by picking up the phone so we could enjoy a nightly glass of wine. And there were big city advantages like movies, restaurants, and of course museums. And last but not least there was the Panama Canal and its installations, including the related Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute which we visited on nine or ten separate occasions.
But beyond all of that, we also had a goal. We wanted to do as much work as possible on our website. Gerry, in his usual fashion, had reorganized our off-line version of the site and renamed lots of directories. Jan contributed to the problem by convincing him to introduce stylesheets for more of our pages. Because of these changes, we could no longer just upload one or two files as they would break too many links. We had to upload the entire site and that meant lots of work. So we were busy and happy first spending a day "at home" working on the site and the next going out to see the sights.
During our stay, Jan celebrated the fifth anniversary of her Parisian birthday party. It wasn't quite as much fun as, instead of getting real-life suprise visits, she got surprise phone-calls from the folks back in England. How nice to hear everybody's voice. On THE day, we ate a slap-up lunch at TGIF and then went to a movie and ate a huge bag of popcorn. It felt just like home!
But all good things must come to an end and our stay in Panama city came to its end rather suddenly when we unexpectedly found a sailboat that would take us across the Caribbean to Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. In just two short days we managed to sell the car, pack our bags, give away a huge box of stuff to our new STRI friends and get ourselves from Panama City to Colon ready for our next adventure. No, we didn't get the website uploaded, that had to wait until we got to Colombia.