We arrived at Omar Torrijos airport via American Airlines early in the afternoon. We purchased our required tourist cards (3 balboas, as US dollars are called in Panama) at the airport, then caught a taxi for the 18 mile ride to our downtown hotel. The ride in the battered, un-airconditioned car was rather expensive (30 balboas), but the driver spoke English and was very friendly. We arrived at the hotel and checked in. While my dad was checking in I bought a guidebook in the hotel lobby and read up on the history of Panama City. The original city was founded in 1519 by Pedro Arias Davila, known as Pedrarias the Cruel, because of his eradication of all but three of the local Indian tribes during his tenure in Panama. Davila used the city as a place to store Incan gold before it was shipped to Spain.
The original city was sacked and burned in 1671 by a group of buccaneers led by Henry Morgan. The city was rebuilt within a year, this time on a peninsula 18 miles away and surrounded by a strong wall. This old Spanish city is now the in the middle downtown Panama City.
Panama City is an international melting pot and its eating choices range from American fast food to excellent internationall cuisine. Eager to begin our sightseeing, we grabbed lunch at a nearby McDonald's after checking in then caught a bus. The buses in Panama are a tourist attraction in themselves. They are brightly painted, hung with fringe, and have constantly blaring Salsa and Caracas music playing. They are cheap (50 cents a ride). but are very crowded. After asking several drivers "Donde va este autobus?" we finally found one going to the Plaza Independencia. This plaza is the...