My husband and I had recently returned from our third vacation to Panama. We had a busy trip—we toured the Panama Canal, visited the ruins of Panama La Vieja, taken a Spanish language immersion class, explored the restaurants on Via Argentina…and that was just in the city. We also got out into the countryside, strolled quiet beaches and walked in the mountains.
But there was one thing we did on our very first visit to Panama that we have made a point of doing again every time we go back—spend an afternoon on Plaza Bolivar in Casco Viejo; Panama City’s “Old Town.”
Casco Viejo is an UNESCO World Heritage site and is filled with block after block of Spanish and French Colonial architecture. These ornate buildings date back to the 16th century and although they are in various states of renovation or ruin, this somehow adds to the attraction of the place.
The district is home to a number of open plazas ringed by museums, restaurants and cafes, but Plaza Bolivar is our favorite. The center of the plaza is anchored by a monument to Simon Bolivar, the “Liberator of Latin America.” Behind the monument, the bell tower of Iglesia San Francisco de Asis rises above the other buildings.
Our first stop is always the Casa Blanca restaurant. The array of food available is incredible, but we have our favorites—dedos de pescado (fish fingers, fresh from the seafood market on the edge of the neighborhood), succulent filet mignon and tasty fried plantains.
After stopping for an espresso at nearby Segafredo Zanetti, we while away the afternoon on one of the plaza’s benches, watching the local school children play, smelling the salty ocean air, stealing a glimpse of the sparkling Pacific Ocean down one of the brick-paved side streets and dreaming of the day we can call this place home.
I like the idea of writing, and of keeping a record of the places I visit so I went to an AWAI travel writing workshop—and this was exactly the type of trip they said editors love to hear about.
So, using all of my new-found knowledge, I decided to write an article about Panama for International Living magazine. Next, I proofread it a few dozen times, slotted in some suitable photographs, took a deep breath and clicked “send.”
They published my article and sent me a check! The bylines (and checks) have kept coming. Today I can proudly tell my friends that I’m a professional, published travel writer.
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