My Vibrant, Exciting Life in Cosmopolitan Panama City

About a month ago, I packed up my things and left Panama City for a rented house in the countryside…and it was glorious. I wrote to friends about the peace and serenity of “my little Quietville.” And when my one-month lease expired, I got teary-eyed…a part of me wanted to stay tucked away in the lush green mountains.

But as I drove home, I could feel the excitement creeping back in. I was back in good old Panama City…where excitement is in the very air you breathe.

You’ve probably heard all the hype. This is a city of gleaming skyscrapers, malls, world-class hospitals…you name it. An astonishing array of luxury SUVs trundle along modern roads. High speed internet and cell service have helped consolidate this as one of the region’s busiest flight and business hubs. You’ll find every amenity and product imaginable.

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After 10 years of living in the city, I had started to take its comfort and convenience for granted. My month in the countryside righted that.

I was glad to be back in town. I threw myself back into city life con gusto (with pleasure) The next day, I discovered a secret mezcal (distilled spirit made from the agave plant) bar behind a tiny taqueria (taco restaurant) called Mordida de Burro.

You can sample a taco trio for $7, then head to the bar for a specialty cocktail. You need to dial the secret number on an old fashioned rotary phone to get in. (Just ask a friendly waiter or patron.)

Later in the week I went to see local great Idania Dowman, a fiery jazz singer, at Danilo’s Jazz Club. This little club oozes ambiance. It’s in historic Plaza Herrera, right next to the magnificently restored American Trade Hotel.

Other outings since then have included going out for Indian food, an Internations mixer for expats and locals, a couple art exhibits, dancing, and more. I even went to a “painting party.” And that’s not code for helping a friend paint his living room. Evening art classes are all the rage here now. Ours was a painting class with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. I attempted to replicate Howard Hodgkin’s “The Green Château” (and after a few glasses of bubbly, thought I’d done very well indeed).

If you need modern amenities and crave variety, then Panama City may be the ideal place for you. If you’ve got to have scads of restaurants, performance venues, and sporting events to choose from…if you can’t stomach the thought of boredom…then this is a place you’ll want to explore.

And the best thing is, you don’t have to give up on “Quietville.”

When you’re in Panama City, you’re a 20-minute flight from a dozen unspoiled Caribbean beaches…a 30-minute ferry from the rustic fishing town on Taboga Island…and an hour’s drive from the mountain hamlet of Cerro Azul. Day trips or weekend getaways are cheap and easy to plan.

When I was in the countryside, someone told me I was crazy to go back to Panama City. “Only a madwoman would trade the city for this,” he said. “It’s so loud and busy.”

I can understand why he said this. Compared to the tiny crater town of El Valle, yes, Panama City is loud. After all, it’s a city. And it’s vibrant and exciting. It’s a land of opportunity. The art, music, and film scenes are growing fast. Young locals are learning English and eager to travel. Foreigners are welcome—and in this international, bustling city, they fit right in. We all do.

Maybe it is “mad” to want it all. A mild, warm climate…proximity to pristine beaches…and modern, cosmopolitan living at a lower cost than in the U.S. or Canada. If that’s the case, just call us the Mad Men and Women of Panama City. Or better yet…come join us.

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