Our day started early at Servicio National de Immigration. We met our attorneys assistant, Mariana, who walked us through the process of “opening a ticket” for the process of obtaining our Pensionado Visa. We started in a line to get a number like that one at the Secretary of State or DMV. Once we had our number we had to wait our turn. There were a lot of people in this room. We didn’t take pictures inside, as the people here are very insistent that the respect in government offices is maintained. We dressed appropriately for conducting business with the government. Jen wore a dress with closed toe shoes and I wore dress slacks with a button shirt and dress shoes. This initial meeting is so that the government can review the documents that we carefully prepared on Thursday. Once satisfied with our documents they then open our ticket and the process begins. Our Passports were stamped that this process is underway. This is what ultimately will allow us multiple entry into and out of Panama. This is important if we retire here so that we can travel in on a one way ticket. As a tourist, to come to Panama, you must have a return ticket. We then had to wait in another line to pay $5. The real work will be on Monday. We will lay out our Monday experience after it happens. Having been to Immigration and having had Mariana explain everything, we now know what to expect from this process. Monday will be the last day we have to spend in Panama City.
We will be going to our condo in Coronado Saturday and returning to Panama City on Sunday afternoon for our Monday meetings. We will, also be picking up our rental car. We are going to be brave and drive back on Sunday afternoon. As of now, we will leave the car at the hotel while we go to immigration. The short taxi ride will cost us less than parking at the Immigration Building. The drive back to Coronado is what scares us the most. Traffic out of the city is basically gridlock 24 hours per day. Once out of the city, it should not be a bad drive back to Coronado. This will be our biggest test.
Having completed out business for the day, we decided to explore in Panama City. Our research told us that the best place to discover in the city is Casco Viejo (Olde Town). It is the original site where Panama City was settled, and we found it charming but areas were depressed and run down. There are buildings everywhere being restored, and the restored portion of Casco Viejo reminded me of New Orleans. We wanted to take a tour, however the tours that interested us were limited to Thursday, Saturday, and Tuesday at 5 pm in the afternoon. We made our own tour and visited most of the things that interested us. Our first stop was a coffee shop at the American Trade Hotel.
By the way, taxi drivers will take you anywhere, but seldom know your destination. Be prepared to communicate a nearby landmark. We have been negotiating the price for our cab ride in advance and that has worked well even if the driver has a difficult time finding the destination. We have learned, for instance, that to get back to our hotel we have to tell the driver that it is near the Do It Center (hardware store) in El Dorado. There are very few street addresses to identify location. We got out of the taxi in front of the hotel, and after having coffee we walked back toward Cathedral Metropolitana and the Plaza de la Independencia. We were having a bit of trouble getting our bearings so we ducked into a small shop and bought a map. We were disappointed to find the Cathedral totally tarped for restoration. The Plaza was nice and surrounded by Museums for everything Panama. We may find some of those interesting on another visit when we have more time. We were in search of the famous organic chocolate shop, which we did not find.
We found a beautiful old church, which was not yet being restored, on the walk.
The walk was quite hot and we worked up an appetite and thirst so we went into a sidewalk bar that was very unique. We were seated at a table near the back in front of an open door/window. The breeze coming through was quite nice and we enjoyed a fresh seafood appetizer. We didn’t want to eat much, because our ultimate destination will be the seafood market. We noticed through that open window, a huge gate with a guard. We soon learned that the gate was the drive leading to the presidential palace. We asked if we could walk there and were told that this was as close as we could get without a guide and a prior reservation. Our table was actually inside the gate.
Our walk led us along the waterfront and down to the fish market. Based on what we had found in our research, this wasn’t completely what we expected. It was very interesting and there is no shortage of fresh seafood if you are hungry. We saw the seafood market, the harbor where the fishermen bring in their catch, and found the place where you can eat about any fresh catch. We enjoyed some fresh Ceveche and a cold beer before heading back to our hotel.
Gracias for following along. Please like and share if you find this all interesting. We are getting ready for our journey to Coronado. Please stay tuned for more.
Greg and Jen