We spent today in Casco Viejo…Old Panama.

Today we hired a taxi to take us to Casco Viejo, or old Panama as it is called, even though it is not the oldest part of Panama.

However it is the area with he UNESCO designation and it truly was an exceptionally interesting visit. For those who have been to Havana’s old city, and isn’t it all old, there are similarities.

Like Havana the future potential here for tourism is immense. But unlike Havana this area has moved much faster in restoring the historical buildings. Yes there are loads of them that are untouched but as we walked through the narrow streets, the impact of what has been done was tangible.

One of the beautifully restored buildings in the Casco Viejo

We wondered around for a couple of hours and with sore feet under us, we decided it was time to stop for lunch.

We had been recommended a couple of places by our drive who, by the way, spent many years in Canada after his parents sent him to Montreal when he was young in order to escape the evil clutches of then dictator Noriega.

But wondering up and down the streets we lost sight of the ones he pointed our and decided to try La Forchetta, which we concluded might be good because it had white tableclothes and a bottle of wine on each table.

After a couple of hours of serious shopping for genuine local crafts, we were hungry

Feel free to use this method of research on any of your future journeys. And trepidation we might have felt was lost with the first taste of our meals.

We ordered simply going with the safe Italian options we knew the best. But both the Spagetti Boulanese and the Lasagne we order may have been the best each of us has tasted. We got there shortly after noon and on one was in the restaurant so we still wondered about our choice.

Our homemade research method for finding a good restaurant worked.

Twenty minutes later the place was packed and we knew others were aware of its quality because from the discussions with the servers it was clear this was not their first visit.

The La Forchetta location Plaza Catedral, CI Septima y Pedro J Spsa  in the Casco Viejo. Pone 507 212-0051 http://www.laforchettapanama.com/

We had our drivers card so had the restaurant call him to pick us up. Since he spoke such good English we wanted him to be the one to take us down the causeway to sights as well as the duty free locations on the islands.

He proved to be an excellent guide as well as driver filling us in on a lot of history, including Noriega’s old stomping grounds where he murdered hundreds.

If you want to hire him, his name is Ruben Lopez at Cell 507 6907-6730. I heartily recommend him.

It is hard to believe how modern Panama City is with skyscrapers to rival the world’s biggest cities.

A theatre on one of the causeway islands hosts some of the finest performers, and new museum is under construction nearby, and hotels are popping up all the time.

This is clearly where the rich hang out as dozens of yachts are anchored in the island harbours.

With the Panama skyline as a backdrop dozens of yachts rest waiting for their owners

And in the city…particularly here at the Radison Decapolis where we are staying, the service is exemplary with smiles and English all over the place.

I try my best with my non Spanish and they switch to English immediately.

The same cannot be said about the rural area resorts where service as we know it is not yet instilled as a tourist imperative.

Choosing to visit Panama City for a coupleof days was the right thing to do for us.

Tomorrow we do head back home but we are both happy we chose this option offered by Transat Holidays. It has been a worthwhile discovery.

If you have questions about Panama call me at Renaissance Travel, talk to an agent at 204 942-5000 or email me at askjourneys@journeystravel.com  You can see most of my questions and answers on a variety of travel topics at http://www.journeystravelgear.com/