Sunday, June 6, 2010

It's Panama Week! - Day One

Hello everyone! It's Panama Week here! We got back from a wonderful trip last Monday. We're done with the laundry and catching up on things around the house, and now I'm ready to tell you all about it. Each day I'll feature a different part of the trip. And the Panama theme will likely bleed into next week, as I write some more detailed posts about the wedding details.

For those that don't know, my best friend Zett and her now-husband Bryan got married in Panama over Memorial Day weekend. I was the matron of honor, and also the "USA wedding coordinator". My Dad was the photographer, so it was nice to spend some time with he and my mom - even if a lot of it we were all working on the wedding (I recruited my mom and Jim as my assistants!)

**The majority of these posts will have photos from me. For better photos, please visit my Dad's blog, Hey Morand! Photography. He is still putting together some posts with teaser selections of photos from each event, but he already has a great selection posted.**

We arrived late on Thursday night with no trouble at the airport. We were met by the shuttle our hosts had arranged for us, and were greeted by the bride and groom after a quick 30 minute ride to the hotel. The "home base" hotel was the Amadour Country Inn and Suites - right on the Panama Canal. It was the meeting and lodging place for all of the guests (about 80!) throughout the weekend.

The view from our hotel room - the Panama Canal with the Bridge of the Americas in full view - the gateway between North and South America (although it is in Central America).

Boy, was it HOT! About 85-92 degrees each day we were there, with humidity worse than South Florida in the summer - no wonder we all left that place!

Up bright and early on Friday morning, we all boarded a 40-passenger tour bus for a detailed tour of Panama City and the Panama Canal. We had a wonderful tour guide - Theo - he knew everything! - and kept us entertained in his Jamaican-Panamanian accent.

The bride and groom with our amazing bus driver and fantastic tour guide, Theo.

First stop on the tour was a visit to the original settlement of Panama. Forgive me for not reciting all of the interesting history - I get blurry on the details, and really, there's a lot of history - too much for this post!

From here we entered the narrow streets of Panama City.

All over the city you could see these old original buildings, directly next to newer or renovated buildings. For the most part, they were in keeping with the style and history of the original work.

Some of the renovated buildings were simply stunning.

The skyline of Panama City is crowded with skinny skyscrapers - construction is everywhere. The city is booming.

We enjoyed the authentic markets, with locals selling their crafts.

Loved this walkway with the hanging lanterns and bougainvillea overhead.

Navigating through these narrow and crowded streets were no problem for our bus driver. He made it through this gap with the huge bus - and those poles remained intact! 

After we saw all the different areas of Panama City, we headed to the Miraflores Locks - the southernmost of the three sets of locks in the Panama Canal.

After a tour through the new museum, we headed to the observation deck to see the first ships of the day pass through the locks.

Slow at first, the water level dropped, to lower the ships to the next level.

With the water levels equal, the first gates can open to allow the ship to pass through to the next set of gates.

A really interesting piece of history. And to think how long those locks have been operating in the same manner - amazing! All that time looking at the canal and the nautical charts made me miss my Navy days...just a little :)

One of the last stops of the tour was of the Panama Canal Administration Building. Normally off-limits to visitors, we took a quick peek inside to see the beautiful paintings in the main lobby, depicting the stages of construction of the canal.

At the top of the first flight of stairs is this bell.

From the first ship to pass through the canal.

That's me in the reflection!

When we returned to the hotel, we all jumped in the pool to cool off, and had casual dinners at the hotel. Later, we boarded the Rumba Bus! It was literally an old school bus with the seats ripped out, fully equipped with a bar and DJ booth! Apparently a popular way to celebrate weddings, graduations, birthdays - the Rumba Bus drove us around the city at about 10 mph, as we danced the night away while the drinks were flowing and the music was blaring. We made a pit stop to a local casino, and ended the night at a karaoke bar where [almost] everyone indulged in a little time at the mic.

The fun continued the next day...Monkey Island boat tour with my family, wedding preparations, rehearsal, and Groom's dinner. All that to come tomorrow...


ZAMS said...

Love this! Can't wait for all the other posts! Abby you did an AMAZING job and made it the best day of my life! Thank you!