We are just back from Panama. Panama City is a crowded, filthy and chaotic place. Amid the sparkling high rise buildings are an equal number of cacophonous construction sites where new skyscrapers are being erected to fill in every last piece of negative space on the city skyline. Walking on the streets is a constant battle for your own health and safety; Sidewalks–when available–are piled high with garbage, rife with holes to fall in, and flowing with raw sewage. Normally, you must walk in the street where constant vigilance is needed to avoid being struck by a crazed bus driver. If your destination is farther than a few blocks away, jump in a taxi and marvel at how the driver weaves in and out of seemingly random lines of cars, like the tooth of a precision gear in an Escher-like writhing mass of steel, rubber and glass. The driver, while ignoring all signs and signals, with fractions of an inch to spare on each maneuver and a little luck, may end up getting you where you have asked to go. Vultures circle overhead.
We sought refuge at the 4-star Hotel Grace. More on this later but we found it fine…not perfect, but fine. And by staying there, you connected to a shopping center and close to Via Espana and Panama Old Cathedral.