Rainy Day in Dublin

We are staying on the western edge of Temple Bar in Dublin.  I’m really quite pleased that we are on the edge of Temple Bar because it would be a lot rowdier if we were in the center.  This is perfect – near the action, but quiet when we come back to the apartment at the end of the day.

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The forecast for the day said rain, so we decided to spend the afternoon in the National Museum of Ireland – Archeology. I highly recommend visiting if you are ever in Dublin.  An afternoon wasn’t nearly enough time, so we plan a return visit later this week – but to be fair, we are museum people…

But first we had lunch at the Beanhive restaurant. The food was great, and the latte art even better.

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I have no intention of attempting this next one at home.

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There was only a hint of rain on our walk to the museum, but by the time it closed at 5:00, the skies had opened. We started to walk back to the apartment, but quickly decided this was a great time for a Guinness.

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And it was…

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Dublin

The flight from Montreal to Dublin is relatively short at just over six hours. Of course, that means that even if you close your eyes immediately after takeoff, and if you can sleep just about anywhere, you are still going to get a poor night’s sleep. And if you are like most people, you will be lucky to get any sleep at all.  Let’s just say that one of us had a poor night’s sleep, while that rest were lucky to get any sleep at all.  So we spent the day walking around Dublin, getting a feel for our surroundings, and trying to stay awake.  Mostly we enjoyed relaxing in St. Stephen’s Green where the flowers were in full bloom.

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Walking around the park there are a number of signs remembering the 1916 Easter Rebellion, including a poignant reminder of how it was suppressed.  You can still see bullet holed in the arch at the entrance to the park.

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It was a low-key day, so we just wandered around letting our feet take us where they wanted.  Here was an interesting shot of the architecture inside the St. Stephens Shopping Centre.

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And I’ll end with more street art, and a wish for the day…

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It’s Complicated

One of the reasons we decided to visit Panama was the fact that it is a UNESCO world heritage site. This seemed like a good thing. It’s hard to object to something that brings investment and tourist dollars to an area that is economically depressed. Or so I thought. It turns out that it isn’t quite that simple. Before long we came across banners protesting against UNESCO.  Not a lot of them, but there were a few.

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So in this final post about Panama I want to take a moment to point out the pros and cons.

First, the pros. The old city is being steadily restored, preserving its original beauty with many lovely buildings like this.

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But of course this is a work in progress, so you will see striking contrasts between the buildings that have been restored, and those that have not.

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Some of the original buildings are in terrible shape.

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And while some are abandoned, there are also some that are still inhabited, and the contrast with the restored buildings is rather stark.

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When these two worlds are side by side, it gets messy.

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And yes, that is razor wire between the two balconies.

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Apparently there are also illegal squatters in some of the buildings, including in some that are part way through restoration.  These partially restored buildings are effectively wrapped in razor wire.

IMG_2522I had the sense that most people were in favor of the UNESCO status and happy for the benefits that it brings.  But there was definitely some resentment toward the gentrification that went along with it. But the simple fact is that we never would have visited Panama if it had not been for UNESCO, so on balance I think it is positive. But as I said, it’s complicated.

Next stop, Dublin.

 

 

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Street Art

We are getting ready to head out on our next trip, so this is probably a good time to finish the two remaining posts I’d planned about our trip to Panama.  The first post is the easy one, dealing with street art. A few things we saw suggested that 20 years ago most of the buildings in Panama were generously “decorated” with graffiti.  That clearly  isn’t the case today, but there are still hints.

When you get outside the central core of the old city (not more than 5 – 10 blocks) you start finding fairly traditional graffiti, like this.

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Or this…

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And then a little further out, you find art that probably has a political message.

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And then art that clearly has a political message.

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But closer to the center you find art that has been – I’m not sure this is quite the right word – but art that has been gentrified. This “graffiti” has been framed and protected under plexiglass.

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But my favorite was in the center of the old town, across the square from our hotel. It was painted on the second floor of a hollowed out building that will no doubt be completely “restored” in a year or two. I can’t quite decide if the “flying girl” is soaring above everyday concerns … or getting out of Dodge while she can. I like it either way.

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Next up, the dilemma of gentrification.

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Enough Already

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This picture was taken yesterday.  And yes, that is fresh snow falling – on top of the several feet of snow that has been on the ground since November. I am so done with this winter. Enough already!

So to help me think happy (and warm) thoughts, I’ll return to our Panama trip.

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When people ask what we do when we travel, our stock answer is that we wander around trying to figure out where we will eat dinner. We say this only partly in jest. It’s actually a great way to see a city – and to find great food. That was how we ended up at Navaja on our second night in Panama.

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It is fairly small and unassuming, but with wonderful food. Apparently it’s not the kind of place that tourists discover. That led to a conversation with the people at the next table, and before long we had a recommendation for an even more out-of-the-way restaurant. If you didn’t already know about Donde Jose, there is no way you would even guess it was a restaurant.

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See what I mean? Even with reservations and the exact address, we had a difficult time finding the entrance (it is the doors on the far right). But oh my, was it worth it.  The restaurant has only 16 seats, with a fixed multi-course tasting menu and wine pairing. The dishes focus on local flavors and ingredients, and it is just amazing. You can probably tell that we loved it, and would highly recommend it.  But you absolutely must make reservations well in advance.  We barely managed to get a table before the end of our trip.

That’s all I can write tonight.  My mind is distracted by thoughts of wonderful food…

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Homeward Bound

We are flying home today. When we step out of the airport at the end of the day, we will be greeted by -24 C weather (11 below zero, Fahrenheit) .  With that thought in mind, I will limit myself to a short post today.

We stayed at the Central Hotel, pretty much in the center of San Felipe, the old part of Panama City. But the hotel is also on Avenue Central.  It was build in the 1880’s so I suspect the avenue is the reason for the name.  The hotel sits on the Plaza de la Independencia, so it is nice and open. Here is a view of the hotel and the plaza.

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The Cathedral of Panama City is on the other side of the plaza.

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And as I head back to the land of ice and snow, I will leave you with another picture of the local vegetation. This isn’t an abandoned building – it is well maintained, and on a busy street – and yet it has already sprouted a tree growing out of the side of the building…

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Last Day Before Snow

Tomorrow we head home. I know that several feet of snow are waiting for me in the yard, so today I did my best to enjoy the flowers here in Panama.

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As you can see, the haze from earlier in the week has cleared, leaving a lovely blue sky.

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Many of the “flowers” are actually flowering trees, creating wonderful opportunities to use the blue sky for contrast.

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Over the next few weeks I’ll try to provide a bit more context as I post additional pictures of San Felipe – the “old city” or Casco Viejo in Panama City.

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Second Last Day

Our second last day in Panama. We’ve been taking it easy and enjoying the chance to relax in the warm weather – sort of “chilling in the heat”. We haven’t even seen the canal yet, and everyone says it is one thing you absolutely must do when in Panama. So we decided to start our day with … a self-guided walking tour of every church in Casco Viejo ( Panama City – the old city).  Hey – it seemed to make sense at the time.

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Many of the churches have been destroyed, and rebuilt over the centuries, but this ornate pulpit dates back to colonial times.

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But sometimes I find that the less obvious features are more impressive – like the post supporting the roof in this small church dating back to 1673 – simple, rustic, and yet very impressive in its own way.

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Several of the churches also had the stations of the cross, something that brings back memories of my childhood. Of course, if you have been following this blog, you may also recall that the fourth station has particular significance from my visit to Jerusalem. The first example from our Panama walk is glazed and enameled dating to the 19th century.

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Here are a couple other examples.

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Of course, along the route we enjoyed the beauty of Casco Veijo.  The bougainvillea in this picture was covering half the facade of a building, creating a wall of flowers.  Interestingly, even though it came from a single root, it had a mix of white and pink flowers.  I’m told this means that two different strains must have been grafted onto a single root stock.

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Don’t you wish that was your balcony?

I also came across this tree.  It almost looks like the tree grew to avoid the street light – though I’m sure that isn’t what actually happened. Still…

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And here we go back to churches, in this case ones that have long been in ruins. This example is known for the flat arch shown here.  Apparently it collapsed, unexpectedly, a few years ago, but was rebuilt using the original bricks.

Note the clear blue sky.  It has been hazy the last few days, but not today.

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I started this post talking about the Panama canal, and I eventually did make it to see the Miraflores locks.  But here’s the thing. The Rideau canal runs through Ottawa, with a series of locks right beside parliament. They are tiny compared to the Panama canal, but you can get much closer to watch the locks in operation.  I’ll try an analogy here.  I’ve been able to see great musicians play in arenas, and the concerts have good. But the best concerts I’ve ever seen have been when not-quite-so-famous artists perform in much smaller venues.  The chance to be “up close” makes all the difference. So by all means, see the Panama canal. But if you ever have the chance, you absolutely must see the Rideau canal locks in Ottawa.

With that, here are two pictures from the Miraflores locks.

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What I like about this picture is the small boats in the lock as the enormous ship pulls up close to them.  I know that everything is controlled, but this has got to be unnerving.

And this picture shows a supertanker pulling through the locks.  The clearance on either side of the boat is less than two feet. It’s difficult to see where the ship stops and the lock begins…

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That’s all for today.  For tomorrow – who knows.

 

 

 

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Jungle

We’ve all seen pictures of Mayan ruins completely overgrown by jungle.  This is what happens if something is abandoned for hundreds or thousands of years. But I’ve often wondered just how long it took for the jungle to reclaim these ancient cities. Just how aggressive is the jungle?

Panama City’s Casco Viejo is a city in transition. I’m told that twenty years ago virtually all the buildings were run down or abandoned. The UNESCO World Heritage site designation started a process of restoration that is still ongoing. Scattered in among the “gentrified” buildings you can still see a number of abandoned buildings. Some are mere shells – stone walls with no interior structure.

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Others are showing decay, but still functional, or at least integrated into functional buildings.

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But everywhere you look, if the building is not being actively maintained, you can see clear signs of the jungle fighting back. Note the trees growing over, and on top of, the wall above.

Some of these trees are quite large, even though they are on top of two or three story high walls.

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From another perspective, you can see just how tenacious this tree must be to survive, much less thrive.

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In some cases the trees grow on the side of a wall, without any visible horizontal surface for an anchor.

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I’m not sure about this one, but who knows.

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I’ll close with a picture of the Bridge of the Americas at sunset.

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Picture This

No pictures today. You will need to use your imagination.

We’re in Casco Viejo (the old city) in Panama at an intimate Latin Jazz club in the American Trade Hotel. If ever there was a recipe for cognitive dissonance, this is it.

We’re at the back of the club, where they seat the “old white couples who arrive without a reservation”, but we’re still within 25 feet of the stage. We’ve arrived early, thinking that “show starts at 8:30” means the show starts at 8:30. Silly us.

Two tables directly in front of us are empty until a middle aged couple arrives. Bald guy and blonde woman.  They are younger than us, but old enough to know better. Unfortunately it appears they don’t.  We reconcile ourselves to having to watch them neck for the entire show.  Little did we know we would eventually wish they would start necking again. They’re joined by heavyset guy and sparkly woman and the necking stops. Relief. The show starts (most definitely not at 8:30) and by this time blonde and sparky are having an animated discussion while we are trying to listen to the music. It was fantastic. The music, that is. And then sparkly, who has not been listening to the music until now, decides it’s so wonderful that she must record it on her phone. When sparkly starts recording, blonde decides she’s very interested in heavyset (not the one she came with) and gets all touchy-feely.  This continues even after sparkly returns from recording the band. At this point we kind of missed the necking – until it started again. Very confusing…

Meanwhile to our right, young man sat down and saved a seat for his wife. He promptly focused on his phone until wife arrived near the end of the set. She  promptly ordered a water and focused on her phone until she left 15 minutes later. I really hope I’m missing some critical detail here.

A guy our age, with a young woman and an infant, tried unsuccessfully to get a table at this point. I’m thinking grandfather. I’m hoping grandfather.

Just as the band started playing, a large group of young people arrived. My first instinct was “rich entitled young Americans” but perhaps I was being unkind.  Of course, it’s also possible I nailed it.

Immediately in front of the stage a man sat alone at his table, focused on the music and ignoring all the fascinating action going on just behind him.

All in all, probably one of the more enjoyable/interesting evenings I can recall.

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