Any trip to Panama won’t be complete without a visit to its capital Panama City, where you’ll find a fascinating mix of old and new. One minute, it’s as if you’re in a North American city, complete with skyscrapers, Trump Tower (!) and an actual skyline….and the next it’s clear that you’re in Central America. In addition, there is the Panama Canal: a fascinating lifeline that divides the city in half and connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.

The most desirable part of this metropolis by far is the Casco Antiguo or the Casco Viejo. Because of the extensive restorations that took place in this area, magnificent old colonial buildings seem to arise like phoenixes from the ashes. Ambitious plans exist to take on the entire Casco Viejo and restore it completely ….which I think would be a shame, for this will only result in the locals leaving the area and the housing prices to skyrocket. Consequently, instead of remaining the exciting mix of old and new that it is now, the neighbourhood will become one large open air museum. Hopefully, the right balance will be found soon, for as I’ve already said, it is lovely to be here. By the way, it is also quite a safe area to be in because the presidential residence is located quite nearby, which means there’s a lot of police around. There’s a multitude of restaurants, art galleries, bars and quaint little shops, and their presence creates a lively atmosphere, both during the day and at night. For instance, breakfast or lunch at Super Gourmet is an absolute must, their English Muffin Sandwiches are soooo good –my favourite! And if you’re looking for a hip location with a stunning view of the skyline to have some pre-dinner drinks, take the lift up to the Tantalo Hotel roof terrace!

But enough about food and drinks, high time I told you about THE place to spend the night in Casco Viejo…. a Hideaway with Dutch roots, as it happens, because once upon a time it belonged to Dutch owners, hence the name: Los Cuatro Tulipanes! These days, the property has been divided into six separately owned apartments where Ivana and her team are in charge of property management. The rentals allow you to live like a local, for they are fully equipped and suitable for shorter or longer stays. There are three one-bedroom apartments, one two bedroom apartment and two three-bedroom apartments. All of the apartments are spacious, clean, cosy and very comfortable and feature a fully equipped kitchen, a washing machine and a tumbler, television, AC etc. etc. The beds are lovely, towels are provided, and a complimentary refreshing drink awaits you in the fridge. There are coffee- and tea making facilities and, a pleasant surprise, you’re provided with a prepaid mobile phone with re-programmed numbers for the hotel’s driver and for Ivana. If you’re looking to book a three-bedroom apartment, I would recommend you to take room 3A, for its roof terrace offers a phenomenal view of Casco Viejo and the Pacific.

Los Cuatro Tulipanes is a lovely place to get away from the hectic city for a bit….it provides all the space you need and makes you feel right at home. Ivana pays great attention to her guests and is very accommodating. She knows the city like the back of her hand and she also has the best recommendations. I was fortunate that she was able to take a little time to show me around the neighbourhood and her personal favourites. And if you’re here, make sure to ask Ivana about the unique social project she volunteers for: a former monastery that is being turned into a community centre, where where former gang members and their families can turn to for language courses, sports activities, childcare and ‘urban gardening’…it’s wonderful to see these initiatives take shape. They are an eye opener for outsiders and will make people realise that, unfortunately, behind the beautiful façade of these magnificent colonial buildings, there is also a lot of misery.

Unfortunately, my time in this fascinating metropolis was limited, but I am glad to have been introduced to Ivana and Los Cuatro Tulipanes, for this really is a ‘home away from home’ in Panama City!

Read more about Panama in my blog ‘Panama Post’

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