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Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

Dublin, Ohio
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Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

Couple in mid 70's. Wife, who uses a walker to get around, was born in the Canal Zone and would like to see area around albrook field where her father was stationed and gorgas hospital where she was born. We would like to at least partially transit the canal and would like recommendations on how to do that. We would also like to have a sightseeing guide able to handle disability traveller and also a safe, reliable hotel at least four star or higher. We thought to spend a week if necessary but have no limitations on time and would be travelling down there in January, February or March 2015, depending on weather recommendations.

pennsylvania
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1. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

Try Katia, at Kats Tours. She took care of my parents when they were visiting Panama City.

Central America
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2. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

Good luck with with revisiting the canal. I have a few friends who were Zonies.

Rainy season typically tapers off by Dec. So Jan-Feb should be fine.

A canal transit, or partial transit, might be an interesting activity for her. Aside from getting on/off the boat she should be able to sit comfortably and watch the canal go by. Its amazing to see the century old locks still functioning from the inside. I know there are companies that offer this, but I've only transited on private boats. Maybe others can recommend one.

Atlanta, Georgia...
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3. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

I look my mother to Panama when she was 81. She doesn't use a walker. Panama doesn't have the accessibility as the U.S. There are many places where there are no elevators and you only pray that the escalator happens to be working on that day. Such as the entrance to the Miraflores visitors' center. Sidewalks are often very rough and irregular. Even so, I found most Panamanians very willing to lend a hand and eager to help.

As for operators who do partial transits, you'll have to check via Google or TA. I do know that they run only certain days; Saturdays and Frudays, I believe. Whether you transit the Canal or not, the best place to see the locks in operation is at the Miraflores Visitors' Center. The museum is definitely a "must see." And, there are elevators to and from the lobby and the upper viewing areas and the restaurant.

I also have friends who are Zonians. (Not "Zonies" but Zonians.) When the Zone transitioned to Panama, they were given the option of buying their homes. Most chose not to do so. The residences have since become very pricey private residences (no one builds in Panama like the U.S. built the residences for the PCA), or they have become duplexes, or offices for the ACP departments, or B&Bs (as in the case of La Estancia).

Gorgas Hospital is still there and operating, although more as a public/university hospital.

The area around Albrook as changed dramatically. While the runway is still there and many of the hangers where just turned from military to civlian use, the area surrounding the airfield will be dramatically different from anything anyone remembers of Albrook AFB. The same goes for Howard, Clayton, Kobe, Sherman and any other one-time military base.

As for hotels, avoid the Trump -- too far out of the way. My recommendation would be Miramar for the view or the Bristol for it's quiet, elegant demeanor.

Regardi time of year to visit -- January and February are the middle of Panama's summer. It's drier, yes. But, it's also a lot hotter. For people in their mid-70s, I wouldn't go then. Also, February is when nearly everyone in Panama goes on vacation, so everything outside of the city will be crowded. I must prever March or April to January or February.

Good luck,

Grant

Central America
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4. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

So "Zonie" for referring to past residents during the US period, and "Zonians" to refer to current residents who may or may not have lived in the Zone during the US period?

My friends who grew up in the Zone during the US period refer to themselves as "Zonies".

Atlanta, Georgia...
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5. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

This is interesting, BZ. My friends were born and raised as second and third generation "Zonians." Three retired and still live there. One still works for the ACP. I guess the term depends on which one you're talking to.

Dublin, Ohio
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6. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

Many thanks for so much help. I figured the officers quarters at Albrook would be a nice neighborhood for Panamanians. Rather like the Presidio in. San Francisco. I also appreciated the weather tip because we though it might be coolest in Jan. Feb. How many days did you spend and what did you see? Did you use a guide?

Atlanta, Georgia...
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for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
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7. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

I've been visiting Panama regularly for over 20 years, staying anywhere from three days to two weeks at a time. I haven't hired a guide, although I've been "guided" by Panamanian and Zonian friends.

There are a number of recommendations in this forum for guides and drivers.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort offers a number of tours, such as a boat ride to Monkey Island in Gatun Lake. Other places of interest that don't require too much walking would be seeing the view of the city from Ancon Hill, driving to El Valle (in the mountains near the Pacific) and driving to Portobelo, on the Caribbean side.

8. Re: Older couple needs help in planning Panama trip

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