Some say that you have to be at the airport a full 3 hours before departure. Well, even though airlines & airports tell you that, it isn’t actually true. One of my previous entries was about getting to the airport about 20 minutes or so before scheduled departure and skedaddling O.J. Simpson-style through express lanes in both check-in and security. Now, I certainly don’t recommend doing that, but in a crunch it can be done.
Buy sometimes there are advantages to getting to the airport 3 hours prior.
I schlepp up yo the Copa airlines desk. “Hi. Checking in for the 5:20 flight to Panama City.” This is about 1:30.
The very cute clerk says, “Meester Feesher, we have a flight leaving at two thirty. Would you like that flight?”
Well, I’m all for chatting up cute clerks in the airport. I ask, “What’s the extra fee?”
She smiles. I think she likes me. “No extra fee, Meester Feesher.”
“I’ll take it. Thanks!”
“You’re welcome Meester Feesher. Enjoy your flight.”
Yep, she definitely likes me.
So I got to my hotel, the El Panama, hours ahead of time. (After some nonsense by the baggage handlers. If you’re flying into Panama City, take carry-on luggage only. Trust me on this.)
I wasn’t really sure what to expect, frankly. Last time I heard anything substantive about Panama was when Noriega was turfed out and thrown into a Florida jail.
Turns out it’s a pretty cool place. Panama City only has a population of just over a million, with the whole country less than 4 million.
Lots of wildlife parks too. My guide, Franko, and a boat captain (whose name I don’t recall, sorry) took me out to a freshwater area behind the famous Panama Canal to introduce me to one of the wildlife areas in the country. The park teems with life, from many kinds of birds and monkeys to maybe even some jaguars, rarely seen. The sound of the howler monkeys freaked me out until I learned what it was.
I like this place. Traffic’s a nightmare but that’s nothing new. Even a non-Spanish speaker like me found it pretty easy to get around.
One negative is a restaurant named Maranello, after the Ferrari factory.
Maybe I just got them on a bad night but the food was truly awful.
Later that evening, there were a cluster of soccer fans hooting it up and carrying on. Sounded like they were having a good time, nobody got stupid or out of line, everyone’s there just enjoying themselves.
And MAN did they make some noise!
Next morning I got to the front desk and meniton in passing to the clerk, “I guess their team won last night.”
“Oh, no, Meester Feesher,” she said, “That game isn’t until tonight.”
Going to be a loud night!