Chile & Panama - December 18 - January 4, 2018

Off we go at Christmas and New Years to Central and South America. On this fantastic journey we boated on the only two Atlantic to Pacific waterways that do not involve Arctic or Antarctic waters - the Straight of Magellan and the Panama Canal. Chile is such a long country that it was not possible to include the whole country in this one trip - the distances were just too great. We opted for Santiago and southward this time, and it was very enjoyable, even though their Summer weather conditions are more in common with the Winter conditions in Houston.

Panama is a study in contrasts. Panama City has as many tall modern skyscrapers as we have seen anywhere we have been so far. Yet, in the shadows of those beautiful and modern buildings are third world slum type buildings exhibiting the poverty that is apparently present. The Panama Canal transit was an experience of a lifetime, as they say. It is a wonder what people can do if they put their minds and money to it.

The two countries share the Spanish language, but not much more that we could see. It was a worthwhile vacation.

[Monday, Dec. 18] We left Houston on United 1032 at 9:35 am and arrived in Panama City, Panama at 2:35 pm local time. We changed to Copa Airlines and departed about 3:45 pm Panama time. The difference in the quality of the two airlines was stark. Copa was great! United was poor. The Economy class on Copa was better than the Premium Economy class on United.

We arrived in Santiago at 12:05 am on Tuesday morning and were met at the exit of customs by our driver to take us to Hotel Plaza San Francisco for our stay.

[Tuesday] Today after breakfast in our hotel, we walked outside to look around the area. Right outside our hotel was the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, the oldest surviving building in Santiago. The church was built in 1618. The bell tower was rebuilt in 1857, after it was destroyed in an earthquake. The church has survived 2 major earthquakes.

Afterwards we walked a few blocks to the Plaza de Armas. As we made our way down the pedestrian walk to the plaza, we saw more people on the streets than we have seen almost anywhere we have gone. It was very hot and sunny. We saw many interesting shops and buildings along the streets. Surrounding the plaza were several interesting buildings, including the Catedral Metropolitana, to which we made a brief visit.

After walking around the plaza, we returned to the hotel.

< < Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco.

< < Catedral Metropolitana.

Click on the small photos to enlarge them.

At 3:00pm we met our guide in the lobby for our Private Santiago City Half Day Tour that we had booked beforehand on We finished the tour about 6:30pm. Here is a summary of what we did from their website.

Your tour starts with hotel pickup for the drive to your first stop, Club Hipico de Santiago, followed by a drive through one of the city's old, wealthy neighborhoods where you can admire the architecture and hear about some of the people who live here. Then head toward the city's civic center to see sights such as the parade ground, Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, La Moneda Palace, and the post office. Next, depending on your option selected when booking, head up to Santa Lucia Hill or San Cristobal Hill for photo ops, and then check out a traditional craft shop. Your last stop is Mercado Central (Central Market), where you can look around and have lunch, if you wish. Your tour then ends with return to your pickup point. Read more at: Viator Santiago City Half Day Tour.

< < < Views from Lucia Hill and San Cristobal Hill.

< Presidential Palace.

[Wednesday] Today we took the Full Day Tour of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar from 8:15 am to 6:15 pm. We went with a small group and a mini-van westward from Santiago to the cities on the Pacific Ocean. Here is a summary.

Your day begins with a pickup from your Santiago hotel at around 8:30am. Greet your driver-guide, settle in to the minivan, and hit the road to discover the central coast of Chile.

Drive 1.5 hours to the historic port city of Valparaiso. Upon arrival take a scenic drive through the city to get your bearings. Now its time to explore closer, so get out the van to start your walking tour through the main highlights of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Historic Quarter and more.

Beginning in the flat part of the city, explore Muelle Prat (the port), Plaza Sotomayor (Sotomayor Square), and the business district.

Move on to the hills of Valparaiso. Travel up to the charming hills of Concepcion and Alegre by traditional ascensores, funiculars dating from the late 19th century. Explore Victorian architecture, boutique stores, spectacular viewpoints to the bay and colorful houses on the hills, winding alleyway, and diverse street art.

At lunch time, visit a local restaurant enjoy delicious Chilean cuisine.

After lunch head for Viña del Mar. The city is nicknamed 'Garden City' for its many parks and flower-filled gardens. Stop to see the 'flower clock,' a genuine moai statue from Easter Island, and for a walk on the beach.

Before leaving Vina del Mar you can visit a special place on the coast where sea lions.

Your final stop is the Casablanca Valley to learn all about Chilean wine. Visit Indomita vineyard which has a great view of the valley as well delicious wines available for tasting (included).

Read more at: Tour of Valparaiso & Vina del Mar

< <

< < < < < < Scenes from Valparaiso & Vina del Mar.

After we returned from our day trip and ate supper, we attended a Christmas Concert at Metropolitan Cathedral from 8:30 to 10:30 pm. The concert featured Con el Maestro Roberto Bravo on the piano. It was an excellent concert in a beautiful church.

< Concierto de Navidad.

[Thursday] This morning we walked south of the hotel to Basilica de los Sacramentinos and back to the hotel. The sun was hot and we cooled in our room.

< < Basilica de los Sacramentinos.

< < Lots of food for sale on the street.

At 3:00 pm we took the Small Group Tour of the Santiago Open Sky Street Art and a Chilean traditional meal. We rode the subway and stopped at the San Miguel neighborhood to see how they have painted the old apartments that were built for factory workers in the past. We ate a lite meal at a house with a couple of ladies that prepared the meal for us there in their home. Then rode the subway back to near the hotel.

Your tour begins at the Fuente a la Gloria de Bolivar, located in the center of Plaza de Armas, where you'll greet your guide in red. From here, you'll escape the tourist crowds by taking the subway to San Miguel, a formerly neglected district that has been radically transformed by the Open Sky street museum project.

During the short journey, your guide offers insight into San Miguel's history before taking you on a tour of the district's 40 vibrant murals. Appreciate artistic details including brush techniques and materials used, discover the stories behind each urban masterpiece, and admire the neighborhood's statuesque architecture.

Then, following a lengthy wander, satisfy your appetite with traditional Chilean snacks in a local home. Relish Chilean hospitality as you feast on freshly baked bread, avocados, eggs, and sweet cakes, while chatting to your host. Your tour concludes back at your original departure point in Plaza de Armas.

Read more about Open Sky Street Art Museum and Traditional Meal at: Street Art Tour.

< < < Street Art in Santiago.

< Traditional meal.

[Friday] We got up at 5:15 am this morning and ate a fast breakfast at the hotel and took our taxi to the airport. We took Sky Airlines flight 001 to Puerto Montt, located in the Lake District. The area was settled by German immigrants back in the late 1840's, and their influence is widely seen in the construction of the homes using shingled siding.

We were an hour late taking off and arrived in Puerto Montt at 11:30, where our driver met us and took us to The Gran Pacifico Hotel.

At 3:30 pm we took the Private Puerto Montt Sightseeing Tour which included a drive north to Puerto Varas, where we visited Iglesia Parroquial Del Sagrado Corazon, or Parish Church of the Sacred Heart, along with many other scenic spots, as outlined below.

On this private city tour, see the residential area on the way to the Costanera Avenue which runs along the seashore. On arrival at the area of Pelluco with its beaches and yacht club, appreciate the views from here before continuing to Chinquihue and the craft village of Angelmo which also has a picturesque fishing port. Taste some local delicacies based on the regions seafood and enjoy a wander round the craft shops selling knitwear and woolen goods.

Read more about Private Tour: Puerto Montt Sightseeing at: Puerto Montt Sightseeing.

< View of the bay in Puerto Montt. < Overlooking Puerto Montt.

< < < Seafood and vegetable market.

< The seals are waiting to be fed fish scraps from the filets.

< Fishing boats.

< < Iglesia Parroquial Del Sagrado Corazon.

< Old house that shows the German influence of shingled siding.

[Saturday] Today the weather was nice but very cool - warm coats. We went south of Puerto Montt onto a very large island - Chiloe Island. We had to take a ferry to get there and back. We visited 3 picturesque villages along the shore - Chacao, Ancud, Castro and Dalcahue. We visited Museo Regional de Ancud, the ruins of an old Chilean fort, Fuerte San Antonio and Iglesia San Antonio de Chacao on the city square in Chacao.

In Dalcahue we walked through the seaside street and saw the fishing boats. We visited the Church of Dalcahue. We ate a large lunch of local seafood at a rustic private restaurant on top of a hill overlooking Dalcahue.

In Castro we took a boat ride to see the colorful houses built on stilts along the shore.

It was a 12-hour day of travel and site-seeing. We got a good view of the local volcanoes as we returned to Puerto Montt. Below is information from the website.

Departing from Puerto Montt and after crossing the Chacao Channel we'll be arriving at Chacao Village where a typical square is one of the attractions among others.

Nice and picturesque constructions stand out in this Village. We will visit the wooden church in addition to the more than 150 churches existing in Chiloe. Most of them are declared National Monuments.

We will continue to the City of Ancud where we'll enjoy a spectacular view from the Huaihuen Hill lookout. Visit to Arena Gruesa (thick sand) beach, San Antonio fortress, which is an old Spanish fortress dating back to 18th century. Visit to the Interactive and handicraft museum of Ancud, Municipal Market, downtown and Costanera avenue (promenade).

The myths, customs, traditions and magical tales will be narrated by our guides.

The passengers will be immersed into the interesting world of the unknown that surrounds this island called Chiloe.

During the tour we have the chance to stop in a typical restaurant.

Return to Puerto Montt and the respective hotels.

Read more about Day Trip to Ancud and Chiloe from Puerto Montt 2018 at: Ancud & Chiloe.

< < Iglesia San Antonio de Chacao

< More of the German immigrant homes. < San Antonio Fortress.

< Dalcahue street scene with the stray dog.

< Overlooking Dalcahue from our lunch restaurant.

< < Yum, yum.

< < < Taking a boat ride in Castro.

< View of Puerto Montt from our hotel with Mt. Calbuco in the upper left.

[Sunday] Today we took a day trip and went to the north from Puerto Montt to the Petrohue Waterfalls, which are in the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park. The weather turned against us with overcast, wind and light mist all day. The waterfalls were at their peak now at the end of their spring season so they were very impressive.

We returned to Puerto Varas and ate lunch at Cassis Restaurant. On the way back, we stopped at Laguna Verde, an intensely green lagoon surrounded by lava rock and emerald forest.

We then went to the town of Frutlllar and saw some more of the German immigrant influence in the home construction in the area.

The area we visited today is near two active volcanoes. Mt. Osorno, which resembles Mt. Fuji in Japan, and Mt. Calbuco which erupted 2 years ago with ash covering the National Park where we were today and some of the surrounding towns. The clouds prevented us from seeing the mountains today.

Our guide today is the reigning Miss Chile/World. Her father is American and her mother is Chilean. She attends a university in Portland, Oregon, and is working as a tour guide to help finance her education. She hopes to start her own tour company in the Punta Arenas area. She was a beautiful young lady and an excellent guide. See information from the website below.

After pickup port or hotel, you will head to Frutillar. Walk alongside Lake Llanquihue, the largest lake in Chile, with the view of Volcano Osorno in the background. Here, you shall enjoy seeing the majestic German houses with beautiful gardens full of fragrant roses, and the begonias.

After you have walked around town accompanied by your expert guide, head to the van where you will go see the monumental "Theatre of the Lake" of Frutillar. From here, head back south to the town of Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas was colonized by German settlers and is known for its German traditions, seafood, natural scenery and luxurious hotels.

This town is located on the shores of Llanquihue Lake and the perfect cone of Osorno Volcano and the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Calbuco and Mt Tronador are visible from the lakefront. You will enjoy walking around town filled with fragrant roses and historical statues that represent the history and founding of the town. If you enjoy shopping for souvenirs to take back home or simply enjoy looking at the local crafts this is a great place to do it.

From here, we continue our journey to Ensenada, and then towards Petrohue Waterfalls which is the cherry on the top of this great excursion. Once you get to the location where the falls are located, you'll embark on an easy walk with your guide to a pathway that leads to the waterfalls. You will see water tumbling over the lip of volcanic rocks, with the waters turning beautiful shades of blue and green. Surrounded by a thick forest, the falls stand against the gorgeous backdrop of Osorno Volcano, making for amazing photo opportunities. The mysterious and breathtaking emerald color of the lake is due to a microscopic algae and minerals in the water. Legend says that whoever drinks from its waters will have good luck for the rest of his or her life.

Read more about Frutillar, Puerto Varas and Petrohue Waterfalls Excursion at: Frutillar, Puerto Varas & Petrohue Waterfalls.

< < Petrohue Falls in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park.

< Laguna Verde

< < Buildings in Frutillar with German influence.

< Our guide for the day was the reigning Miss Chile/World.

[Monday, Dec 25] Today was Christmas Day and we flew from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas and then rode a bus to Puerto Natales. We traveled all day. We arranged a taxi from Hotel Gran Pacifico to the airport at 9:00 am and caught a taxi at the Punta Arenas airport to the Bus-Sur terminal. Once in Puerto Natales we took a taxi to Hotel Costaustralis.

The only way to get from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas is by ship on the Pacific Ocean, via car driven through Argentina or by airplane. There are no commercial flights between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales, hense our multi-mode of travel. Everything worked out as planned and it was a nice day, albeit a little different from your traditional Christmas Day.

< Our Sky Airlines A320. < Flying south.

< < On road from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales via Bus-Sur.

[Tuesday] Today we took a tour of Torres del Paine National Park. We were picked up at the hotel at 8:30 am and we were returned at 6:30 pm. The weather was very good for that part of the world - we were very fortunate. But, lets just say that the wind was VERY STRONG at some of the stops, to the point of it being hard to stand up straight. It was a wonderful day trip into the most beautiful mountains that you could find in the world. Below is the summary from the Viator website. We actually did the Park first and the Milodon Cave last.

Depart from your hotel in Puerto Natales in a comfortable, air-conditioned minivan with your experienced guide. Sink back into your seat and watch the spectacular scenery begin to unravel as you journey north to the mountain of Cerro Benitez. Arrive at the Milodon Cave Natural Monument and delve into the darkened depths to encounter life-size replicas of a prehistoric giant sloth. Gain fascinating insight in the 19th century discovery of the extinct creatures as you stroll past stalactite-studded crevices and arrive at a legendary landmark known as the Devil's Chair. Return to the vehicle and venture further north to enjoy a revitalizing coffee break at the impressive villa in Castle Hill. Feel your excitement heighten as you approach the entrance of the phenomenal park, which sprawls over 447,000 acres.

Walk westward beside the iridescent wonder of the Nordenskjold Lake until you reach the rushing and roaring Salto Grande Waterfall. Admire the power of the natural landmark from a vertiginous vantage point, scanning the landscape for native herds of guanaco.

Then, venture to the center of the park to the inviting and intimate Hosteria Pehoe, a rustic hotel nestled in an islet of Lake Pekoe. Pleasure your palate with a flavorsome and fulfilling lunch before wandering the dramatic shores of the lake.

Revitalized, trek towards the colossal glacier at the north of the Grey Lake. Admire the sparkling spectrum of color upon the water's surface before gasping at the enchanting enormity of the 90-foot high glacier.

Head back to the minivan and gaze out of the windows at more stunning sights as you travel back towards Puerto Natales; capture the grandeur of the park's granite towers on film before sitting back in your seat for the scenic journey back.

Read more about Torres del Paine National Park in One Day from Puerto Natales at: Torres del Paine National Park.

< On the road to the park.

< First stop and the mountains are looking good.

< Guanaco at our next stop.

< <

< < Really impressive mountains now, and the weather is near perfect.

< Salto Grande Waterfall. < Going toward the Waterfall.

< < On the trail to Grey Glacier.

< Looking across Lake Grey at a iceberg from Grey Glacier.

< Grey Glacier in the background. < Looking across Lake Del Toro.

< < <

< Milodon Cave Natural Monument.

[Wednesday] This was a free day for us. We didn't plan any specific activity. In the morning we walked to the downtown area and found a bank with ATMs, and replenished our Pesos. We stopped at a pharmacy for some Sunscreen and a supermarket to buy some Kleenex and some snacks.

We came back to the hotel and in mid-afternoon we went back to the downtown and ate a late lunch and then had a desert and coffee at a chocolate cafe.

We then bought gifts, and returned to the hotel for the day.

< View of the mountains from in front of our hotel in Puerto Natales.

< Looking inside a restaurant window.

< Wildflowers of the area and a unique garbage can.

< Some of the animals in the area.

< A restaurant housed in shipping containers.

< Our Hotel Costaustralis. < Even the residents wear backpacks.

< These beautiful flowers were plentiful here.

< The Chocolateria. < Nothing beats a nice dessert on a cold day.

[Thursday] This morning after breakfast in the hotel, we took a taxi to the Bus-Sur terminal and took the 10:15 am bus back to Punta Arenas. We arrived at 1:00 pm and walked one block to Hotel Tierra Del Fuego.

After checking in, we walked about 5 blocks to the meet point for our Magdalena Island Penguin Tour by Boat from Punta Arenas tomorrow morning at 6:30 am.

We came back to the hotel and ate a late lunch in the hotel restaurant. It began to rain outside and the wind blew very strong.

By the time we finished lunch, the rain had stopped and we walked down to the waterfront and along it for awhile before returning to the hotel for the night.

< Bus-Sur getting ready to depart.

< < Placing our hands into the waters of the Straight of Magellan.

[Friday] We left the hotel at 6:10 am this morning and walked a few blocks to the office of our Magdalena Island Penguin Tour.

Upon arrival at Magdalena Island, we walked up the roped off trail to the Magdalena Island Lighthouse. The wind was blowing pretty fiercely. We saw many penguins and other birds along the way. We spent about an hour on the island and got a really good look at the penguins. The boat ride back to shore was very rough, because of the high wind that caused high waves. We were supposed to go by another island on the way back to shore, but the water was too rough.

After the tour ended, we ate lunch in a nearby restaurant. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a tour office and scheduled a Punta Arenas city tour for tomorrow at 3:00 pm.

This afternoon the weather turned bad. The wind blew at 45-55 mph and it rained into the night. Sundown is at 10:12 pm and sunup is at 5:19 am this time of the year here - supposedly Summer.

After eating supper in the hotel, we talked to the hotel receptionist at length about Punta Arenas. He said that in September the wind can be so bad some days that it will blow you down and you can't get up, so nobody goes out of their homes on a day like that. Might just want to scratch Punta Arenas off your potential retirement home listing.

Below is the Viator summary of our day trip. The weather had some impact on our tour.

After pickup from our meeting point in Punta Arenas, ride in your comfortable minivan to the picturesque pier; climb aboard an awaiting powerboat and speed over the sea to the Strait of Magellan. Observe the water for the protruding fins of wild dolphins then arrive at the small and serene Magdalena Island.

Also known as Los Pinguinos Natural Park, the protected reserve has been a breeding site of Magellanic penguins since 1982. Gasp as you lay eyes on thousands of penguins crowding the shore, squawking and frolicking happily in their natural habitat.

Disembark and follow your guide down a cordoned-off trail that meanders around the island; delight in the curious nature of the penguins, which are sure to cross your path as you stroll. Observe hundreds of penguin burrows and gain fascinating insight into the mating habits and behavior of the birds; keep an eye out for swooping cormorants and Andean seagulls during the hike.

Ascend to the island's highest elevation and enter the historical lighthouse, home to interesting exhibits regarding the rich ecosystem of the enclave. Refresh and revitalize with warming coffee and sweet biscuits before boarding your boat for the shore back to the mainland. Capture fabulous photographs of sea lions and elephant seals lounging on the shores before returning to Punta Arenas main square Plaza Munoz Gamero where your tour will finish.

Read more about Magdalena Island Penguin Tour by Boat - Punta Arenas at: Magdalena Island Penguin Tour.

< < <

< Some of the 100,000 penquins on the island.

< < At the Magdalena Island Lighthouse.

< Looking out our boat window toward an accompanying boat.

< Back safely at shore.

[Saturday] The weather this morning is very nice by Punta Arenas standards. After breakfast in the hotel, we walked to Palacio Sara Braun and toured two of the old historic homes.

< < Museo Braun Menendez.

< < Palacio Sara Braun.

< < Catedral De Punta Arenas.

In the afternoon we took the city tour that we had booked the day before, which included going to a hill in the city to get a good look at the city and the Straight of Magellan. We visited the city square and the waterfront. We ended up at a historic cemetery where Sara Braun was buried.

< Our shadows cast to the south.

< Overlooking Punta Arenas toward the Magellan Straight.

< Statue of Magellan in Plaza De Armas.

< Monument to the settlers of Punta Arenas.

< Cemetery where Sara Braun is buried.

[Sunday] After breakfast we went by taxi to the airport at 11:00 am. We took Sky Airlines to Santiago. Our driver was waiting for us as we exited the airport, to take us to the Plaza San Francisco Hotel. We ate dinner in the hotel as they were preparing for the big New Years partly later that evening.

We were able to observe the Santiago city fireworks display from our hotel room window. We asked for a free upgrade and were accommodated with a suite with a view of the fireworks.

< Our Sky Airlines plane. < Volcanoes along the way to Santiago.

< Street closed prior to fireworks. < New Year 2018 fireworks.

[Monday, Jan 01] After breakfast in the hotel, our taxi took us to the Santiago airport and we departed on time to Panama City on Copa Airlines flight CMP118. We arrived in Panama City, Panama at about 4:30 pm local time. The security for entrance to Panama was the most thorough that we have encountered. They photographed us and took a full set of fingerprints of both hands.

Our driver picked us up as we exited the baggage claim and took us to our hotel, Double Tree by Hilton.

After checking in, we walked down the street to an ATM and got a little more money. Panama uses the US dollar as their currency. We ate supper in the hotel restaurant and went to bed by 10:00 pm.

[Tuesday] After breakfast in the hotel, we arranged a tour of the city for tomorrow at 9:00am.

About 8:30 am, our tour bus arrived to take us to the Panama Canal Partial Transit Tour. We were transported to the office on Flamenco Island, and then, after checking in, they bussed us to Gamboa to meet our boat. We were traveling from toward the Atlantic to the Pacific side of the canal.

We boarded the boat about 11:00 am. We accompanied the Inland Sea container ship and a private catamaran through the locks. The lake portion of the canal is 85 feet above sea level. The two sets of locks facilitate entry and exit from the lake. We went through the Pedro Miguel Locks first, then through the Miraflores Locks. Each of the locks has multiple sets of gates that lowered us from the lake level until we finally reached the Pacific level. It was a fascinating journey. We crossed the continental divide on our cruise. We returned about 4:30 pm to the tour office and then by bus back to our hotel by 5:30 pm. It was a great experience.

Here is the description from the Viator website. We actually did in the reverse direction.

This partial transit cruise through the Miraflores Locks takes you into one of three lock systems used along the Panama Canal - an experience not to be missed! The canal's construction is considered one of the largest and most challenging engineering projects ever undertaken before it was opened in 1914, enabling efficient passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

After hotel pickup in the morning, you'll travel toward La Playita pier on an approximate 1.5-hour drive through Panama City. Journey along the Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador), a man-made network of four small islands near the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Enjoy breathtaking views of the canal and Panama City skyline before boarding your vessel.

Cruise for approximately 60 minutes along the Panama Canal until reaching the Miraflores Locks. Depending on the number of boats present on your date of travel, you'll most likely have to wait a short while before it's your ship's turn inside the locks, but the scene before you is worth it. Enjoy great photo ops as you watch vessels traveling through Miraflores.

You'll be amazed as your ship is raised up to 54 feet in a two-step process while water from the lake fills the lock's chambers. Once the process is finished, continue cruising to the Pedro Miguel Locks before arriving at the Gamboa pier.

Here, disembark to re-board the coach for the return transfer to your Panama City hotel.

Read more about Panama Canal Partial Transit Sightseeing Cruise at: Panama Canal Partial Transit.

< < <

< < <

< < Our transit through the Panama Canal.

< Bridge of the Americas.

[Wednesday] Today we took a tour of the city that we had scheduled through a lady in the hotel the day before. We were picked up at 9:00 am for our private city tour. First we went to Panama Viejo, the ruins of the first Spanish settlement in the Western Hemisphere. We saw the ruins and climbed a tower for the overlook. Then we toured the museum. Afterwards we went to the old city, where they moved when the original settlement was abandoned. We then drove to the causeway to see some of the best views of the city. A souvenir stop was included. After returning to the hotel, we walked to La Vespa Restaurant and ate our last supper in Panama.

< Overlooking Panama Viejo from the tower. < Photo stop.

< < San Jose Church.

< < San Francisco de Asis Church. < Street in old city.

[Thursday] This morning we took a random walk from the hotel to the seaside. It turned out to be a very fruitful stroll and we got our best up-close view of the city yet. We arrived back at the hotel about 10:30 am and relaxed until our driver picked us up at a little after 12:00 pm for our trip to the airport.

We made it to the airport about 12:45 pm and breezed through the bag drop and the full and complete security screen.

At the gate, before we entered the airplane, we went through another full and complete security screen. That's OK with me. We left on time and arrived in Houston early.

< Most unusual building.

< < Overlooking Panama City.

This draws to a close our vacation to Chile and Panama. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.

Goodbye for now,

Lawson & Kay

March 14, 2018

Comments on Chile:

Graffiti is an ever present display on just about any surface that will accept paint.

Stray dogs are in abundance in all downtown cities. They are not aggressive to people and ignore everyone around, unless you want to pet or feed them, both of which they seem to like. Residents provide food and water for the neighborhood dogs.

Maybe as the results of the above, we rarely saw a stray cat.

Napkins used in all the restaurants are tiny, compared to US standards.

The difference in weather between central Chile and southern Chile in their summer is stark.

Like Europe, the hotels don't have bath cloths.

Flying internally using Sky Airlines is the best way to move about the country, due to the great distances involved. They are a great "no frills" airline. They fly relatively new A320 aircraft, and if you pay a little extra to sit in the front section (we got the first row) you have great legroom.

Chile has a "third world" look, but the country is modern in most ways, we found.

English is not very widely known outside hotels that cater to tourists. But using the Google Translate app and a little Spanish and some sign language, we made it just fine.

The cross country bus system is very good. Our experience with Bus-Sur was good and reliable.

The only thing similar to the US for hamburgers and hotdogs is the name.

Salads usually seem to consist of mostly tomato and avocado.

Copa Airlines is a Panamanian airline and a member of the Star Alliance. They fly new 737-800 aircraft and their Economy class is better than United's Premium Economy. Great airline. They served two hot meals on the 6-hour flight from Panama to and from Santiago.

Comments on Panama:

There is the starkest contrast of old and new, beautiful and squalid poverty in the city.

We were here in the "dry season", but it still rained a lot. Fortunately it was at night.

The infrastructure looks very old - maybe from the 1914 era when the canal was built.

Lots more tall buildings than a city of 1.5 million residents could justify. Unusual architectural designs are abundant.

The Panama Canal transit was a "bucket list" experience.

Drainage of the streets is above ground using a 1 foot gap between the asphalt and the curbs.

Traffic is terrible during commute times.

Many above ground electrical lines that look almost impossible to decipher.

Although we didn't ride it, they have a modern subway system.

Security at the airport was just about as tight as anywhere we have been. It is the only time we had all fingers on both hands scanned and a face photo to enter the country.

When we went through security to go to the gate, had to remove everything including shoes to exit through the detectors. Before we could board the airplane at the gate there was another full security check that included metal detector and removal of all worn items not your clothing.

As in every other airport we visited, they are expanding their airport terminal.

When traveling on the Panama Canal, you go northwest to get from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific is east of the Atlantic.

This is my Father's world, and to my list'ning ears all nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas; His hands the wonders wrought. (Hymn: This Is My Father's World, c.1901)

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