Blog : Panama City

The boy is back in town

The boy is back in town

Contemplating my journey back to London tomorrow – I have been in Panama now for just over two months – I am not looking forward to the change in temperature! I do love the fact that I can live here (Panama) and just wear shorts and flip flops all year long come rain or shine (except on a bus journey from the City to Bocas (del Toro)).

A tourist in my home

I must say, even though I was born here and lived here until I was 18 years old, I do feel like a tourist at times. If I really think about it I have pretty much lived most of my adult life out of Panama, which to me sounds (and feels) a bit weird. A lot has changed since I last spent a significant amount of time in my home country.

The heat. The heat is something you have to adapt to. It can get crazy hot in the City. Once you get to Bocas you can feel the cool breeze coming from the sea. I love Panama but I love being in Bocas. I guess it’s where I find my peace and also being there with the people, the local community and family, reminds me of why we are doing this.

Cherish moments

It’s true what they say and it might sound cliché but you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. And it has taken me over 20 years to realize this, but it also made realize that you must cherish moments, life, family, friends, and make the most of any situation. Life is too damn short – you’re here today, gone tomorrow.

Being in Panama these past months, I’ve also seen how politics is involved in most things here, well, I guess that’s the same everywhere, but it feels very heavy here. It’s truly ‘who you know’ and not ‘what you know’. You have to combine the ‘know-who’ with the ‘know-how’. And because of this, a lot that should get done doesn’t get done – a tale that’s true in a number of places around the world. Sometimes it frustrates me as you can see what needs to be done, but that doesn’t always take priority on the political agenda. This makes me feel even more strongly that if we want change, a lot of that has to come from us, and the business community can play a big part in this – especially a social business.

But for all these things, there is no other place like Panama on the planet. The place, the people, the culture is unique. You have to truly immerse yourself in it and you will then fall in love with what I believe to be a little piece of paradise on Earth.

Until the next time, #liveslow! And I guess we all will, with Christmas and the holiday season coming up!

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News from the isthmus

News from the isthmus

Hello my treetop lovers,

As some of you already know, we decided to divide and conquer! I have been in Panama for the past couple of weeks now, hunting down potential investors, following up leads, speaking to potential partners and just getting the bíku name out there.

Back home

I must say it has been great to be living back home after so many years away. In some ways I feel the same way I felt when I first moved to the UK, a period of adjustment and getting used to the way of life. Having left Panama at 17/18 years old you could say I have lived away for most of my adult life. So it’s getting used to the changes that have happened in Panama since I left.

Even though only two weeks, it has been a bit difficult at times but we are prepared for this and as they say – you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Follow those leads

I’ve been knocking on those doors, email ‘stalking’, WhatsApp..ing, whatever it takes to get bíku off the ground. I have some exciting meetings lined up in the next few weeks – and Zabrina has got some exciting things in the pipeline back in London, so watch this space.

I want to leave you with something that I read a while ago: inspiration is like bathing, it’s very effective but it must be practised on a regular basis(!).

Stay inspired mi gente.

Until next time, #liveslow!

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Getting to know Casco Viejo

Getting to know Casco Viejo

We’ve got to know Panama City fairly well over the past few years as we always make a two-three day stop there before heading to Bocas del Toro, on our bíku project recces. Without fail, on each trip we’ll make sure to spend some time in Casco Viejo – the ‘old quarter’ – a beautiful part of the city. Do not confuse this with Panamá Viejo, which is the ‘original’ city of Panama, founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1519. After being ransacked in 1671, the city was relocated to what is today known as Casco Viejo. Ruins are now all that remain of Panamá Viejo – they are a must see.

Right, so, Casco Viejo! Strolling through Casco Viejo itself and just taking in the beautiful, crumbling and cracked pastel facades is, in itself, half the charm of this part of the city. However, as the restoration of the Casco continues the number of cracks and crumbles are becoming less and less as these wonderful buildings are returned to their former glory. I have a love of ruins and the cracks and crumbles that come with that – so do hope that some of that will persist…

Casco Viejo is a pretty stylish neighbourhood with new bars, coffee shops, restaurants and boutique hotels popping up – I’m sure there’s something new each time we visit. We wanted to share with you a snippet of some of the places we like. 

Mercado de Mariscos

On the cusp of Casco Viejo, the seafood market (Mercado de Mariscos) offers a piece of the real Panama. In addition to the traders market, there are a number of smaller seafood restaurants offering the freshest catch. But for us what’s best is picking up a cup of ceviche from one of the stalls in the market. This is no frills at its finest! Expect fresh and flavoursome.

Esteban Huertas promenade

If you’re looking for a great view out across the Bay of Panama and somewhere to pick up a trinket or two for those loved ones back home, Esteban Huertas is for you. The promenade is built on top of the old city’s outer wall. My favourite part of the paseo is strolling beneath the bougainvillea arches and perusing the crafts of the Kuna women (one of the seven indigenous communities of Panama, but probably best known / recognised). It’s the perfect place to take in the juxtaposition of old meets new – being in the old quarter looking out across the bay and the skyscraper skyline of the modern world.

Hotel Casa Panama

As with a number of the hotels, bars and restaurants in Casco Viejo, Hotel Casa Panama is a relatively new addition to the neighbourhood, opening in the past few years. The interior design is what drew us into the hotel’s courtyard – it brings a piece of Southeast Asian vibes – think Bali – to the Casco. The owners have been sensitive to the quarter’s history, maintaining and leaving exposed the old city walls – which are a strong feature in a number of the rooms.

The hotel offers a roof top pool and bar, with spectacular views of the entire Casco Viejo as well as the high rises across the bay. In addition you can sample some great Latin American cuisine at the Lazotea Rooftop Restaurant – which we love. For those wanting a bit more of a Spanish tapas-Argentine fusion, pop next door to the Restaurant Santa Rita – which is run by the same owners.

The hotel and restaurant(s) offer great value for money and great hospitality; the level of service is five star, not something you get everywhere in the city!

American Trade Hotel

To us, the American Trade Hotel is a sanctuary in the heart of Casco Viejo. Always cool and airy, it’s stunningly designed and somewhere you can escape the Panama heat! The hotel’s lobby boasts high ceilings and a modern twist on ‘colonial’ design. You feel like you’re stepping back in time but simultaneously are in contemporary surroundings – quite an achievement. As with many of the buildings in the Casco, the American Trade Hotel has an interesting history. Built in 1917, designed by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the building was home to a department store as well as apartments. I would strongly recommend reading the Yatzer article for further details about the hotel, its history and restoration.

This place is definitely worth a stay – try to book a room that looks out across Plaza Herrera for the best views of the bay. In addition, it’s become quite a hub for creatives, so expect MacBooks and entrepreneur meetings alongside the mocha. The latter can be picked up from Café Unido, also housed in the hotel’s lobby.

The restoration of Casco Viejo has saved many of the buildings. KC Hardin – the man behind much of the reinvestment in the Casco probably says it best, ‘you come for the buildings, stay for the people.’ And, bearing that in mind, I just hope that – with the reinvestment and restoration – the neighbourhood continues to be the home for local Panamanians who have lived there for years. After all, it is the people that give the place life and vibrancy.

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Until next time, liveslow.

Beauty in the city

Beauty in the city

Panama visit – day 2. We’ll be trying to blog daily during our two-week recce to Panama. This is our last trip over here before our project crowdfunding in late September. We have meetings set up with conservationists, potential investors, collaborators, videographers, lawyers, builders and architects – so it will be a busy couple of weeks.

We saw this beautiful butterfly yesterday, just sunning itself against a sweet shop window. We’re not sure if this little fella is 100% ok – and looks like something might have taken a slice out of his wings. We hope he was ok – a beauty in the city.

They say it’s all about the journey …

… and not the final destination. Well, we’re not so sure on this occasion! Our door-to-door journey from London to Panama City was nearly a full 24 hours. We left our London flat at around 5.30am and arrived at Ariel’s sister’s place close to 11pm local time (4am the following morning, UK time). Wow! The journey isn’t normally this long – so you future b í k u treehouse ‘holidayers’ don’t have to worry. Also – there are direct flights from continental Europe to Panama, it’s just the UK that takes longer and hasn’t caught up with the direct flights yet.

We had a four-hour wait in Newark airport for our transfer to Panama. However, our flight was further delayed with air space being cleared for President Trump’s arrival at the airport … Thanks Donald!

But, it’s definitely worth it. One day down and we have already had an amazing meeting with a great contact of Ariel’s. We can’t divulge too much yet, but suffice to say that b í k u is much closer to becoming a reality than 48 hours ago.

Stick with us over the next two weeks to stay up to date with our project news.

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Until next time, #liveslow.