Just before our friends left to return to Canada, we decided to take a day trip and show them Portobello. This is one of my favorite places in Panama and I have written about it before, both in this blog and for International Living Magazine.
The new toll road, off Corridor North, makes the trip to the Caribbean side quick and easy. You turn off the highway just before Colon and make your way east for around an hour to your destination. The nicely paved two-lane road winds along the coast past beaches, houses and the odd restaurant, eventually landing you in Portobello.
When I visit this beautiful place on the Caribbean, I cannot help but think about the rich and plentiful history told by the remnants of this former Spanish deep-water port. It is a fascinating story about gold plundered from Central America, which was consolidated here for shipment back to Spain. This, not surprisingly, attracted Pirates and eventually Britain who decided they needed Portobello more than the Spanish or the Pirates. Finally, Portobello returned to Spanish control but sadly many people died here as history played out over the years.
This place has been a UN World Heritage Site for several years now, but only recently are you seeing evidence of reconstruction and restoration. I cannot say that I like the results at this point. The restored work is overly obvious as the patina of the old stonework is lost to the bright white rocks, cement and bricks of the restoration. It will be years before nature finally completes the work by weathering everything to the same color.
The ever present highly noticeable scaffoldings, barricades and caution tape will forever mar many tourist’s pictures for a long time to come. You really have to pay careful attention and plan your shots to avoid capturing the modern stuff spoiling the old.
The scenic splendor of this area will take your breath away. The small boats moored in the protected waters of the inlet add to the Caribbean atmosphere, ever present in this area. We stopped at one of the growing number of restaurant we had not seen before. The start of the tourist season has seen a number of places come to life with bright signs and colorful paint jobs. We stopped at one built out over the Caribbean where you could see the sea between the floorboards. The atmosphere was perfect, the views spectacular and the breezes gentle. The food was not particularly good but the rest of it made the stop worthwhile.
When you visit Panama next, do not miss Portobello.