American Trade Hotel & El Casco Viejo
I have dreamt about visiting the American Trade Hotel ever since it opened its doors in 2013. The AmTrade Hotel is located in Panama City's Casco Viejo barrio and was restored as part of a collaboration between Atelier Ace aka Ace Hotel, Conservatorio and Commune Design. As soon as it opened, the hotel was showing-up on websites and in magasines around the world, causing all us design-hungry travelers to avidly plot our next holiday in Panama City!
When my friend Silvia said she wanted to spend her 40th, Christmas & NYE in Costa Rica, and asked if I wanted to join her, I agreed on one condition - that we'd travel to Costa Rica via Panama City as I couldn't miss the opportunity of ticking it off my travel bucket list. And we did just that!
While I was researching the trip, I came across this article which I can't find anymore, but it was about Panama City and the restoration of the Casco Viejo (a UNESCO world heritage site). Said restoration has been primarily driven by construction company Conservatorio, whose co-founder, KC Hardin, is a story all to himself. KC Hardin took a 6month sabatical in '02 from his corporate lawyer job in a firm on Wall Street to go surfing in Panama and guess what? He never went back to NYC. Instead, he bought a youth hostel for $50K (which failed), then along with local lawyer Ramon Arias, founded the above mentioned construction company which, according to a '12 article in the Financial Times, is a "$50m Panamanian property and tourism fund". Hardin has done wonders restoring the once "poverty and crime-ridden area into a bona fide tourist destination" says the FT, while preserving its Colonial heritage and, per an article in the New York Times, "building affordable housing and working to get kids off the streets by offering jobs that ultimately improve the neighborhood." All I can say is bravo, as the Casco Viejo is pure magic!
Here are some photos I took about the hotel and barrio. I really suggest spending a couple days in Panama City to get the chance to spend a day getting lost in the Casco Viejo as well as a day visiting other attractions such as the Panama Canal or the Biomuseo. We only got to spend 24hrs the but I'll write more about that in my holiday post... when I get around to it!
PS: Avoid Trump Tower, even if it's the tallest building in the City. You know what they say about guys with tall buildings...