This week marks the 2 year anniversary of a really fun vacation that Tadd and I took with some really great people. Back in April 2011 (about a month before I started this blog!), a group of 12 of us sailed for 8 nights on the Carnival Freedom, stopping at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama.
I really loved this particular itinerary because it wasn’t your normal Caribbean island hopping cruise. Not that there is anything wrong with Caribbean island hopping (we will be doing just that later on this year). It’s just that the ports of call for this cruise were more focused on adventures in the rain forest, interacting with some incredible wildlife, and learning about different cultures. Something totally different, exotic, and FUN!
One of my favorite moments on the trip was our stop in Panama. We took a tour that had multiple stops. We got to see the Panama Canal, took a brief hike through the rainforest, but the best part was after the hike. We were taken to a small, secluded, driftwood-laden beach on the banks of the Chagres River.
Our guide pointed to a teeny bit of what looked like ruins on the top of a cliff and stated that this would be where we were headed next. You can see the cliff with the ruins behind us in the picture at the top of this post. Didn’t look like much from the beach. But this is what we saw when we got there:
This is Fort San Lorenzo, and it dates back to 1587. However, as military forts throughout history often are, this one was destroyed and rebuilt a few times, most recently in the 1750s. It was built by Spain to protect the Pacific/Atlantic trade route across the isthmus of Panama from pirates. I was totally enamored with the fact that some of the cannons (which were, as you can see, haphazardly strewn about the “gun deck” which has now completely been overgrown with grass) still had the seal of the Spanish crown. And these cannons were not roped off or encased in glass…They were just lying around in the open. As a matter of fact, the entire site was completely open to the public. Unlike Castillo De San Marcos in St. Augustine, which requires you to go through a ticket booth and purchase admission for a tour and even contains a gift shop, this has no gates or even anyone who appeared to be in a “park ranger” type role. It was just raw history, there to be discovered by anyone who cared to check it out. Aside from a few handrails and some signage, it didn’t look like it had been touched for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Between getting to be so close to some fascinating history, appreciating the impressive architecture of the fort, and those gorgeous views, I really felt like I was in a special place, and it’s something I have looked back on fondly over the two years since the trip. If I am ever lucky enough to make it back to Panama, I would love to go back (and with a much better camera!).
For us history geeks, there really is nothing like a beautiful, old Spanish fort…