Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Ships: The Canal

After a great night with D on the pull-out couch bed, C in a pack-n-play, and Mom and Dad in *their own room*(!), we woke up to discover the incredible view from our suite.  We had a large balcony overlooking the Pacific entrance to the canal.  To the right was the "Bridge of the Americas," and to the left, we could look out to sea to watch the big ships queuing up for their canal transit.  It was a foggy morning and visibility wasn't too great, but it was definitely enough to impress us.

After breakfast buffet at the hotel restaurant (included), we suited up to enjoy the hotel's playground and pool, even though it was raining on and off.  (It's a rainforest, after all.)  Unfortunately, shortly after we started exploring the play structure a storm rolled in.  At first, it seemed like the thunder was well off in the distance, but soon we were seeing cloud-to-water strikes pretty nearby, so we ditched the pool, packed the kids up inside, and got ready to head over to the Miraflores Locks.

I think we were expecting a much more "Disney-fied" attraction over at Miraflores.  The access road to the locks is the official, hard working access road, that winds through the locks' hydroelectric station.  There weren't too many people there when we arrived in the rain, and this was amazing for being able to see the place.

We headed straight outside to the observation deck.  There were many Panamax cargo ships transiting from Atlantic to Pacific, hailing from all over the world.  There was a guy narrating the goings on in both Spanish and English.  We got to see the ships get into place in the lock, the water drain out, the lock doors open up, and then the locomotives on rails pull the ships through.  D liked the locomotives very much, as he's really into trains - he called them "chuggers."  And what do they do? "They chug."  Well, of course.  We watched three ships make the transit, and then we got some hot dogs and empanadas at the snack bar and watched some more. 

After lunch we went through the museum at the locks.  It's a really well-put-together display, going up four floors.  Each floor has a different theme: building the canal, canal and rainforest fish and wildlife, the controls for both the locks and the ships, new construction and new equipment.  D was really engaged through the whole thing.  Then at the end we went up onto the "roofdeck" for another perspective on the working locks and a lot of space to run around. 

At this point, we'd been there for a good long while, but we hadn't yet viewed the 3D movie, so we decided to pass the time until the next showing before leaving.  We went back down to the lower observation deck where it seemed quieter and there were chairs to sit on.  About two minutes after we got there, a very large school group from Colon arrived and took over the seating area.  Andrew got caught up in the middle of them, and ended up sitting in the middle of the top rows, surrounded by 7-10 year old kids.  The kids thought he was absolutely great.  He got tons of hugs and tickles and hair ruffles.  The kids talked to him in Spanish, and he was just soaking in all the attention. 

C had her own smaller fan club of little Panamanian girls who wanted to hold her, tickle her, etc.  They spoke no English, and kept wanting to tell me things, and I felt bad that I had to say, "I don't understand."  One girl noticed that C had a mark on her forehead where she had bumped it earlier (the hazards of being a 16-month-old walker), and pulled a pot of Vick's VapoRub out of her little purse.  It was such a sweet gesture that I let her put some on.  The chaperones who did speak some English told us how enthralled the school kids were with D and C.  It was a sweet experience, and I love that our kids are ambassadors.

We went in to go see the movie, which was only 10 minutes long, so I figured our kids could handle it.  I hadn't factored that it was pretty late and they'd had no nap.  Needless to say, they didn't have much patience for the movie, even though it was a super cool 3D presentation.

All in all it was a fantastic day.  We spent far longer there than I had expected too, and the kids, especially D, really seemed to learn some things and enjoy the spectacle.

We grabbed some dinner at the TGI Friday's connected to the hotel.  Not sexy, but easy, which is what we needed at the time.  After that, we put our suits back on and finally got in a little bit of pool time after dark.  The hotel had a shallow wading pool that was really perfect for the kids to splash around in.

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