Feature

Getting the flavor of...The city on the canal

Panama City's historic Casco Antiguo district has narrow streets full of ancient ruins, restaurants, and plazas.

The city on the canal
Panama City is a city at a crossroads, in more ways than one, said Benita Baker in the Ottawa Citizen. Not only does its famous canal serve as a bridge between the Pacific and the Atlantic, but it’s a place that’s “at once historic and ultramodern.” Part of the city is cosmopolitan, with “designer stores, glamorous women, and opulent private yachts.” The U.S. roots of some of the wealth are obvious: Expatriates are common, and the U.S. dollar is the city’s currency. But “the most charming part of Panama City is the historic Casco Antiguo,” a district dating back to the 17th century, with narrow streets full of ancient ruins, restaurants, and plazas. On any extended stay, a trip to the countryside is a must, for its “stunning beaches, luscious rain forests, waterfalls, mountains, and volcanoes.” One small wonder is El Valle de Antón, a town built on the amazingly fertile soil inside an extinct volcano crater.

A bird of paradise up north
Every fall, one of Canada’s smallest national parks serves as a “massive convention center for travelling monarchs,” said Susan Smith in the Toronto Globe and Mail. The unique geography of Point Pelee, a nine-mile landmass that juts out into Lake Erie from southwestern Ontario, makes it a favorite stopping point for hundreds of thousands of monarch butterflies that are heading to Mexico for the winter. “When they take flight en masse,” they “darken the sky.” The park, which occupies mainland Canada’s southernmost point, is also “a critical stopping-off point” for songbirds, raptors, and ducks. In all, bird-watchers at Point Pelee usually count between 600,000 and 750,000 migrating birds each year. Hiking and interpretive trails web through the park, and canoes and kayaks can be rented in order to reach the marshes’ best bird-watching spots. If you tire of craning your neck, don’t worry: “Pristine beaches await eager swimmers.”

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