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- Los Cuatro Tulipanes is Matt's apartment rentals in the historic district of Casco Viejo
- Las Clementinas is Matt's recommended 6-room boutique hotel in Panama City, Panama
- The Canal House is Matt's favorite restored guesthouse in the historic district of Panama City, Panama
- Panama Vacation Rentals is Matt's go-to place to find rentals in Panama
- United Country - Panama is Matt’s favorite agency to find premier properties all over Panama
The restoration of Casco Antiguo began a few years ago and the skyrocketing real estate prices can tell the whole story. Whereas five years ago you could have your pick of apartments, today they seem to be in such high demand that even those on the inside rely on timing and luck to find the right one. While the stuffy investor may walk through the streets looking at the vacant buildings thinking he's found a bargain, the truth is that most the great deals (from Avendia A to Avenida B and Calle 1 to Calle 10) are taken. Almost all the buildings, whether they look it or not, are in a transitional period. The handful of sophisticated apartments that exist are not for sale. One company realizing the effects of this boom is Los Cuatro Tulipanes, a boutique apartment rental agency and turn-key interior design service.
â€œWe are experiencing a very special period right now in Casco Antiguo,â€ noted its owner Paulus, a Dutch native and the co-mastermind behind Los Cuatro Tulipanes' distinct interior decoration. Paulus expressed concern over speculation issues regarding real estate in the old quarter: â€œSpeculation is a dangerous game to play in real estate because if everyone is waiting for their neighbor to renovate a building, things will never get done.â€ While many developers and real estate agencies get easily ticked off about legal and social snags, this gang seems to have the right viewpoint: â€œOur attitude regarding the rapid development is to accept the complications that we face, and not reject them.â€
This level-headed approach seems to be steering their boutique apartment company in the right direction. Los Cuatro Tulipanes has a fleet of apartments for rent, all near or around 100 square meters. The apartments have this neat Hemmingway-like interiorâ€”eclectic doodads and worldly relics which compliment the 17th century exposed stone walls and beaming new-age appliances. All their apartments are equipped with internet access, Direct TV, kitchen equipment, and full maid service. They include a fresh breakfast the morning after your arrival, as well as the rest of your stay if you so choose. They offer the only really good places to stay in Casco Antiguo and at just over $100 per night, one of their apartments beats a hotel anytime. Each of these little recesses are the perfect spots to retire after a seaside glass of champagne or maybe a night of opera at the National Theater.
Before this little experiment I thought one thing was for sure: you gotta have balls to live in Casco Antiguo. While the newly-renovated facades and chic restaurants around the water are spacious and relaxing, I always felt that the side streets (particularly at night) were suspect; this sort of eerie re-emergence of old school colonial life, where sanitation and order didn't really existâ€”the kind of place where you might envision a woman dumping a cauldron of scolding hot water out onto the street from her balcony or a boy running through an alley with a stolen ham. My time here over the past two days has changed that attitude though. There is a well defined area in Casco Antiguoâ€”about a 12 square block areaâ€”that is enormously improved. Still you have squatters living in buildings, but that's part of the deal. I wouldn't go quite as far as to say the screaming babies and shabby balconies are part of Casco Antiguo's charm, but they're not nearly as terrifying as critics cry about. The police force in the area is specially trained in tourism and (from my experience) is super sincere about their job. They patrol streets at night and create a definite tone of safety: the only crime that neighbors have reported recently has been several car break-ins and a robbery which ended innocuously in a stolen wallet. Similar to Panama trying to rid itself of the Noriega stigma, Casco Antiguo is working admirably to prove itself as a safe and secure historical retreat.
The restaurants in Casco Antiguo are too cool for school. They stack their food vertically, they squeeze-bottle their sauces, they serve comical drinks like watermelon and prickly pear mimosas, they name dishes using extra words like artisanal and top their appetizers with micro greens among other silly ingredients that belong in fields. The prices are perhaps the highest Panama offers and while the food doesn't usually warrant that, the experience is a fun and unique one. A few I endorse: Manolo Caracol, Las Bovedas, and Mostaza (all of which are within about 3 blocks of one another).
One evening I sat out in Plaza Bolivar at the uber-trendy Ego Urban CafÃ© and enjoyed this giant hunk of yellowfin, seared on the outside with a terrifically crunchy sesame seed jacket. It was served over a warm compote of eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, and hearts of palmâ€”the veggies popped in my mouth, like little water balloons. I chased it with a glass of frigid Russian potato vodka and tonic. With the snazzily-dressed theater crowd just getting out, a man humming away on his violin, and the waves lapping up against the beach, things in Casco Antiguo were good.
Lots of people, like the guys at Los Cuatro Tulipanes have faith in Casco Antiguo. They offer perhaps the only luxury living situation for a tourist in the neighborhood and their experience in hospitality doesn't go unnoticed. Things are getting crazy in Casco Antiguo and its fun to be a part of it. My 48 hours there opened my eyes to some things, and only the future seems to know what's in store for this gem. Try out a quiet walk through history. Chances are, things won't be this quiet for long.
Here's the contact info for Los Cuatro Tulipanes who I fully endorse. I think they're the best place to stay in Casco Antiguo and their buildings and apartments are decorated to the tee.
Los Cuatro Tulipanes
PanamÃ¡:(507) 211 - 0877
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