A Tale of Two Skylines: New York and Panama City

After a blissful few days in the stunning San Blas it was time to get back to some city living in Panama City, our last stop before flying to New York. I must admit that when we booked our flight from Panama City I didn’t really know much about the city, I was very excited about going to New York, and Panama City was just a convenient stepping stone.

For many people New York is the ultimate city destination. Everybody knows what New York looks like as the city features in so many movies, TV shows and documentaries. It must be one of the most, if not the most, filmed cities on the planet. Without ever stepping foot in the USA, I was already familiar with the Statue of Liberty, Empire State building, the Chrysler building and the Brooklyn Bridge. I knew that simply walking around Manhattan would be the most enjoyable aspect of my visit there.

Who hasn't heard of this lady?!

New York City satisfied my expectations; I spent hours walking and revelled in the excitement of discovering famous places on almost every street. But I was disappointed by the famous Manhattan skyline. What struck me most is the massive impact that the loss of the Twin Towers must have had on the city. It is impossible to look at the skyline and not think of that terrible day that I remember so clearly. Of course I, alongside the rest of the world, mourned the atrocious loss of life that occurred on September 11, 2001, as we watched New York City try to come to terms with such an immense tragedy, but it was not until 11 years later, when I stood looking at the skyline, that I could really comprehend the scarring that was caused that day.

The famous Manhattan skyline
The sun sets over Manhattan

Like the many people who lost loved ones that day, the New York skyline is missing something: it lacks that identifiable feature that the Twin Towers provided. Yes, the Empire State is there but to be honest I was so underwhelmed with the building that I didn’t even recognise it when I walked past it—it is a normal, ugly even, tower block. The sparkling Chrysler building is beautiful, but not strong enough to make a huge impact on the skyline. Maybe the completion of the new World Trade Centre building will rejuvenate a skyline that still mourns the iconic towers.

The new World Trade Center building. Will it become an icon?

Panama City, on the other hand, exceeded all of my expectations. As it turns out, the Central American city is a vibrant, busy city that is a pleasure to walk around. Upon leaving our hostel we were faced with the most majestic sweeping harbour, framed by a line of towering skyscrapers. By night, the colourful lights from the buildings reflect in the calm Caribbean waters. All along the harbour wall, wide pathways accommodate walkers, joggers, runners, skateboarders and roller-bladers, all enjoying the spectacular view. Panama City’s skyline can easily compete with those of Hong Kong, Shanghai or Tokyo, and for me, it even eclipsed that of New York.

The Panama City skyline
Dramatic by day

Have you ever been disappointed by a place that you have seen on TV which didn’t live up to your expectations?  What are your thoughts on New York? Do you think that the new World Trade Building has the iconic appeal that the Twin Towers had? Please leave a comment below.

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