I have very fond memories of the process of connecting to SharePoint from a client machine. Upon setup of the SharePoint server in which panel can I find the url so that I can create a shortcut on the client desktop.

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You always access SharePoint via your web browser. You will need to type in the url of your site or CA. Commonly the central admin URL will be like http://you farm name:port number/. If you have no memory about it, it may be better for you to contact IT team or just go to the server holding SharePoint and find the SharePoint Central Administration in your start menu. It will brings you to the CA and you can check the URL in Application Management>View all site collections

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