Thursday, April 22, 2010

Montevideo, Uruguay or, well, at least we visited another country

I looked forward to a trip to Uruguay. It sounded interesting and even perhaps a bit exotic. A welcome change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Buenos Aires.
 The huge Buquebus boat station...with Linda waiting for me. If she looks annoyed, remember that it's about 6:30 am!

It was all of those things...and less. But it did start with a three hour boat ride on a huge hovercraft. It was so smooth it felt like we weren't moving at all. The River Plata was a huge lake or ocean.

 Upon arrival, we taxied to the Hotel Ibis and checked our bags. It was a typical business hotel, slightly off the tourist track. However, it had been difficult to find any hotel, due to the presidential inauguration on Monday. Note the price - $65 US (breakfast not included).

Then back to the big market, which sounded more interesting than it was. There was a big warehouse full of small roasted meat dishes (not that appealing to Linda), and most of the restaurants were packed.

We wandered around for a while, taking in the sites. Also turned out that Montevideo was a big cruise ship destination, so the streets were full of tacky souvenir shops. Oh boy!
 We did like the well organized fruit stores with carefully stacked fruit.

Then we happened upon this guy with a steering wheel. Took us a minute to figure out that it was attached to a video camera, and was some kind of stabilizing device.
 The streets were lined with old buildings in disrepair. Reminded us of photos of Havana. Also lots of graffiti.

As in Buenos Aires, there was tango dancing in the street.

and stores with funny names (Carlos' gifts)

and funny pants...more about these later.

See the tacky souvenirs. Who buys this s..t?

So instead we ate at a fancier (i.e., white tablecloths and expensive) outdoor restaurant. Turned out to be pretty good. I had steak and Linda had a salad. We relaxed and watched the world go by. And actually, it was quite pleasant.

After lunch we set out to explore Montevideo. There were supposed to be a few interesting museums. Not true.

There were some lovely buildings...

such as the Teatro Solis...

but basically everything was closed in anticipation of the inauguration...

In desperation, we found our favorite ice cream store from Buenos Aires, Freddo, had branches in Montevideo.
and even more interesting, the ice cream was Kosher (how appropriate, since it was the Sabbath). But it was just as delicious as in BA.
Note the first photo of strolling mate drinkers...more to follow
Tattoos and piercings are ubiquitous
and I loved the name of this store - tiempofunky
But, as you can see, virtually everything was closed.

By the way, although we did not do much investigation, we did find out that the newly elected president, Jose Mujica, was the first "man of the people" ever elected. He is also called the flower president and a former guerrilla fighter. We saw Mujica books and posters everywhere.

Back to the hotel for a siesta. I went out for a walk along the boardwalk. Montevideo is surrounded by water and lovely beaches, such as this one.

 Some bathers were out, but I saw no one I would describe as a beach bunny.

What I did see was the ubiquitous mate drinker!
Honestly, these people need three hands - one for the thermos, one for the cup, and a third for ?

Then back to the hotel to pick up Linda for dinner. We had heard about good food and good shopping in Montevideo, and asked the clerk where to go. He sent us to a mall, which he said was full of shops and restaurants. NOT! We were the oldest people there, and there was nothing to buy and no food, except for fast food. In desperation we went outside the mall and finally found a restaurant called Don Pepperoni, serving, you guessed it, pizza. But not just any pizza. The worst pizza in the western world.

Somehow we ended up with pizza without tomato sauce. 
and we asked them to bring some sauce, which made the pizza (barely) palatable.
All in all, a miserable evening. We taxied back to the hotel in silence, having decided to go to the (supposedly) wonderful street market in the morning, and then to go to our next stop a day early.

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