Note. Was Tuesday night when I started writing this but didnt have an internet connection to upload also. Also sorry about the length. No worries at all if you just look at the photos!
Well it is Tuesday night and tired but happy I have just returned to Buenos Aires after having spent the last four days in the beautiful Uruguay. What an incredible place!! It is just beautiful and the people are so friendly I always felt like I was welcome there.
Kat (my house mate from USA) and I set off early on Saturday morning to take the ferry over to Colonia on the other side of Rio Plata and then a bus directly on to Montevideo. Arriving in Montevideo we found a cute hostel in the old town and were immediately over whelmed with the friendliness of the staff and people there. We were told all about everything to do and see with helpful maps and interesting tips. So we set off for our first stop to the Port Markets. WOW! This place is magical! Filled to the brim with smoking Parallidas (grills) serving every type of beef known to man. Food is cooked by master asadoros (those who cook the grill) and served by manic waiters working at 100 miles an hour. Kat and I ordered two different types of steak. In the end it came as three huge pieces of meat served with French fries. It was way too much food as we found with most of the meals in Uruguay. I couldnt stop thinking of how much Dad would have loved it. The meat was so rare but was such incredible quality, it didnt bother me. I have never had steak melt in my mouth like it did there (apologies to the vegetarians!!). Would have been the perfect meal if it hadnt been for the overly keen drunk Uruguayan men who insisted on screaming in our ears about how wonderful Uruguayan men are. One of them grabbed Kats arm and said to her is my friend not the kind of guy you could fall in love with. Look at him. What kind of guy could be better than him? Do you think you could fall in love with him? To which Kat, perhaps in the call of the century said I would fall in love the type of guy who would let me eat my food in peace! Hilarious. That certainly gave them the hint. So they left and vowed to come back at dessert time. Which of course they did. So we spent a bit of time getting away from them
The amazing asado!!
With full bellies we caught a bus to a Saturday market which the hostel had recommended. Turned out we had taken a little too long on lunch and by the time we arrived everyone was packing up. So instead we wondered along the river bank/ coast. There is a bit of controversy involving whether we were on the river or the coast. The water certainly looked like ocean water to me and looking at the map it certainly looks like Montevideo faces the ocean however we were assured by our tour guide the next day that Rio Plate is the widest river in the world and that that is why it is easily mistaken for the ocean. I still dont really believe though that there is no ocean. Seriously look at the map yourself! Anyway we went wondering along the river/ocean for a long way. It was beautiful until the sun set and then it was beyond any type of cold I have ever been exposed to before. Ahhh! Seriously my entire body went numb. So we snuck into a cafe to have a hot coffee and then, feeling exhausted we headed back to the hostel to warm up.
That night we went to a local bar with some of the (very weird and annoying) people from our hostel. The bar was called fun fun and (please excuse the obvious pun but I cant resist) wasnt really all the fun fun! It was a tango bar with some live music. Was probably a pretty authentic tango experience that I was meant to be appreciating but I was totally not in the mood to be sitting down and chatting while listening to tango music and holding conversations with an incredible odd Hungarian girl, a German pervert and a Brazilian racist (who when talking about the possibility of Obama becoming president of US proceeded to tell me that he wouldnt do because he was a bit too.. well… and then ran his finger over his cheek indicating the colour of his skin YUCK!). So we made a quick getaway. It was so cold and windy outside!! We decided to run home to try and warm ourselves up. As we began the run we were shielded from the wind by the Central Theatre. We didnt realise that though it seemed pretty windy. Then as we ran across the road and left the shelter of the theatre we were thumped with the full force of the wind. I was running and not moving. I am not exaggerating! Didnt help that we had burst into outrageous laughter and so felt completely weak anyway but it took us a while to get back to the hostel and the relative warmth!
The next day we made out way out to another market but it was pretty disappointing. I bought some underwear that actually have a back bigger than the front (Note Jo Jo Uruguay is the place) but nothing else was really that exciting. So we caught another bus (we were all over the bus system although long waits in freezing cold temperatures are not my favourite memories of the trip!) back to the hostel and decided to take a bus tour of the city. Not something I would normally do but it was just sooo cold it was impossible to do anything. We would walk for a while and then die with cold. As we entered the bus I was filled with dread. It was a mega bus with about forty people on board. One family with kids in their late teens or early twenties and the rest all old rich folk. We got the last seats on the bus (clearly because we came from the cheapest hotel and thus only deserved the cheapest seats). The dread soon evaporated though as I became entranced by the story of the city. The good thing was we were the only English speakers on the bus and as we both speak ok Spanish the entire tour was given in Spanish with a random word or two in English. Was pretty funny though because the guide obviously only knew the easy words so we had translations of words like history which is historia in Spanish and had no translations of the words we had no idea about! Ha ha! Also got chatting to some great Brazilians who were fascinated by the color of my hair. When I told them that it was called strawberry blonde or what I explained as rubia frutilla they loved it and kept repeating it all day.
The tour was awesome. I love Montevideo. We traveled through all the different barrios and I learnt a lot about the history, culture and political situation of Uruguay. Interesting facts are: Uruguay won the first ever soccer world cup (very cutely recounted by the guide with ending of if you can believe it! but she didnt want to tell the whole story because the match was against Brazil and as over half the bus was Brazilian she thought she should keep the story to herself!). Uruguay also has a rapidly decreasing population. There is a low birthrate of only 1.1 and young people are emigrating out of the country in masses.
We were dropped off by the bus at a shopping mall that once housed Montevideos criminals in a high security prison. It was closed in the 1980s after the inmates all escaped after spening 5 years digging a tunnel below the prison walls. Before that instance no one had escaped from the prison. Kat and I went wondering through the Uruguayan ritzy shops and had an awesome milkshake at a caf. Everyone seemed to stare at us everywhere we went. Two tall rubias (blondes) tend to stand out in these parts! One embarssing moment came when we wondered through a crowd of people to exist the mall. We knew if was freezing outside so we stopped to rug ourselves up. We spent a while putting on all of our layers as the crowd of people around us starred at us in amusement. When we were ready we did a few jumps rubbed each other on the arms and walked closer towards the automatic doors which we assumed lead to the exit. However the doors were not the exit at all. They in fact opened up to a bank. The exit was actually on the other side of the mall. What absolute idiots!! The entire was wondering what on earth we were doing rugging up and jumping on the spot just to go into a bank. Through hysterical laughter we managed to run away as quickly as was socially acceptable in a mall and we were comforted by the though that we would never have to see those people again!!
That night we went out to dinner near our hotel. The waiters were all going to a club after work so we agreed to meet them afterwards. In the mean time we stumbled upon an awesome Brazilian bar playing incredible live samba and gafiera. I had great fun dancing my heart out while stayed firmly planted on her seat!! When we went to get the taxi to the club we had to walk towards the main street. We knew that the area could be a bit sketchy so we were a little nervous. I had Dads personal alarm firmly in my hand!! As we were walking a car pulled up next to us but was traveling in the opposite direction to which we were traveling. The guys in the front started calling chicas chicas to us and then suddenly screeched into reverse and started moving quickly towards us with the wheels screeching. I dont know who panicked first but all of a sudden Kat and I were screeching and running. I pulled the cord on the alarm as we bolted down the street. We got to a cab just in time to see the drivers pale face as he saw us coming. The driver of the car, clearly just as scared of us as we were of him simply put the car in gear and drove off. We were left on the side of the road with the door of the taxi open, a very disapproving driver who clearer thought we were made and a group of homeless men and women laughing in hysterics at us. We then also burst into hysterical laughter as I tried to turn off the dam alarm. The poor driver was left wondering whether he should actually take us anywhere. He obvious thought we were either completely mad or on drugs. Anyway all resolved we ended up at Mariachi. The only Uruguyan club we knew of. It was certainly more fun than Fun Fun. Only problem was that everyone thought that we were crazy foreigners. Everyone stared at us and no one spoke to us. Not even the guys who we had met in the restaurant!! So we had a bit of a dance which caused more staring and then we headed back to the hostel still laughing about the running alarm incident!
The Malecon beautiful and very cold!
The congress building!
The incredible coast/river bank!!
Plaza de la independencia. The background building is known as the ugliest building in the city. Called the “monument to the air conditioner”
The next day we caught a bus to Colonia. It is a teeny weeny little colonial town right on the back of Rio Plata and only an hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires. The town is beautiful but it is almost the Disney Land of colonialism. Everything is a little too perfect. It seems to lack a little authenticity for me. In any event it is beautiful.
That stayed in a hostel filled with English and Irish back packers who knew no Spanish beyond cerveza beer and copa de vino tinto glass of red wine. And they are not even attempting or care about learning the language. It was freezing so the only place we could hang out was the common room where there was a fire place. Hence we were caged in with the highly frustrated English/Irish combo. Eventually we decided that we needed to get out so we went to a local little restaurant and shared a bottle of wine. Kat had mentioned it to the others before we left and they soon came trundling in. The place was too fancy for them though so Kat and I had to ask the bar staff where a more casual place was. I seriously cant imagine traveling here and not being able to ask that. Must be a totally different experience. I suppose it wouldnt be annoying at all if the people werent so dam annoying. So in the end, Kat and I stayed at the restaurant and met up with them later. They were drinking some totally random drink because the bar staff hadnt understood their accent when they said copa de vino tinto! ha ha! That one was quite cute though! So Kat and I soon ordered some red wine and once I got chatting to some of them they turned out to be not so bad.
A very cold night later we wondered around the town a little more, took a gorgeous walk right along the river and were soon on the ferry back home to Buenos Aires. We returned to the chaos of strikes and an uncertain political atmosphere. The counter-strike yesterday went relatively peacefully (there were fears that it would become violent). Unfortunately there was a heavy banner attached to a light post and the weight of it pulled the light post down and the light post landed on and instantly killed a man. Tragic. There were no injuries directly related to the protest though and now we are all waiting to see what will happen next.
posted Friday June 2008