The night bus from Porto Alegre was fine. We were given dinner, then they put on a Simon Pegg film. We'd never heard of 'Hector and the search for happiness' and it wasn't the greatest film ever. But it kept us entertained until it was time to try and sleep. What I don't understand is why, on any normal bus journey I'm nodding off within ten minutes. But put me on a night bus and I'm wide awake. We did both manage to get some sleep eventually. I completely missed passport contol. The bus attendant handled all of that while everyone slept.
The bus attendant decided it was time for us all to wake up, and put Bonnie Tyler 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' on, which didn't go down well with everyone. We liked it though. A number of power ballads followed, and even a bit of Metallica. A good start to the day. We were give coffee and biscuits, and arrived at Tres Cruces bus station at about 10am.
The first priority was to get some Uruguyan pesos. With no luck at the ATM's in the bus station we had to traipse around, trying different
machines with failure each time. It was starting to get a bit stressful. Each ATM said that you could withdraw $U5000, so that's what we'd been trying. Finally David tried to withdraw a smaller amount, with immediate success. We then used the same trick at the very first ATM we'd tried in the bus station, this time with no problems. Expensive though, at nearly £5 in charges each time, for a withdrawal just over £100. All very annoying, but at least we now had cash.
The second job was to buy bus tickets for our next destination, Carmelo. That went more smoothly. Once this was achieved we decided to walk to our hotel. It was nearly an hour away, but we had no change for the bus and it was too early to check into our hotel anyway. The weather was cool, so we decided to get the exercise. On the way we had a light lunch at a little café, then checked out the seafront. By this time it was gone 1pm, so we headed to the hotel.
The Pocitos Plaza hotel room had been on sale, so we got a pretty good deal. It's allegedly a
four star hotel, which I think is a slight stretch. But it was nice, with a good-sized room and even a table and chairs. It's amazing how much you appreciate somewhere to sit when you are living on the road. We'd booked a rate without breakfast, but were told there was a free coffee break from 5pm. We popped out to a nearby supermarket for supplies, and got back in time to check it out. As well as coffee there were cakes and pastries. A really nice touch, and free food is always welcome when you are on a budget.
From the start we felt very relaxed and at home in Montevideo. As we wandered around the area near our hotel we realised why. It feels very European. Far more so than any other place we've ever been to (outside of Europe). The people, the clothes, the shops and the architecture all seemed European. More specifically, to us it felt very German. Spain or Italy would be a more logical comparison to most people. But we know Germany far better. Plus I think our impression was influenced by the temperature. It was quite cool, and Germany is the place
we most often visit for out of season city-breaks.
Looking for dinner options, everything seemed really expensive, more so than Brazil. I read about a Uruguay tradition called Chivos. Basically steak sandwiches. They were supposed to be cheap, so we set off for the nearby Chivos Lo de Pepe. Blimey, it was good. We went for one with steak, cheese, ham, bacon and egg, bloody lovely. We also got our first Uruguyan beer, Patricia, which was pretty nice. A successful introduction to Uruguay I'd say. We finished the evening back at the hotel with beer, wine and cards, knowing that for a change we didn't have to get up for breakfast.
We didn't set the alarm, which was bliss. When we did eventually get up we had some bread and soft cheese bought the day before. Made a nice change from hotel breakfast's. Our first stop was the Contemporary Art Space. I'll be honest, none of the art on display really moved us. At least it was free. Also, the gallery is in an old 1800's prison, which was fascinating to walk around in itself. It's always a strange feeling walking around a former prison. Only some of
the prison houses the gallery, and the rest has fallen into disrepair. It would be nice if it could be restored, and perhaps display some information on it's history.
The next stop was the National Museum of Visual Arts. Again, free of charge. This was much better, with some really great work by Uruguyan artists. Well worth a visit. We took the long way back, which turned into a bit of a nature trail. First we saw what we think was a baby tarantula. It was tiny, and we're no experts, so for all I know it was some other species of spider, fully grown. But it certainly looked like a tarantula to us. Next we saw a coypu, a semi-aquatic rodent. Back at the hotel, we obviously took advantage of the coffee and cakes again.
We were excited about dinner. We'd ordered an Indian takeaway on Facebook from a lady who cooks meals to order in her apartment, for collection only. We had a bit of trouble finding the place at first. We found the apartment building but had to ask to doorman for 'Flavours of India'. He told us it was apartment 204 so we rang
the bell and were buzzed in. It really was just a family home, with the lady cooking and her husband looking after their little daughter and packing the orders. Such sweet people. More importantly the food was fantastic. I'd 100% recommend trying them out if you are in the area. We had a nice evening in. The Indian takeaway felt like a touch of home. Plus we finally got around to playing the travel Scrabble we've been carrying around for months!
It was a hectic evening of cards and Scrabble, so the next day started with another lazy morning. We finally made it out and walked along the Rambla coastal road to the old town. After a cool couple of days the sun was finally shining and it was really quite warm. Montevideo has some beautiful architecture and it was a very enjoyable walk. We stopped for lunch at a Burger King as restaurants are proving a little expensive for our budget. For the same reason, on the way back we picked up supplies for dinner from a supermarket (bread and a rotisserie chicken). And for the same reason once we got back we enjoyed the hotel's coffee and
cake break. We'd earned it after a 17k+ walk. This nice little touch has been very much appreciated.
We don't have much time in Uruguay, so only allowed ourselves three days in Montevideo. While we could happily have spent longer, it was enough to see the highlights. It's a nice city. It's small and unassuming, and to us didn't really feel like a capital. But its a lovely place, feels very safe, and we liked it very much. I also think you'd uncover more gems if you stayed longer.
We walked to the bus station on our final morning. An advantage of not having horrendously huge backpacks is that we can walk a decent stretch without struggling. At Tres Cruces we grabbed a couple of empanadas for breakfast. Then it was time to board the 11am Inturtur bus to Carmelo. We had a bit of hilarity when the bus attendant spotted David's t-shirt, gave us the horns, and sang us a line of a Rammstein song! Then it was bye-bye Montevideo and we were on our way.
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