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Published: January 20th 2012
Mercado del Puerto and where we had lunch
Day 96 Sunday 15th
We went off to the Feria de Tristan Narvaja markets today which is a huge market in central Montevideo that closes streets for blocks, as we walked up to the area we passed the pet section with stall after stall of fish and tanks, then mice and puppies (it is a pity that the locals do not adopt dogs off the street instead of adding to the problem, I would like to know the statistics of how many of these puppies stay with the buyers all their life?). Next was the fruit and veg section it is huge with an amazing amount and variety, also in this area is fresh pasta, cheeses and salamis. Then there was a sprinkling of clothes including second hand bras – I don’t think so, and then onto the antiques, this is the section where we nearly lost our heads. As we walked through this section we spotted a brass nautical telescope that would make a great piece at home, if we had a home but the problem was it was heavy. We kept walking and looked at streets and streets of dinner sets, frames you name
The edge of Feria de Tristan Narvaja markets
it and it was here including things pulled straight out of garbage bins that if you asked the seller they would not even know what they were e.g broken bits of electronics. It was fantastic just wandering for hours – yes hours looking at it and we did not see it all, if we lived here it definitely would be a Sunday tradition to walk around. We decided to go back and inquire about the telescope I had decided if it was not too heavy I would wrap it up in a jumper and put it in the bottom of my bag, of course if it was not too expensive. We arrived back and I picked it up well just it must have weighed 16kg and my bag is about 20kg and Scott’s is heavier, there is no way I could be lugging 36kg around so we asked the price and it was $US300 and the postage would be astronomical. At this point we walked away and brought nothing, but had an amazing day even if the temperature was 38 degrees.
Unfortunately most restaurants seem to be closed in the old area where we are staying so we went
to one that was opened and seemed busy and had food that was terrible and gave me a dodgy tummy all night – do not eat at Don Peperone which appears to be a restaurant chain.
Day 97 Monday 16th
Thankfully woke up and my tummy had settled because today we are off to Punta del Este which is Uruguay’s number one tourist resort town or so we kept being told by our tour guide. Yes we got a tour there we just could not afford to stay there so we opted for a tour, we were picked up at 8.30am from the hotel in a minibus that took us to meet a big bus in an outer suburb. The only problem the big bus was running late and we had to wait half an hour, not a good start as Scott and I are not good with these touristy things. Well it turned up and the guide was lovely but spoke a hundred miles an hour, she did the spiel in three languages Spanish, English and Portuguese only giving fragments of each sentence before moving onto the next language. This became
Overview of town
very confusing and I think even she forgot what language she was up to and if we did not concentrate we would miss the info.
The first town we drove through was Piriapolis which is a small beach town with a beautiful old Hotel (Argentino Hotel) built in the 1930’s and some art deco building which were pointed out as we drove past in the bus. We drove to and stopped at Cerro San Antonio which has great views of Piriapolis for the photo opportunities.
The second stop was Caspaueblo at Punta Ballena the whimsical white house of artist Carlos Paez Vilaro (our guide informed us his son was “involved in the unfortunate incident in the Andes you know the plane crash – the movie Alive – where they ate each other”, maybe it would have been better to tell us more about the artist’s work.
Then it was onto Punta del Este we drove around the suburbs and saw all the mansions in a suburb called Beverly Hills where each property takes up a whole block and we crossed a wavy bridge which was built that way. We travelled passed beach areas with their expensive apartments
Shelley with Piriapolis in background
and hotels, it is beautiful but the water is cold because it is the Atlantic Ocean so I am not sure I have missed out on much as I would not be swimming there. The bus stopped at the yacht harbour for 3 hours of free time in the town and lunch. Scott and I had a quick look around avoiding the restaurant recommend as it looked like a tourist trap and went to a ritzy place overlooking the harbour and had a great seafood paella. We then walked around town and onto the Playa Brava beach and to the famous sculpture La Mano en la Arena (Hand in the Sand) and walked on the beach briefly as the sand was extremely hot. Before we knew it we had to head back to the bus and to Montevideo, we arrived back at our hotel about 7.30pm it turned out to be a good day.
We went to a bar for a drink but we were ignored by the Vin Diesel look- alike waiter who was too busy doing chin up at the bar I may have been impressed if he had served people in between showing off. (I should
White house of artist Carlos Paez Vilaro
mention that Vin Diesel seems to be an idol over here in South America I can’t tell how many time Fast and Furious 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 have been shown on the buses). So being unimpressed we moved to the next bar which we did not realise was an Irish Pub yes there is one in every town, but here the waitress (who did not look like Vin Diesel, lucky for her) served us straight away I think she saw what was going on at the other bar. Sitting outside we are getting used to hawkers and beggars, but every now and then one surprises you, a man was selling Oleander flowers he had picked from one of the trees around town, I politely said no and he smiled and had a quick conversation with us and moved on. About 10 minutes later he passed our table again and gave me a flower, smiled and walked away.
Day 98 Tuesday 17th
This morning we brought the Brazil Lonely Planet just to add more weight to Scott’s backpack. We are currently carrying 9 books and we really do need to start
Caspaueblo - white house of artist Carlos Paez Vilaro
getting rid of some of them. Then caught the local bus to the Bus Terminal to buy tickets to Colonia Del Sacramento for tomorrow and had a quick look around the shopping mall built over the terminal. Since we had such a great meal at the Mercado del Puerto the other day we decided that is how we would spend our last day in Montevideo so we got the local bus back into the centre of town and walked down to the port. We had contemplated trying a different restaurant but in the end went back to the one we had chosen on the first day. Once again we got a huge great parrilla feast, with chorizo, ribs and lamb. Then to Los Peguinos Bar in the Mercado for a few drinks and after a beer we foolishly decided to switch to spirits. I went the scotch and Scott chose Jack Daniels, both straight with ice. And can I say although they use a measuring cup for spirits it does not stop when it is full and seems to fill half a glass so very easy to get tipsy here. The bartender even kept coming back and topping up the
Punta Del Este
Looking at Punta del Este from across the bay
glass before it got empty. I stopped at two, which was more like 6 but Scott went for three so you can imagine we both “happy” by the end of it. We don’t tend to get too hammered when we are travelling, but only when the experience or the people we are with seems right, and Montevideo seemed right. The Mercado Del Puerto is such a great experience and it was fantastic people watching and just relaxing. After an afternoon of eating and drinking we headed back to the hotel with a bit of a wobbly boot and crashed for a couple of hours before going out for short walk in the evening and then bed.
Day 99 Wednesday 18th
We had an early start to the day which wasn’t easy for me (Scott) after hitting it just a touch too hard yesterday. The Esplendor Hotel where we are staying has been a good hotel, with a good size room, a fantastic view over the city and really helpful and friendly staff, so it is a bit of a shame to be leaving. Our taxi to the bus terminal went the usual
Punta Del Este
Scott at Lunch
long way around but the guy had his little taxi wound up to over a hundred as we tore through the back streets, so the journey didn’t help my hangover.
Montevideo bus terminal is a good size with 42 bus platforms, but it is one of the few we have encountered that at least has computerised information screens so we could see where our bus was. By 11.30 we were on the bus and underway. We travelled along the river plate through fertile flat countryside and occasionally got glimpses of water. After 3 and a half hours we arrived at Colonia Del Sacramento. We threw our bags onto our backs and headed off in search of our hotel, which we discovered 3 blocks from the terminal. Because of the high season we had once again booked our hotel through booking.com and we didn’t have a lot to choose from and ended up with the Hotel Italiano. The rooms cost a stupid $150 AUS a night which is the dearest we have paid so far on this trip and would be the most overpriced room we have ever got. The one thing we have appreciated the most on our travels
Punta Del Este
La Mano en la arena
through South America is that 90 percent of hotels have a safe we can at least leave our pouches in that contain our extra cash and passports. They are a bit of a pain to wear all day and especially on a hot day. This hotel although they had advertised that it had one in the room didn’t and when we hit them up about it, they just lied to us and told us that we had got it wrong. The good thing about having a laptop is you can quickly bring up the webpage and show them that they are being deceitful. There of course was no apology but just that we needed to upgrade to a suite if we wanted a safe…like hell. After much arguing the old woman running the place gave us her small safe from her office. She couldn’t see the uselessness of a safe that she could carry up to our room and that we could not affix to anything. Not having a safe wasn’t a real big deal in the end but having rude apathetic staff lying to us just got our backs up, but worse was to come.
The best thing
for us to do was to head out on the streets and get some lunch, and we found a parrilla a couple of blocks away where they had a deal going for a full Parilla for 2 people for 350 pesos ($17.50). This gave us a plate of ribs, steak, Chorizo, blood sausage, kidneys, liver and fried intestines. It was an absolute mountain of meat that no sane person could devour but luckily the local dogs were hanging around and like the locals at the other tables we could chuck them the left overs.
In the afternoon with the sun setting we headed down to the old part of town which is absolutely amazing. The cobblestoned streets are lined with Sycamore trees and you do feel like you have wandered back in time, except of course for the lazy tourists zipping around on golf carts. The area also has plenty of vintage cars parked around adding extra ambience to the scenes, Colonia Del Sacramento truly is beautiful and we can understand why hordes of tourist flock here all the time.
Day 100 Thursday 19th
Day 100 and to celebrate we got
Colonia del Sacramento
Fortfied walls of the old city
the worst breakfast of the trip. The Hotel Italiano is in the process of doubling in size so first thing this morning we had the workmen sawing and hammering. The hotel dining room was an absolute shambles, with the staff completely overwhelmed by the number of guests and unable to clear tables or restock the buffet. All we managed for breakfast was coffee and stale cake, the bread was cut into tiny triangles and the butter that was cut into cubes was actually floating in a bowl of water. When we got back to the room we discovered that we didn’t have any water and when I went down to complain the old crow running the place told me it had nothing to do with the hotel and that it was workmen outside. Couldn’t see anyone working outside and figured that it was probably the guys building the extension especially as the staff have already lied to us but without concrete proof what do you do. Again there was no apology and my complaints were met with complete apathy. We both cannot believe how we can go from one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at in Montevideo
Colonia del Sacramento
Cobbled streets of old town
to one of the worst here in Colonia, but I guess that is the thing with travelling, it is all just the luck of the draw.
We both desperately wanted and needed a shower but couldn’t do anything about it so decided to get some chores done and headed out the door. Firstly we dropped our laundry off up the road and then went onto the bus station where we got tickets out of town. The guy who sold us the tickets (like most Uruguayans we have met) was friendly, helpful and had heaps of patience for our lack of Spanish. We got our tickets to the town of Salto for Saturday but unfortunately it is a 5.40am departure so we will be out of bed early that day. We asked the tourist information lady at the station about the local buses for tomorrow’s excursion to a tourist site in the next town and she very lovely explaining exactly what we need to do and the cost of the local buses. Wandered up through town and got some more money out which hopefully will be enough to get us back into Argentina. On our return to the hotel we
discovered that we still didn’t have any water. We waited for an hour and got all sorts of excuses from the management including that the Bomberos (firemen) were there filling up the tanks on the roof, but just like the other excuses there wasn’t any sign of this and we still didn’t get water. In the end the woman running the place tried to push us into a cheaper room that had water but after a bit of pressure put us into a suite. The room wasn’t that much better than the last one and despite her telling us yesterday that suites have safes, it didn’t. We also discovered that although we had water we didn’t have any hot water so it was a cold shower for both of us, but by this stage we didn’t care and just appreciated being able to have a wash.
Feeling better for our shower we headed out once more for a look over the old town, and after a long walk stopped at a café for a cold drink. Later we had dinner at a nearby restaurant which was Chivitos (steak & salad sandwich), afterwards we brought an icecream and strolled down
to the water and the old train station to watch the sunset.
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