I may have to reduce the number of photos I include while here in Uruguay because the WiFi in this 4-star hotel is incredibly slow with the uploading. I finished yesterday’s blog yesterday and got half posted and then gave up and went to bed. It was only this morning that I was able to upload the remaining photos and post the whole blog. This mechanical part of blogging doesn’t interest me in the least so, in the coming days, I may simply upload all the photos to the cloud and then add only a few across each blog. Sorry that this may have to happen – I have received feedback from so many blog followers that the photos have been the jewel.
Breakfast is included with the tariff and off I went to the dining room this morning. The offerings were close to my normal so that should help me; with early rises and departures over the last two days I didn’t have the Hotel Tango breakfast first and perhaps that contributed to my fatigue (or it could have been climbing the almost impossible lighthouse at Colonia). For readers who roll their eyes and think that I should be eating whatever is given, that is how I used to be when travelling. I was always trying the new and ordering foods in a foreign language without pictures and having no idea what I was given. This time I am trying a different tack. Of course, there is almost nothing we cannot buy or cook (courtesy of Google recipes and instructions) in Australia to emulate the food customs of others, so with that sort of shrinking world I do not feel I am missing out. Anyway, to a limited extent I have eaten local food this time; first there was café con leche in Buenos Aires (after years of abstinence), a Burrata (Argentinian cheese) then a chivito in Colonia (details another time), and a pizza last night. Apparently, there is a special Uruguay cheese and I may try that (close your eyes to that thought Phil).
I left ‘home’ soon after midday and enjoyed some impromptu street music and dancing – see here.
Then I headed for the hop on/hop off bus stand near my hotel. To travel its eleven stops takes over 2 hours and my intention was to get a picture of the extent of this city and then get off at number 11 in order to join a free walking tour in that area. It was money well spent and I came to some sort of understanding about the nature of Montevideo. I sat up top in the biting wind and became colder and colder, but resisted clambering down below for warmth. Technically it was 19 degrees today but the wind chill I would guess brought the temperature down to about 12. I wasn’t dressed for it and gradually froze, and my nose dripped. But I wanted to see Montevideo and clung to the hope that the wind would stop. It was so windy at one stage when I zipped open a compartment on my backpack, that some piece of paper flew out and into the ether, to be blown for ever somewhere. Have not as yet determined if it was important; that is, I don’t know what it was.
For those who like building shots here are some from the trip around.
What I learnt and what my photos don’t show – although I may get out there again tomorrow and get some evidence – is that Montevideo is deemed to be one of the great centres for Art Deco architecture. However, it is generally not the look of Tasmanian and general Australian art deco architecture. I would guess that what we have here is somewhere between our more restrained austere look and the flamboyance of some of Gaudi’s architecture in Spain. I will try to find time to make a photo study to show you some wonderful examples – and, of course, for me to remember after I leave.
The other main learning is that Montevideo’s architecture is eclectic; there seems to have been a mix and not match approach over the centuries. I saw one church yesterday that was designed in the British Gothic style on the exterior and inside was designed with the inspiration of a French court of the 19th century. So, there are British, Spanish, French, Portuguese influences showing in the architecture – and each and any of these, in turn, are influenced by classical Greece or Rome, Renaissance, Baroque and/or Gothic styles. Yesterday I passed through some outer suburbs where the house block also included a small garden and perhaps even an on-the-block driveway. Each house had a completely different style. Therefore, anyone who is seriously contemplating a career in architecture could do worse than to come to Montevideo to study.
Once off the bus at stop 11, I guessed at the millions of maps I seem to have and walked towards and surprisingly found the Parque Rodo castle (nasty little thing). There waiting was the tour guide. As the first of his guests to arrive, we chatted. Because he kept sipping his mate, I told him that it was on my list to experience while here. He told me that would be impossible because bars and cafes don’t sell it. It’s a personal thing. He explained that he got his first mate pot when he was 12 and has loved drinking mate ever since. The principle is that you share your mate. He offered me a sip of his. Flashing through my mind went hygiene requirements but, of course, I said yes and sipped it. Very bitter but if you like bitter green or even black tea this was fine. It was piping hot (my guide carried his hot water flask as well as his mate bowl and silver sipping ‘spoon/straw’) and I loved it. (the Mate is where the Yerba is deposited, and the metal sip is used for drinking the infusion. The Yerba Mate is an infusion of Ilex Paraguayensis leaves which the Tupi-Guarani Indians/ the charrúa drank for medicinal purposes. Then the gauchos adopted it as a traditional beverage after slaves were given it as a stimulant to keep them working. Uruguay is the biggest consumer of Mate of the world. It is served in a small recipient of natural origin, mainly butternut squash, also called mate. Read more here.
By the time others arrived for the walking tour I was so very cold, but happy that I had been able to ask lots of questions and get one-on-one time with answers. Then we stood while Jorge told us some history, finally we darted off at a fast rate, but I knew I was stiff with the cold, and would never be comfortable so I left the group. Caught a normal suburban bus back to the city without too much stress, but with some help and directions from locals.
Earlier in the day I researched all the vegan outlets across the city – five of them! When I returned to the city centre, I headed for one relishing the idea that because I hadn’t eaten since about 10am and I was freezing that I would find a plate of hot vegetables or some such. Alas, I found the shop only served raw food and what they had was in the fridge. Despondent I walked the final couple of kms against the wind back to my hotel amidst Halloween dressed and activated young children and their mothers going somewhere and the occasional shop booming Halloween sounds (they were menacing sounds so that noise, in association with shopfronts festooned in make-believe cobwebs, led me to that conclusion).
I headed across from my hotel to the Mercado de Puerto for an early dinner; conveniently at one restaurant named Cabana Veronica. Grilled Swordfish with lettuce, tomato and onion (these seem to be the extent of vegetables here) with chimichurri (remember that from my Le Boca food experience) – this bowl of chimichurri was more spicy so I liked it even better. And a small bottle of Tannat the locally produced red wine (smooth and fruitily sweet). As usual all too much (that amount of fish would have fed three people comfortably); ate about a third and felt overfull and brought home two thirds of the bottle for another day.