I’m finally trying to practice my Spanish. I know a lot of words in Spanish and yet I know nothing! But the one thing us Norte Americanos need is people to practice with and what better place than Sude America. So today (and the rest of my time here) I will willingly make a fool of myself and give it the old college try (which is probably one of the last times I spoke it barring my trips to Mexico and Spain). Of course, the downfall is if you try and speak it, you are going to have to listen to it as well which in my opinion is way more challenging. Just remember these two phrases “repites por favor” and “mas despacio” and when this fails try “no entiendo”.
Today I am walking the streets of Montevideo to do a little sight seeing and relaxation at La Rambla which is the South Bay of Montevideo – a great environment for jogging, kite flying, biking, fishing and sunbathing. It’s not Rio but it is a nice 20km of beach nonetheless.
First, lunch which I was disappointed to learn is extremely expensive yet again. For a coke and pasta it was $20 USD or 590 pesos plus tip. Second, a walk through the little outdoor market on the main avenue in Ciudad Vieja. I followed the sound of a lively street performance somewhere in the near distance and all I can say is when you hear a rich baritone belting out a ballad in Spanish repeatedly singing “mí corazon” arms outstretched in your direction, you will be moved. Thirdly, I took a short walk to Plaza de Independencía to see the old gate (the citadel), the Palacio Salvo and the large equestrian statue of General Artigas prominently displayed nearby. Turns out that the tango originated not only in the whorehouses of Buenos Aires but also across the pond in Montevideo. In fact, the most famous tango song ever recorded was the La Cumparsita and the first place it was ever performed was in Montevideo where the Palacio Salvo stands. You should know the Palacio is only open from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. so plan around this if you want to see this. Also, note Cuidad Vieja shuts down around 4:00 p.m. on Saturday until Monday unfortunately.
Next I had to do some errands just as I always do when I land in a new country. It is one of my favorite things to do. I take public transportation and I try to figure out where everything is involving the locals in chats at every turn. It makes me feel like I am a part of the country and not just a tourist. So off to Tres Cruces via bus I go where I can get everything I need done in one place. I will say the disparity in prices for certain things is astonishing here. For instance my bus ride to Cabo Polinio cost less than my lunch at $20 USD. My Uruguay SIM card (or chip they call it here) with 1.5 GB for one week of service was a mere 165 pesos i.e. $5.67 USD but a tube of mascara was $27 USD. Didn’t even realize it when I spent the money. It better be Chanel on crack for that much money is all I have to say. Also did a little grocery shopping before heading back to my two-story room at the Hotel Plaza Fuerte which is over a century old and one of my favorite hotels due to its age and authenticity, helpful staff and the added modern necessary amenities like the mini fridge. It is the best of both worlds – old and new.
For dinner (which is much later for Uruguayans than Americans i.e. between 8:30 and 11:30), I headed just a few meters down the street searching for the renowned Dueto which boasts savory dishes from around the world. In route, while the rain turned into a drizzle, the wind was whipping so strongly through the narrow streets that I learned exactly how Mary Poppins flies! The wind almost lifted me by my hot pink umbrella right off the ground. The umbrella then flipped inside out and was dragging me down the street right past Dueto like a magnet and as I stopped fighting it or it stopped fighting me and I was able to change directions, I saw the second most beautiful sunset I had seen in my travels (the first being Bang Tao Beach in Thailand). Sometimes let the earth, wind, water, whatever pull you as you never know what might be around the next corner. I could not, despite considerable effort, photograph this sunset for you in large part due to how far away it was and the fact I only had a narrow view of it between the buildings lining the street but I can tell you that Bang Tao emanated orange and gold like no other sky I had seen, but Montevideo tonight had the purple and fuchsia Crayola meant to create. In fact, I have never seen a sky these colors before. I so wish I could do it justice on film. After the gawking stopped I made my way back to Dueto and enjoyed one of my top ten meals in all my travels.
So perhaps you will enter a city and the city itself doesn’t contain the perfect ingredients for the perfect recipe, you don’t get the tug at your heart strings, there isn’t a vibration seeping from the streets, or a small town charm. When this happens open your eyes a little wider and dig a little deeper as it could be the sum of all its parts that can add to your time there like the baritone in the streets, the phenomenal breadsticks at Dueto, the kindness of Jorge the taxi driver or Guillermo behind the reception desk, the allure of the old world hotel and/or the turning one final corner and seeing a sky that came straight from a Leonid Afremov painting!
I’m off tomorrow early in the morning for my next adventure. Did you just say no electricity, no roads, only well water and about 70 inhabitants except for one of the largest populations of sea lions??? YES! Tune in later this week to read about this next adventure.
That’s all for now. With love from Montevideo.