And this is the capital??

Trip Start Nov 08, 2004
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Trip End Nov 08, 2005


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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Thursday, March 17, 2005

We eventually managed to drag ourselves away from Diabolo to the next coastal town South, Punta del Este. Poor old Punta, how could it ever live up to our beloved Diablo? Sitting right in the middle of a peninsula with beaches in every direction and famous for being the stylish haunt of the rich and trendy Uruguyans and Argentinians, it didn`t sound that bad. A miniature `Miami“ ghost-town was the reality: apparently the "season" is fom Dec-Feb and after that it seems to become a fave for Uruguay`s pensioners to top up their tans.Empty bars and over priced restaurants. Block after block of ugly high rise flats lined the beaches, which other wise could have passed for nice but nothing that special.That said it would be hard for any beach to impress us after Brazil, we are seriously beached out! You could stick the "world`s number 1 beach" in front of us and you would be lucky to get a reaction! Anyway, feeling the pull of the city, we jumped on the next bus out to Montevideo.

For a capital city it`s ridiculously small and relaxed! Then again, Uruguay is the second smallest country in this continent. For a country so tiny it is actually reasonably affluent with wealthy coastal suburbs. Wheat and beef are the main industries (Fray Bentos is the name of a cow town here!)but still you cant miss the slum houses and horse and carts trotting past every so often. Apparently Uruguay has been dragged down with the Argentine economy crash as many rich Argentines banked their money here.

I liked the romantic air of faded 19th century grandeur in Montevideo. Gorgeous restored early 19th C buildings stand right next to crumbling ruins in the old town and next to ugly modern ones in the new town. It`s easy to imagine this is what Paris or Rome could be like without government money to restore the buildings. It has the feel of a place slightly stuck in a time warp, where even the most modern things are from the 70`s, but it has a real sense of community and small town feel.

We had lunch in the old port, a huge iron structure full of Asado (BBQ) stalls,where the locals sit around the stall and choose which hunk of meat they want off the BBQ. ( Not particularly my idea of fun but Jason loved it!)

The price-quality ratio is just stupid!That night we ate at an extremely posh restaurant, where we had about 5 waiters attending to our every whim, champagne, wine, beer and 2 exquisite courses all for under 10 quid each! After that we joined a couple of girls from our hostel in a bar/club where we were definitely the only foreigners. We spent an interesting night dancing to Argentinian and Uruguayan rock music!

Tango is as big here as in Argentina, infact the Uruguayans claim that the "father" of tango was infact from Uruguay not Argentina, the Argy“s claim otherwise, funny that...
The second night we went to another old iron market hall to listen to some live music. It was really atmospheric, with lots of little restaurants around a dance floor and a male/female duet crooning away in the background. Safe to say that we were again the only tourists there and also the youngest by about 30 years...(which makes a change from usually being the oldest in hostels!) but it was a great experience to see all the couples tangoing the night away. When we left at midnight the place was just getting crowded! I am sure we“ll see tango shows in Buenos Aires, but I am equally sure we won`t see one whose existence has nothing to do with tourism and that`s what I love about Uruguay.
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