URUGUAY

Trip Start Dec 04, 2005
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10
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Trip End Dec 03, 2006


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Saturday, March 11, 2006

URUGUAY 24 JAN - 31 JAN

One hour boat ride and we were in Colonia, Uruguay. We had booked our accomodation in advance so with the help of a map we quickly found our hotel. We dumped the backpacks and got ourselves orientated. As we were planning to stay for only a week in Uruguay we decided to head down to the bus station and book our tickets to Montevideo for 3 days time. This done we could now explore Colonia. The Portuguese founded Colonia in the late 17th century and used it to smuggle goods across the River Plate into Buenos Aires. The Spaniards were here as well, suprise suprise, and the combination of the two makes the old town a great place to explore.
There is a thick fortified wall which runs down to the river, colonial buildings lining narrow cobbled streets, 17th century remains of the San Francisco Convent and an old Jesuit Chapel which all make you feel you have suddenly stepped back in time. However, you are soon whisked forward over 250 years at the sight of the three vintage cars sat outside the Drugstore. The Drugstore is a restaurant/bar housed in a colonial building on the edge of the Plaza De Armas. It lies in the shadow of the Iglesia Matriz which is Uruguays oldest church. Slap bang in front of the restaurant is a yellow Morris Minor convertable and at the side of the restaurant are two old black Fords of which one had a garden growing out of it and the other you could have dinner in. Strange but they did not seem out of place. By the way the Drugstore is a great place to eat if you are ever down this way. We sat outside to have a drink when a couple of Americans decided they were going to get into the Morris Minor. They ordered a carafe of wine and it was not long before Neal got into conversation with them. It turned out they were from San Fransico and were on a overnight break from Buenos Aires. They were confused about their departure time, which was 6.30pm, as someone at their hotel had mentioned 5.30pm to them. Neal told the guy there was a ferry office in the town and off he went to check the time asking us to look after his wife. The way she was drinking the wine she looked as though she could look after herself! On his return he confirmed the departure time was 6.30pm. He asked us if there was a time difference between Argentina and Uruguay and Neal confirmed there wasn't, as a result he ordered another carafe of wine. He seemed interested in whether or not Morris were still manufacturing and if it was a British car. A Canadian woman who was sitting at the next table joined in the conversation and before long the Americans decided they would have to get to the port as it was 6.00pm. As the American woman was getting out of the car she managed to knock over the carafe of wine, which just missed Neal. Maybe she shouldn't have had that last glass! We carried on talking to the Canadian when it came to light that Uruguay was one hour ahead of Argentina and the time was in fact 7.00pm! Oh dear! This was our second day here and we had been on Argentinian time! Neal put his watch forward happy in the knowledge that we would not miss our coach in the morning. We never did find out what happened to the Americans!
We went for a walk down to the old port which has long ceased to function as a port but is a nice place to soak up the atmosphere of the old smuggling days.
We left next morning at 10am for a short bus ride to Montevideo. We arrived at 12.30pm and like many other terminals was a hive of activity and information. Most places in Uruguay are accessable from here and as we were planning to visit Punta Del Este, in 4 days time, we bought our return tickets there and then. Our hotel was situated in downtown Montevideo which was too far to walk from here. Buses into town did not run from this terminal so we decided to get a taxi for the 3km journey. We dumped the bags and set off to cost out a flight to Puerto Iguazu, in north eastern Argentina, for six days time. We could not find the office the first day as the address in the Lonely Planet book was wrong, the office had moved since the book had been printed. By the time we found it it was closed.
That night there was a fiesta taking place in the city and we decided to partake in this televised festival. The procession stretched from one end of the city to the other and the streets were thick with people. There were bands, dancers, people in fancy dress and colourful floats as tall as some of the buildings. Needless to say a late night was had by all.
Montevideo also has a European feel to it which is probably attributed to the influx of Spanish and Italian immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The city really does have a buzz to it and with one third of the 3.5 million population living here it's not hard to see why. The old city is where we spent most of our time. The walk through the Plaza Independencia and through the gateway of the original citadel to the Plaza Constitucion is lined with art and craft market tradesman, bars and alfresco eating. The walk to the waterfront is dotted with Colonial buildings which stand in testimony to the beef and wool production of the mid 19th century and where many refugees from rural poverty live in conventillos, which are large, old houses converted into multi family slum dwellings. Some of the buildings are uninhabited and look as though they should be demolished while next door a family are living. Quite a contrast to the "new" city.
In this part of the city is the Mercado Del Puerto which was at the top of Neals to do list. This is a wrought iron superstructure which is used as a port market and shelters market traders and more importantly restaurants. In the heart of the superstructure lies a gastronomical delight, everywhere you look there are parrillas with their enormous cuts of meat cooking on open fires. The sight of all this food and the smells wafting through the air made Neal salivate. Neal headed straight for the bar stools that line the counters of these open air kitchens and ordered up some delicious morsels to sample. We stayed here for a couple of hours but we couldn't drink or eat too much as we were meeting Alan and Veronica Gregory that evening. The place was warm and when the entertainment arrived Neals temperature got even higher. Enjoy the photos!
We had arranged to meet Alan and Veronica at 8 o'clock and were looking forward to a good night out. It was great to speak to people from home and people who actually spoke the same language. From the moment we arrived until we left we didn't stop talking. At 2.30am we decided to call it a night. We had had a great night out. The food was great, the wine even better and great company to top it off. Thank you Alan and Veronica.
Next day we went to Punta Del Este which is a top holiday destination for Uruguayans and Argentinians alike. It is a penninsula with the rough Atlantic Ocean to it's east and the calm waters of the River Plate to the west. For us however it was just a relaxing day out of the city.
During our stay in Montevideo we managed to book our flights to Iguazu in the Misiones provence of north eastern Argentina. We flew out on the 4th Feb to Iguazu.
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