Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Uruguay - February 2014

After the visual feast that is the Iguazu, we headed further southeast to Montevideo in Uruguay. The distances are not great but all the lugging of suitcases and going via Buenos Aires meant that we spent the whole day in making our way. There were delays in BA, including a frightening storm, but finally 2 hours late, we arived in Montevideo late at night. It was a relief to find Pochin and his daughter Alejandra from Chile, waiting for us.

 Marisol with Pochin and Alejandra
 Pochin at the BBQ

Our hosts live only a short drive from the airport and we were soon being wined and dined. Pochin's wife Marta has a good reputation as a cook and Pochin makes excellent red wine as we were to find out.  They started us  off with a party at their huge bbq installation at the bottom of their garden and over the next week we made a lot of mileage. Alejandra was in her element showing us all the things that only someone who had grown up in a place can.
Old Montevideo - Misiones Street
Montevideo is a big sprawling city and is probably home to more than half the tiny population of Uruguay. What is immediately striking is that everything is so expensive. It is a miracle that people can afford to live here. Another striking thing is that there is no national health facilty, only private medicine and very expensive medication, just like in the US.
Independence Square

There is plenty to see as there is a huge 'old city' which has been declared a 'heritage' zone, somewhat neglected and looking worse for wear. The central square known as Plaza Independencia has some fine buildings including a 'palace' (Palacio Salvo) which was built by a family with interesting histoty. One of the owners was assasinated by his son-in-law for obvious reasons, but he did not get away with it, and languished in a prison for many years.
 The 1930s soccer pitch center and goalpost

And now for the World Cup football fans: did you know that the first World Cup was held in Montevideo in 1930 and the very first game was played on a field which was on an inclined pitch. The very first goal was scored on the uphill by a French player! There is a post in Montevideo to mark the center of that pitch and an angled post to mark the position of the goal post where the goal was scored.
 El Entrevero
Tango at the FunFun
In Montevideo there are two or three museums but they were generally uninspiring and could do with more resources. One of our friends had told us about the El Entrevero sculpture in Plaza Fabini and the music and tango at the Funfun Bar, so naturally we had to look those up. The bar had a stage about the size of a small table on which the Tango dancers performed with great accuracy as their feet came within an inch of my drink and my face on several occasions, as we had a ring side table! There were miles of beaches and spectacular sunsets and a market area at the port which housed  a fantastic array of restaurants. Montevideo is a nice place but could not be described as a major tourist attraction.
 Beach and Sunset

A curiosity church with curved walls
About a 100 kilometers east lies Punta del Este which is much more a holiday resort. Property here is booming and even billionaires from the US are building here. Our hosts have family connections here and we spent a lovely day being entertained and shown around. Notably we saw a lovely building which was a cross between Greek Islands and Gaudi and later we visited the home and studio of a famous artist, Pablo Achegurri who happened to be working on some huge sculptures with Carrera marble.
 The Achegurri Studio
A strange building in Punta del Este
Marta and Pochin were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on St Valentine's day so we stayed over an extra day to go to the party and meet some more of their friends and members of the family who are curiously related to Marisol. It was also a chance to sample more of Marta's food and Pochin's excellent wine.
 At the 50th Anniversary Party

More photos from Uruguay
The very next day we said goodbye to our hosts and Alejandra and began the epic return that would, for reasons that only a travel reservation system can explain, take us the way we had come, through Buemos Aires, Santiago, Madrid and finally Bilbao and a short drive home.
More photos from Uruguay

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