…is more than enough.
Okay, that might not be entirely fair…but from what I saw, Uruguay doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. We visited two of the main Uruguayan destinations: Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo, which is the capital. In fairness to the Uruguayans, January is their holiday season and apparently the masses leave the city and head towards the beach resorts. Those ‘masses’ are still pretty minute though – there are 3 million people in the whole country. And 12 million cows. That’s a population of basically 1/3 the size of just London’s, with 4 cows for every person. Mindblown.
We arrived in Colonia by ferry from Buenos Aires, with the port luckily only a five minute walk from our hostel. Colonia is a quaint town famous for its art, beauty and smuggling history. The port town reminded me in many ways of Paraty, except it is smaller, and in my eyes, much less beautiful. It also could quite easily be mistaken for somewhere in the Mediterranean, whereas I thought Paraty was really quite unique. There is very little to keep you busy there; you can mooch around the town, water and museums and be quite content with what you see in less than a day.
With temperatures on our first day hitting 37 degrees, I’m not sure we could have continued anyway. It has become the norm for sweat to run down our legs in noticeable rivulets; sitting down for any length of time is also a dangerous game. That being said, we are acclimatising and on occasion have been a bit chilly and in need of a jumper when the temperature is in the early 20s. God help me when I return to England!
On the first evening Amy and practised yoga with an instructor from the hostel who had unbelievably blue eyes. We barely managed to contain our laughter when he told us in broken English that we should not go upside down if we were on our period (surely there’s no science behind that!?). We enjoyed peacefully watching the sunset, until those persistent noisy devils called mosquitoes came to play. What followed was pretty spectacular: the sky across the water – above Buenos Aires in fact – was continuously and completely lit up by dramatic fork lightening. A pretty cool phenomenon that makes you feel very small.
With little to do the next day and cooler temperatures, we walked to the furthest away beach as we had been told it was by far the nicest in the area. I desperately tried to find beauty in it but, the water was 50 shades of poo, there was a dead fish flapping about near the waves and the gale force winds were constantly blowing the coarse and thus painful sand into absolutely everything. Still, as the beach was not far from deserted, I took the opportunity to sunbathe topless. Did I burn my boobs? Yes, of course I did. Word of warning: burnt nipples are not comfortable.
Some of the banks in Argentina and especially Uruguay have been jammy bastards and charged us to withdraw cash if we’re on MasterCard. As someone who prides themselves on being savvy and did extensive research beforehand to ensure I had the best pre-pay and credit cards on the market, it has really irked me. Annoyingly it just means wandering around to see who charges the least – generally anything between £2 and £5 per withdrawal. On the plus side, a current government incentive in Uruguay to encourage card usage means you often get a discount when paying on card in restaurants, shops, bus stations etc. Always worth asking before you pay and bringing a VISA card for money withdrawal in these countries!
Three Mancunion boys moved into our dorm room on our last night so we all played some yani (our new favourite game) and headed out for a few drinks. They were the most hilarious trio and had us in stitches the entire night. The next day we caught a three hour bus across to Montevideo which, as with all the transport in South America, ended up costing a lot more than we had believed.
Sometimes actually working out cheaper than a hostel, we opted for an Air BnB in Montevideo. It was a perfect hippy two bed flat with a roof terrace, and gave us all the space we needed to recoup, relax and sort ourselves out. Arriving relatively late and after some classic girl discussions, we went full on Bridget Jones: sugar and carb overload whilst watching Zac Efron take his clothes off in some really tacky chick flick. No regrets.
On our first day we headed to the centre of the city for a free walking tour, which ticked off most of the main attractions and helped us orientate ourselves during the rest of our time there. During the tour we tried empanadas (a bit like a Cornish pasty) filled with dulce de leche. A bit bizarre, but the only complaints came from my arteries and future self. For dinner we headed to a small restaurant that the Mancunions had recommended where we could try a Uruguayan classic called a chivito. They translate it as a steak sandwich, but it’s much more like a burger: brioche style bun with steak, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and a fried egg. It was seriously good (albeit an obvious heart attack) and there is no doubt I’ll be trying to recreate it when I get home!
The next day Amy travelled to Punta De Leste to meet a friend and Andrea and I used the day to wash clothes, get a wax, cook a meal with actual vegetables, scrub our feet and generally try to be a bit less disgusting. Despite lacking Amy’s linguistic assistance, we managed to locate a salon where I got a Hollywood for £5 (woo!). The ‘room’ behind the curtain was a little bit Saw esque, but the experience was much more familiar than my hilarious experience in Rio. That being said, I’ve never had a thick hot wax without strips before, so was surprised to look down at my bits which suddenly resembled a dulce de leche sundae.
…Dulce de leche on the mind…always…considering renaming the blog ‘Dulce de leche Diaries’…
The next morning we met up with a lovely guy called Chris that Amy knew from Waddesdon Manor, a National Trust property where we had both previously worked. Chris works for the Rothschild Wine Company and was in South America on business. Despite being friends with the likes of Prince Charles and Jude Law, he is the most down to earth guy and is really good fun to be around. We had such a great day! Starting off at Teatro Solis, we took a free tour of the theatre. It was a short but enjoyable tour, with an entertaining English speaking guide. To promote social inclusion they put on shows and orchestral productions for just $5 (US) ticket, but unfortunately as it’s January there was bugger all on. Similarly, as many Uruguayans have never even seen a city, they send coaches out to rural villages and bring them to the theatre, making it accessible for all.
We then headed to the meat market, showing Chris a few spots we remembered along the way. The building which houses the market was brought over from Liverpool many decades ago and was intended to be used as a train station in Peru. No-one seems entirely sure why it ended up in Montevideo. The rustic building was busy with bodies and had the most gorgeous smokey air. We opted to eat in one of the elevated restaurants, overlooking the central Harry Potter like clock. Amy and Chris shared a parilla – an extensive mixed grill – and I unintentionally ordered the biggest sirloin steak known to man. We also sampled one of their national drinks, medio y medio, which is a mix of half white wine and half ‘champagne’. The percentage was very low and it was very sweet; it could probably be likened to Lambrini or a fruity pear cider. An interesting accompaniment for someone who is on business selling single bottles of wine worth many thousands of pounds!
We popped along to the free National History of Art Museum, which was so underwhelming that we couldn’t help but laugh. The museum was made up of replicas of other counties history, including a mini model of stone henge and fake Egyptian mummies. These unexplained replicas were made of painted fibreglass (we gave them a good tap) and were similar to something you could pick up in the B&Q garden department for £50. It’s a shame that Uruguay don’t seem to have much history of their own to display, and made me appreciate the phenomenally good free museums we have in the UK even more.
Chris invited us to his 5* hotel to take advantage of the spa and bathroom facilities; an offer we obviously didn’t decline. We had an English breakfast cup of tea (!) and went for a dip. Already feeling spoilt, our eyes lit up when room service arrived with two bottles of champagne. I took full advantage of the suite’s large bath, with both types of bubbles; anyone who knows me well can imagine how excited I was about this rare opportunity. I couldn’t have felt more like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman if I tried. We dolled ourselves up properly for the first time this trip, and headed down to the bar in search of a Rothschild Wine photo opp. to send back to Waddesdon. Heading out for dinner at gone midnight, we felt very Uruguayan. What followed was a lovely tapas dinner, another unreal steak, lots of red wine and a short trip to the Casino where I absolutely nailed it on the blackjack but we lost it all in one go on the roulette.
I think the best way to describe Uruguay is sleepy. It’s laid back, with not very much going on. It’s also the flattest country I have ever seen so doesn’t have an abundance of beautiful or interesting views that I love. I never really got a feel for what Uruguay was about, and interestingly both of our entirely separate tour guides said that Uruguay doesn’t have an identity yet. Crushed by their enormous and powerful neighbours, they seem to be a bit of a South American wallflower. Perhaps because of this, we have found the locals to be much more relaxed and friendlier which is a definite positive. The only thing I can be completely certain about Uruguayan culture is that the females LOVE flatforms.
Love, Lottie xx