South America Living

Bienvenidos a Montevideo, Uruguay

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MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – That’s right, friends…I am in Uruguay! And beginning my latest South American adventure. I’m only on Day 1 and already it has been an adventure.

THE BEST LAID PLANS…

Being a professional traveler means expecting the unexpected – Best Laid Plans and all that…so I was up at O’Dark Thirty yesterday, and got to the airport in Palm Springs with plenty of time to check my bags, clear security and board my 7:50 am flight. Two hours oughta be enough right? Unfortunately, the airplane was not quite as prepared. Apparently it had a broken windshield and the flight was delayed as a result. First for an hour and then for two more, and finally Joe, the wonderfully helpful gate agent, arranged to re-book me on an alternate flight that got me to Phoenix in time to make my scheduled connecting flight to Miami. Being a Gold member on American Airlines has its privileges.

Ahh yes.  The Admirals Club.

Ahh yes. The Admirals Club.

Three hours in the Miami airport, and then a 10 hour overnight flight that landed right on time at 12:35 pm in Uruguay’s sprawling capital city, Montevideo. 15 hours out of 24 on airplanes…Ugh! No matter how much traveling I do, I will never be comfortable in a seat in coach on a fully-booked flight. Too little space, even for a petite person like me… bad food (I didn’t eat) bad movies (I didn’t watch) rude seat mates (of course). But — it’s all for a good cause right?

OH MY ACHING FEET!

The one thing that flying does for me — and it’s not a good thing — is this:

Cankles!

Cankles!

Swollen feet and ankles…I mean — I’ve got CANKLES! There is absolutely no visible difference between the end of my ankle and the beginning of my calf! Thank God it only hurts to look at. I needed to keep them dogs elevated for a few hours in order to clear the swelling. Maybe I should invest in one of those pairs of special socks people use for flying. A trick to remember: get up every hour or so and walk the cabin of your airplane….twice! Stay away from booze (as if that were possible on a long, very crowded flight), salt or any other consumable item that will make you retain water.

TOUCHDOWN MONTEVIDEO!

Montevideo is the southernmost capital city in the Americas, with a population of 2 million.

Montevideo is the southernmost capital city in the Americas, with a population of 2 million.

Clearing security and customs in Montevideo was simple and fast, followed by a short taxi ride to my lovely hotel in the Pocitos section of the city. Just a block from La Rambla – the wide promenade that fronts the beaches on El Rio de la Plata .

La Rambla

La Rambla

My little room has a view of the Rio and the constant stream of runners, cyclists, happy loving couples and visitors like me enjoying the great weather and beautiful view.

Happy Couple Hanging Out On La Rambla

Happy Couple Hanging Out On La Rambla

Remarkably, although I had managed to snatch just a few hours of scattered sleep on the long flight from Miami — think Cirque Du Soleil contortionist here — I was full of energy after I checked in, not to mention very hungry. So I walked down La Rambla to a little Italian seafood restaurant right on the Rio. Enjoyed an excellent lunch of octopus and potato with a nice glass of red wine.

Pulpo a la Griega

Pulpo a la Griega at El Italiano

The Rio de la Plata is billed as the widest river in the world – and I found myself surprised at how brown the water is. I am used to beaches by the ocean in California and Mexico, and the waterfront here looks like a seaside – waves rolling into shore, and no sign of land on the horizon. But in fact, it is fresh water, and it’s spring here in the Southern Hemisphere, so the River, like any other, brings runoff and mud down from the hills, giving it that dirty hue that shocked me.

Puerto del Buceo, Montevideo

Puerto del Buceo, Montevideo

After a short nap, I took a hot bath and headed back out for a late dinner. Well, late for me anyway. Around here, nobody eats dinner until about 10 pm. Even on weekdays. At 9:30 I took a cab along La Rambla to the Parque Rodo neighborhood to try my first Chivito at Bar El Tinkal.

The Chivito is Uruguay’s take on what Anthony Bourdain says is an essential element of the cuisine of every culture – meat sandwiched inside bread or dough (hot dog, hamburger, pierogi, empanada, taco, panini – you get the idea). Here the key ingredient is the fresh and juicy churrasco beef, sliced thin but not too thin, and stuck inside a soft bun with mozzarella, tomatoes, lettuce and some kind of secret sauce. El Tinkal is known as one of the best purveyors of this national delicacy, and I was not disappointed.

Chivito Delicioso

Chivito Delicioso (read more about chivitos here)

I was struck by how alive the city was at that late hour. At 10:00 pm, there were literally hundreds of men and women running on the trail alongside La Rambla, kids playing soccer, diners at restaurants and outdoor cafés all over town, and several families with young children eating out. I think I will adjust easily to these Spanish-style hours – I love a city that stays up late. But, it’s becoming clear that I will have to schedule a mid-day siesta if I want to keep up with the locals.

All in all, a pretty good first day (even if it was about 42 hours long!). I’m off to sleep now, excited and invigorated by this vibrant city.

Hasta mañana….

(for the story of the rest of my time in Montevideo, read about Days 2, 3, 4 and 5 here.)




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