South America Living

Montevideo Day 2

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MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – If you count my 42-hour, three-flight, cross-country and cross-equator trip as one long day, then this is Day 2. I was so proud of myself last night because I had not experienced any significant jet lag or travel fatigue, and had a pretty full afternoon and evening introducing myself to Montevideo.

Sunset in Montevideo

Sunset in Montevideo

Well, guess what? Today it hit me. Big time. I woke up, as I usually do, before 6:00 AM, and rolled over, as I usually do, to rest for another hour or so. Only today? Today my body refused to co-operate. And even worse? It refused to move for another five hours. WTF!700-02967571er Honestly though, It felt so good to sleep in, in my comfortable bed and air conditioned room at the After Hotel . I needed the rest, and now my body is right on schedule for the rhythms of this city, which evidently likes to stay up late!

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The After Hotel in Montevideo. An excellent stay.

My only regret sleeping in? I missed out on trying the free breakfast buffet here at the hotel, which a fellow guest told me is quite impressive, as these things go (and Lord knows I’ve seen some ‘complimentary breakfasts’ that, shall we say, leave much to be desired). I’ll be sure to be up earlier tomorrow and check it out.

Anyway, I showered and ambled out into the midday sun to wander around my neighborhood – the hotel is right on the border of the Pocitos district and the Buceo. The buildings around here are newer than in the city center, and there is a good deal of construction going on. I like to see that – it indicates a healthy and vibrant economy. Mostly apartment buildings and condos, with some very nice (and expensive) looking places lining El Rio de la Plata.

La Rambla.  Ahhhhh.....

La Rambla. Ahhhhh…..

Under a clear blue sky (temperatures in the comfortable, though somewhat humid, mid-seventies), I made my way west into the Pocitos neighborhood…I’m starting to get my bearings, though it’s still disorienting that the sun traverses the Northern, not the Southern sky. Weird. Everything feels backward. Though I checked, and, no, the water in the toilet does NOT drain in the opposite direction, or at least I don’t think it does – this, it turns out, may be something of an urban legend.

I found a place I had discovered on the internet – a tiny pastry shop called Doña Inés Dulces Tentaciones. And when I say tiny, I mean it was crazy small. In fact, if I hadn’t written down the address and been really alert, I definitely would have missed it. And even after finding it and looking inside, I wasn’t sure how to fit myself in – I had to carefully open the door so as not to hit one of the eight ladies sitting around a table right in the shop’s entryway.

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The room couldn’t have been more than ten feet wide by about forty feet deep, with four small tables lining one wall and a pastry counter at the back. Owned and operated by the amazing sisters Marcela and Daniela, this lovely little bakery features divine sweet treats – cupcakes, cheesecake, chocolate tortes, and an amazing ‘whoopie’ which was magnificent.

Makin' Whoopie...

Makin’ Whoopie…

Great coffee, a bright, beautiful decor and friendly, family-style service – I can enthusiastically recommend a visit here for a sweet start (or middle or end) to a walk around Montevideo.

Everything fits to a Tea...

Everything fits to a Tea…

On I walked – along La Rambla towards the Punta Carretas neighborhood. On a late Friday afternoon, I felt like all of Montevideo was out enjoying the waterfront – runners, bikers, sunbathers, swimmers, dogs off leash… So many athletic and attractive people taking full advantage of a gorgeous, miles-long public park that just made me feel relaxed and at peace. I saw hundreds of people sipping mate from their cups as they walked or reclined on the grass.

Enjoying Mate at dusk in Montevideo

Enjoying Mate at dusk in Montevideo

Stopped for a beer at a waterfront cafe as the sun set, and then walked the half-mile into the heart of the Punta Carretas to a restaurant I’ve been looking forward to since I started planning a stop in Montevideo – La Pulperia.

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This is a must for anyone who visits this town and loves meat, as I do, and as Uruguayans in general do. They are known as the world’s biggest consumers of meat, and the traditional method of preparing it is on a parilla, a huge grill placed directly on the fire.

La Pulperia is tiny – with room inside for maybe fifteen diners, and outside for another fifteen. They don’t take reservations, and I had been advised to show up early – this turned out to be good advice: I found the only empty space, a stool on a windowsill looking into the dishwasher and deep-fryer part of the kitchen, and within twenty minutes there were eight people lined up on the sidewalk waiting for tables.

I ordered the Blood Sausage as an appetizer – not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I developed a taste for it when I lived in Spain — and I love it. It was as good a sausage as I have ever tasted.

Morcilla or blood sausage made from the dried blood of a cow

Morcilla or blood sausage made from the dried blood of a cow

Then I ordered the Ojo de Bife or Ribeye Steak…and Oh My God… Perfection! It absolutely melted in my mouth, and the taste? Succulent and beyond words.

Bife de chorizo or New York strip steak is another popular choice at the parrilla.

Bife de chorizo or New York strip steak is another popular choice at the parrilla.

These folks know how to do meat! It’s a hole in the wall, crowded and hot inside, without fanfare or pretense – just one of the best places to eat steak in the world. And extremely reasonably-priced. I paid less than twenty dollars for my meal, including a half-bottle of excellent Uruguayan red wine, a bread basket (you have to pay for it) and the tip.

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After thanking the lovely waitress and the dishwasher, who ran down the street after me to give me the sweater I had left behind on my stool, I walked back toward La Rambla, the sidewalk restaurants still bustling, about halfway back to my hotel, hailed a cab and landed in my little room satisfied, relaxed and smiling.

Sunset over El Rio de la Plata

Sunset over El Rio de la Plata

I’m really starting to like this city, which has never before been on my travel radar; I don’t know why. It is an under-appreciated jewel of South America. And I haven’t even been to La Ciudad Vieja or the city center yet – that’s on tomorrow’s schedule….

Hasta mañana

(for the story of the rest of my time in Montevideo, read about Days 1, 3, 4 & 5 here)




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