South America Living

Montevideo Day 3

Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY Today, a beautiful, hot Saturday (it got above 80* Fahrenheit) and I made my first visit to the heart of old Montevideo. La Ciudad Vieja, El Mercado del Puerto, La Plaza Independencia. I awoke, more or less well-rested (I was up and down all night – still adjusting to the time difference and the Uruguayan late-night lifestyle), to another perfect blue sky along the banks of the Rio de la Plata. Enjoyed the free buffet, which actually lived up to its billing – eggs, bacon, fresh bread, pastries, yogurt, fruit, good coffee. Excellent selections and well stocked!

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I took a cab (about $9 US) to La Plaza Independencia, a large, European-style square with a huge bronze statue in its center – Jose Artigas, “the father of Uruguayan nationhood”, whose remains are in a dark and somber mausoleum underneath the Plaza.

Plaza Independencia

Plaza Independencia

Head east under El Puerto de la Ciudadela, all that remains of the great stone wall that once surrounded the old city of Montevideo, and walk down El Peatonal Sarandi. This narrow pedestrian street takes you right through La Ciudad Vieja, and now for the first time since I landed here I felt the sense of age and history of this city.

Peatonal in Montevideo

Peatonal in Montevideo

The Peatonal winds more than a mile down towards the river, and today it was populated with hundreds of stands operated by vendors selling hats, jewelry, all manner of local handicrafts. It ends at El Mercado del Puerto, a massive former train depot that has been converted into the coolest food court I’ve ever seen.

El Mercado Publico in Ciudad Vieja Montevideo

El Mercado Publico in Ciudad Vieja Montevideo

I chose from one of the dozens of Parrillas, and enjoyed another meal of succulent meat – blood sausage, chicken, steak and salad.

Restaurant stall in El Mercado Publico Montevideo

Restaurant stall in El Mercado Publico Montevideo

While the meal was not as tasty as the one I enjoyed last night, which only confirmed what everyone has been saying about La Pulperia being THE place for parilla in Montevideo, the atmosphere of El Mercado Publico is quite spectacular..all of which really adds to the ambiance, which is the point here more than the food.

El Mercado Publico

El Mercado Publico

The bustling, crowded, noisy atmosphere at El Mercado del Puerto was exciting and invigorating. My waiter offered me a menu in Spanish and another in English; the couple next to me chose the German-language menu; there was a rugby match on the TV featuring Scotland playing Argentina; the bar posted exchange rates for U.S. dollars and Brazilian Reals; and the building was full of passengers (mostly North American) on a cruise ship tied up at the nearby dock. Oh, and while I was dining, a small troupe of brightly-dressed young male drummers and a trumpet player accompanied a very scantily-clad young lady dancing and shaking her booty and playing a Brazilian drum. The whole experience was a feast for the senses.

Asador at El Mercado Publico Montevideo

Asador at El Mercado Publico Montevideo

Took a cab back to my hotel in Pocitos, passing, along La Rambla, thousands of people enjoying a sunny spring Saturday, sunbathing, playing beach volleyball, etc.. This strikes me as a city of very healthy, outdoors-loving, very friendly people….

Exercising along La Rambla in Montevideo

Exercising along La Rambla in Montevideo

I took a brief nap in the early evening and enjoyed a late-night salad in the bar downstairs, and my first Caipirinha since arriving in South America – it did not disappoint. The perfect way to end another invigorating day in Montevideo, a city I have become very comfortable in!

Mate everywhere

Mate everywhere

Meanwhile, everywhere I went today I saw people carrying their thermoses filled with hot water and their mate cups – tomorrow I go in search of that potent local staple.

Hasta mañana….

(for more of the story of my visit to Montevideo, read about Days 1, 2, 4 & 5 here)




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