South America Living

Montevideo Day 4

La Rambla, Montevideo

La Rambla, Montevideo


MONTEVIDEO, URUGUAY – I awake again to a clear blue sky, a light breeze, and a city already exercising along the waterfront. It’s like dejá vu all over again!

It’s Sunday. So this town, like every city with a predominantly Christian population, has a different, more relaxed vibe today. A lot of stores and restaurants are closed, the beaches and parks far more crowded than they had been in previous days, and it just feels, you know, like a Sunday.

La Ciudad Vieja Montevideo

La Ciudad Vieja Montevideo

Having checked off most of the items on my short list of places not to miss, I treated today as a bit of a “play-it-by-ear” day. Which worked out for the best in some ways, and led to some disappointments in others. I took a cab to La Ciudad Vieja just after noon, intending to find a cafe that the internet indicated served maté. Disappointment number one. The address, right on the old Peatonal Sarandi, was attached to a closed down, locked up and abandoned looking shop. It may once have been a business of some sort, but it clearly has not been one recently. Bummer. Oh well, I had the nearby address of a restaurant called “La Silenciosa”, which was supposed to be in a former convent in the old city. Same drill, different street: I found the right address, but it was closed, boarded up, and clearly had been neither a restaurant nor a convent for some time now.

The streets of La Ciudad Vieja in Montevdeo, Uruguay.

The streets of La Ciudad Vieja in Montevdeo, Uruguay.

Not a problem. I am a seasoned traveler, right (or at least, learning to be one)? I just started walking back toward the city center, consulting my Samsung Galaxy 5 along the way, and had a chivito and beer at the Manchester Bar on Avenida 18 de Julio (the main street of the city center, which is named for the date in 1830 when Uruguay’s first constitution was written). An excellent chivito, though I haven’t yet decided which of the several chivitos I’ve eaten here is the best. I expect there may be one or two more in my future….

Chivito - the Uruguayan national sandwich

Chivito the Uruguayan national sandwich

Ambling on up Avenida 18 de Julio, I stumbled upon my happiest find of the trip thus far: On the pavement at the large and beautiful Plaza Fabini (with fountains and lush overhanging trees and kids and dogs playing and people enjoying beers and mate at an outdoor cafe), there was a group of perhaps thirty men and women dancing the tango — right there in the street. How cool! What a thing to stumble upon. I was beyond thrilled!

Plaza Fabini's Monumento del Entrevero (“the Monument of Disorder”), a large sculpture about the horrors of war by José Belloni (1882-1965), depicting gauchos, criollos, and native Uruguayans in battle.

Plaza Fabini’s Monumento del Entrevero (“the Monument of Disorder”), a large sculpture about the horrors of war depicting gauchos, criollos, and native Uruguayans in battle.

They had a loudspeaker set up playing tango music, and they were dancing the Tango! All of them septuagenarians and octogenarians! And each of them enthusiastic and graceful and skilled at the complicated and romantic dance that is was invented in Uruguay. I was enthralled. What a joy to see people “of a certain age” dancing with such vigor and skill!

They're dancing in the streets!

They’re dancing in the streets!

I watched them dance for about an hour, trading off partners, bringing in strangers from off the street, getting rounds of applause from the passersby – dancing just for the joy of it. A beautiful and inspiring sight. Maybe I can learn to dance the tango someday – but if not, I will never stop enjoying seeing others perform it with such gusto….

Spontaneous Tango en la calle

Spontaneous Tango en la calle

The dancers took a break just at the time I had marked on my schedule to head to an obscure street corner in the Palermo/Barrio Sur neighborhood where I had been told (again by the internet – always blame the anonymous technology) there would be a gathering of drummers and dancers doing the Candombe, a uniquely Uruguayan music and dance style that derives from traditional rhythms of the African slaves brought here in Spanish colonial times. Well, guess what? The internet had again let me down. No drummers. No dancers. Just an empty street corner. After returning, dejected, to my hotel, I found out from the front desk that the Candombe performers gather only between December and March, the height of their activity being before and during the Carnaval in February. Guess I should’ve asked before I went out looking for Candombe.

Street art depicting Candombe...as close as I got to the real thing.

Street art depicting Candombe…as close as I got to the real thing.

So, I regrouped in my hotel room, did some more poking around online, and at 9:15 pm, headed out to the heart of the very pretty and ritzy-looking Pocitos neighborhood for a meal at La Otra Parilla, the only place that folks say rivals La Pulperia for the title of best parrilla in Montevideo.

La Otra Parrilla

La Otra Parrilla

This time, my research skills and the groupthink of the internet did not let me down. I won’t say that La Otra is better than La Pulperia but I will say it is tied for a very close second. I had an Ojo de bife ancho. It was ahhhhmazing!

Ojo de bife ancho at La Otra Parrilla

Ojo de bife ancho at La Otra Parrilla

I loved the ambience at La Otra, my waiter was fun, friendly and helpful, and the meat was outstanding. An excellent steak, some gooey deliciousness of Provoleta, a nice Uruguayan Tannat wine, and an incredibly reasonable price. I have definitely come to understand why this city is known as one of the best places in the world to eat beef. A very satisfying meal, and a great way to end a day of ups and downs….

Provoleta

Provoleta – an Argentine delicacy of provolone cheese seasoned and heated usually right on the grill.

Well-fed and tired, I found a cab at midnight back to my hotel, and I am now about to fall asleep comfortably. I like this town. And maybe tomorrow I can find some mate. Or, if not, just more really great food, beautiful neighborhoods, and friendly and healthy people…..

Montevideo at night.

Montevideo at night.

Hasta mañana….

(for the story of the rest of my time in Montevideo, read about Days 1, 2, 3 & 5 here)




Logo Header Menu