Uruguay was the final goal of this trip, and after our layover in Fray Bentos we would be splitting our time in Montevideo, the capital, and the beach. We got into Montevideo in the evening. When we got to the hotel we'd planned on staying in, we heard the desk clerk tell people in front of us that they had no rooms for the night. He recommended one up the street, our second choice, so we spun around and made for it before the others could finish their conversation. It proved to be a good move, because we got the last room. The place, Hotel Palacio, was really nice, with an old iron cage elevator. We got one of the better rooms, complete with a balcony that was bigger than many of the rooms we'd rented on our trip. It also had a great view of Ciudad Vieja, Old Town Montevideo, and the water on both sides.
|Ciudad Vieja and the Atlantic|
Unfortunately we only got that room for one night, as there was a reservation for the next day. We moved to another room which was equally nice, but without the balcony. There was a weekend street market Sunday morning, the Feria de Tristan Narvaja, which closes many streets to traffic so vendors can set up stands selling produce, antiques, clothes, and about anything else you can imagine. We were saving our stomachs for lunch that day, so we stuck to some small pears.
After a few hours we decided not to wait anymore and made for the Mercado del Puerto, where we would be getting the lunch that the trip was built around. To get there we walked through Ciudad Vieja, which we were disappointed to find in pretty sad shape. We'd heard a lot about Montevideo's old buildings, so it was too bad to see them mostly out of commission. Through those, though, we made our way to the market, right by the port, which, unlike the rest of the neighborhood, is bustling on weekends. Inside there are about a dozen parillas, Uruguayan grill restaraurants, all dying to get you to eat there. We made sure to get a seat at the bar where you can watch the cooks throw wood on the fire, rake the coals and manage an ungodly amount of meat, which is what we'd be ordering.
The parrillada is a mix of the more popular cuts of meat, and comes in serving sizes according to your party size which they pile into a metal box with coals underneath. Now, they said the serving size we ordered(which was the smallest) was meant for two, and we mentioned our small breakfast, but this thing was still unmanagable for us. It came with the following meats: a chorizo sausage, a blood sausage, a two-foot-long cut of short ribs, a steak, half a chicken, and two small intestines. That was after the salad, which needless to say, was of little intrest to us. We made a good go of it, but had to stick to our favorites. The sausages didn't last, and we made good progress the ribs and steak. While we were adventurous and tried the intestines, they really weren't good (it was a texture issue) and were an obvious pass. The chicken, while good, wasn't all that exciting. All in all we probably put away about 60% of the the thing, and felt pleased with our efforts. This all went along with a bottle of medio y medio a mix of sparkling and regular white wine.
|Una parrilla Uruguaya, a carnivore´s dream come true.|
A long walk through Ciudad Vieja was much needed after this, as was a nap. Dinner on the other hand, was not so necessary, so we just did some gelato.
|Montevideo from the pier|
The next day we hopped a bus to La Pedrera, a small beach town a little further away than the busier resort beach towns on the Uruguay coast. We found a little hostel that was cheap and quiet and out of the way called El Tucan. After checking in we made for the beach. It was about 6:00pm, the sun was behind the clouds, the wind had picked up and the water was cold, so we just spent about an hour laying on our towels. The next day the sun was out, so we rented beach chairs and didn't leave until 5:00pm. The water was still pretty cold, and rough, but we made it in at one point. An abundance of jellyfish kept us from staying too long, though, so we returned to the chairs. Seafood on the coast is highly recommended and we found a parilla that served a fish and mussel pasta dish that was incredible as well as a nice change to all the beef we'd been mainlining. Don't worry, we got a chorizo as well to minimize meat withdrawls.
|Just plain terrible...|
Our day on the beach left us with some light sunburns (unavoidable when you're as white as we are), so we only did the one full day on the coast. The next afternoon we hopped back on a bus and returned to Montevideo. We returned to the Hotel Palacio, and to the restaurant we went to our first night. We tried some other Uruguayan staples, like a chivito sandwich (beef, ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, olives, eggs and mayo) and a milanesa, a breaded steak cutlet. The restaurant also had some decadant desserts, like the oddly named omelette surprise, which was a huge scoop of ice cream topped with toasted meringue. This was lunch, the only meal we'd had all day, and it tided us over until the late night when we went out to find more chorizo sandwiches. We found a different cart, and though one sounded like enough, we managed two.
|Chorizo five of seven on the trip|
The following day was our last in Montevideo, so we wanted to make one more (less coma inducing) trip to the Mercado del Puerto. First we stopped by the now defunct train station, a beautiful building now, unfortunately, closed off with corrogated sheet metal. We took the necessary photos, then skipped out of the area which was across the safety line on our map. At the market we found a different parrilla and went a little lighter, ordering filet mignon, rabbit, and another bottle of medio y medio. Next to us were a Swede and Austrian traveling together, who had questions about what to order. This turned into a long travel conversation that went on past the parrilla's closing. We didn't get many opportunities to chat with other travelers on this trip, so it was really fun to find some English speakers. They were on the other end of their trip, and going the opposite way we had, so we got to make some recommendations for Peru and Bolivia.
|The down and out train station|
|La segunda parrilla|
|Nan and Montevideo, far less gloomy than they may look here|
The rest of the day was spent walking around the city, drawing and taking photos. We also took our final oppurtunity to get one more omelette surprise, Nan's new best friend. All in all, we really, really enjoyed our time in Uruguay. Aside from the incredible food it is also a beautiful and easy going country, which met all of our hopes and expectations. We really lucked out regaining our health and our appetites for this leg of the trip and were truly able to relax and really enjoy ourselves. We will be keeping our eyes on flight deals to Montevideo and Buenos Aires... we're coming back.
|Surprise! It´s an... omelette?|
Today we're meeting up with Rosario again, then have a free day tomorrow, and fly back home on Monday! We're looking forward to being home, but right now we're wearing shorts and light clothing as much as we can before we have to face the sub-freezing Portland weather. That part, we aren't looking forward to so much.
Thanks for reading along. We'll have some closing posts when we get home, along with some photos that didn't make the update posts.