The quaintness of the town is in its cobblestone, shady tree-lined streets and the various parks available for relaxing, enjoying ice cream,or listening to music-all of which we did. We just happened to be enjoying a bit of ice cream in one park when we heard one of those awful sound systems blaring from a passing car. I think I described this phenomenon in another blog but if not, here goes: in Latin America (definitely more in Central America) it is very normal for people to strap large speakers to their car and drive around speaking through a microphone projecting their voice for the entire city to hear...selling things, sharing their opinion on politics, telling you about the next sale at the department store, whatever...it is ridiculous! Back to our present story. We were enjoying our ice cream and we heard this guy on his microphone talking about something or another and I caught the words "Flamenco", "musica", "4:00" and "Parque Mayo". Since we werenīt catching a boat back to Buenos Aires for a few hours, we made our way to this park and were incredibly pleased to find live music and a Flamenco dancer! It was a trio of fellas, 2 guys on guitars and one on a Box (percussion instrument that literally looks like a box) who were really talented and a gal who showed off a bit of the Flamenco dance. It was a warm, sunny afternoon and a perfect way for us to kick back and enjoy it.
Canīt forget to talk about food...we had a most delicious sandwich called Chivitos
which we had read about in our guidebook and were anxious to try. Itīs hard not to enjoy a sandwich consisting of steak, jam, bacon, hard-boiled egg, lettuce and tomato! Good thing we were only in Uruguay for a day as it could be a very unfortunate situation for our arteries were we to eat these sandwiches on a regular basis.
One other interesting and not so pleasing experience we had when dining out in Uruguay was the nice little charge added to your bill referred to as "cubiertos". How this worked out for us was that a couple times when we ordered our meal they brought us a basket of bread. Not knowing any better, we assumed this was compliments of the restaurant since we didnīt order it and just dug in to enjoy it. Turns out when we got our bill we were charged for it! Granted, it wasnīt a big expense and didnīt break our budget, but just the fact that we didnīt order it but had to pay for it was enough to make you feel cheated. I guess we were just supposed to know that. Another time we went to a restaurant and were charged a "musician" fee for the guy playing guitar in the background. It wasnīt even a formal show! I totally understand the desire to make a few tips and we have no problem tipping him as we see fit, but we prefer to have that be up to us vs. a mandatory requirment. Oh well, when in Uruguay...
An easy day trip from Buenos Aires is a quick 50-minute boat ride to a quaint, very touristy little town in Uruguay called Colonia del Sacramento. In days of old it was a smuggling port and the town reflects it with itīs stone walls, old cannons facing the sea, and lighthouse. It was dominated by both the Portuguese and the Spanish and there are flavors remnant of both in this city. For example, and I definitely read this somewhere as I never would have noticed it myself, but there is a difference in the streets build by the Spaniards vs. Portuguese in terms of the placement of the storm drain (central vs. on the side of the street).