Montevideo ... OK but nothing special

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Dec 17, 2008

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Where I stayed
El Viajero

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Wednesday, November 26, 2008

After a relaxing couple of days in Colonia I moved onwards to the Uruguayan capital , Montevideo , which was only a short couple of hours journey on the bus and where I spent a few days exploring. I cant say that I was super-impressed by Montevideo , it was OK but nothing particularly inspiring or special to get excited about . But maybe I didnt give it a totally fair crack of the whip as in the back of my mind I just wanted to get back to my beloved Buenos Aires ! I stayed in the Old City "Ciudad Vieja" but it wasnt very impressive either aesthetically in terms of the architecture or in the atmosphere or culture of the place. The Old City juts out onto a promontory and has the working port/docks on one side and a rather grim collection of apartment buildings on the other side. Generally a lot of the Old City seems to be pretty run down and neglected ... it needs a facelift and some investment in restoration of some of the buildings to give it more appeal to tourists I think. I stayed close to the Plaza de la Constitucion which had the cathedral , a couple of other interesting buildings like the Cabildo & Club Uruguay and a McDonalds whose flags decorated one pedestrianised side of the square ! Just a few blocks walk close by was another uninspiring and somehow neglected plaza , Plaza Zabala , which was named after the founder of the city. Then at the edge of the Old City there is the old gate but alas it was under reconstruction and covered up. The Old Town and New Town are separated by a very large square , the Plaza de la Independencia which is possibly the most impressive part of Montevideo that I saw , but still somewhat marred by the monstrosity apartment blocks at one end. Plaza de la Independencia has a large statue of Artigas (the leader of Uruguays independence from Spain) , the Palacio Salvo (Uruguays first skyscraper and I think an impressive building) , the old government building "Casa de Gobierno Historico" and then some more modern buildings like the Radisson hotel and the new "Palacio de Justicia". From this square there is basically one long road , Avenida 18 de Julio , which runs all the way up to a park called "Parque Batlle y Ordonez" (that was actually someones surname , the famous historical figure Senor Batlle y Ordonez) which is where the footie stadium is located. I wanted to see the historic old stadium which was built for the first world cup in 1930 and which which Uruguay actually won ... its very run down , unimpressive visually and looks exactly like what it is ie. a 1930 stadium ! but nonetheless I liked the sense of history that this was where the first World Cup was played. In Rio I plan to go to the Maracana stadium which will hold the 2014 World Cup Final so I will have seen both ends of the time spectrum first hand , aswell as of course the stadia in Argentina used in 1978.The Avenida 18 de Julio is mostly commercial with loads of shops and restaurants but there are some kind of interesting buildings and little plazas along the route. I saw my first Santa Claus and Xmas Tree this year in one of the plazas ... have to say it seems a little weird to be thinking about preparations for Xmas in such a hot and unusual climate when I am used to the cold weather (but warm atmosphere) of England at Xmas.There is a large new building in Montevideo called the Antel Tower (after the government telecoms company Antel whose HQ is in the building) which is 160m high . There is a public viewing platform on the 26th floor of what is essentially a working commercial building so I went up there and enjoyed some super views over the city and the port. One extraordinary thing about Montevideans is their love of Mate ... you see people everywhere carrying their little flask of water under one arm , a mate gourd in one hand and usually also a lit cigarette in the other. I have seen mate being enjoyed elsewhere in Sth America of course but nothing like as universally as I saw in Montevideo. For the uninitiated , "Yerba Mate" is a plant which is brewed in hot (but not boiling) water  and is a stimulant like coffee , consumed from a little pot called a "gourd" . So to summarise , as said above Montevideo was just alright but nothing more and so a few days was plenty of time to see what there was to see. On Friday lunchtime I got the bus back across to Colonia and then the fast catamaran back to Buenos Aires for a farewell weekender in my favourite city. As an aside this little old travelblog of mine has hit a bit of a milestone as according to itīs counter it has now surpassed 10,000 unique visitors !

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