Interesting city...boring post

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Sunday, June 17, 2007

He Said:

As we've been writing the last few weeks we've begun to notice that our posts are turning out pretty dull. After talking about it, I think we figured out why. Prior to coming to South America, we were challenged continually by peculiar culture and unfamiliar environments...enough so that it has started to take a lot to get us to turn our heads. Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay are all progressive, highly developed nations. Although there is "local flavor," there is a lot culturally, economically, socially that this region shares with North America. I guess we are finding that the whole host of similarities makes the few differences seem trivial. We could easily live in Santiago, Buenos Aires, or Montevideo...if we spoke a lot better Spanish, that is! Leave it to say that visiting places that seem almost a comfortable as home doesn't seem to spur us to produce very engaging travel writing.

Like the other South American capitals we have visited as of late, Montevideo is a vibrant and modern place. Shopping malls, boutiques, and trendy restaurants dot much of the neighborhood we are staying in. The city has a number of beaches, a waterfront promenade, and an old town with tons of beautiful buildings in various states of preservation. Some of the derelict buildings were absolutely beautiful works of neo-classical or art deco design. If you have ever dreamed of buying an old mansion or palace to restore, the old town in Montevideo is full of some truly remarkable properties. Again though, it was pretty cold. This is a town that would be really fun when the weather is warm. Next time we'll come here in January!

One thing that often catches the eye in Uruguay is the large number of classic American and European cars you spot on the roads. Vehicles with tailfins or gracefully curving fenders can be seen in many driveways. It turns out that these rolling relics have a lot to tell about Uruguay's economic history. The nation prospered for most of the auto age until it hit a serious economic slump in the 1960's that lasted into the early 1980's. People took very good care of their cars because they had to, and their nearly worthless pesos would barely buy food, much less new cars. Uruguay has long since emerged from that crisis but there are a lot of cars from that era still going strong.

Tonight we are catching a bus back to Colonia, and then hopping on a fast ferry back to Argentina. We'll are wrapping up our time in South America in one of it's most exciting and happening cities, Buenos Aires.

She Said:

Montevideo would be a great city to live in, assuming that you can speak Spanish. It is a big city with a "small town" feel, with lots of varied barrios (neighborhoods), a 23km long waterfront promenade to walk, jog, and bike uninterrupted, several parks and plazas and of course LOTS of meat. Despite our best efforts to walk around and see all the sites, we started running out of things to do around noon on the second day. I think visiting in the summer would be a much better idea.

We used the last of our Starwood Hotel points to stay at the Sheraton, which was really comfortable and nice. Coincidentally, the Organization of American States (OAS) was having a multi-day meeting there, as well as a black-tie soirée one of the nights. So all of the South American political big wigs and their entourages were there. We ended up in the elevator (remember, our look is a bit...well...bad at the moment - ripped jeans, slightly smelly over worn t-shirts, sneakers, no hairdryer, split ends) with a group of fur coat wearing, giant diamond necklaces, with lots of makeup, bouffant up-dos, and serious stares of disapproval floating our way. Anyway, there was military dignitary with them in full uniform, with pantaloons, knee-high black boots, a fuzzy fur hat, medals galore, a giant sword and a stern glare on his face, so naturally we just tried to look invisible. But later, we joked how his uniform made him look like the Nutcracker, or the little guy that dances between the levels in the game Tetris....we giggled "Hey! Tetris called, and someone made it to level 2...they need their dancer back."

One night we ate dinner at the food court (patio de comida) at the mall attached to our hotel. After I ordered my food, the guy working behind the register said something to me in Spanish that I didn't understand. I looked at him very confused, and he repeated. Still, I didn't get it. So he said it louder...and then again even louder. And, yes you guessed it, louder again. This experience made me realize something... How guilty are we all of doing this to non-native English speakers. Apparently, if you say it louder somehow the sound waves will shake something loose inside your brain and you will suddenly be a fluent speaker. In the future, I think small words and charades would make people feel a lot better. And trust me, anytime someone tries this hard to help us understand, we feel like hugging him them.

Tomorrow we are returning to Buenos Aires, which is much more cosmopolitan and just full of things to do. Hooray!
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