Montivideo, Uruguay

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End May 09, 2006

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Friday, February 17, 2006

Montivideo, Feb 17
MILES: flying 8517, bus 22, taxi 33, walking 25, ship 2924+1008, Zodiac boat 14 total: 11,535 miles

Just a day of exploring the city. It is a relatively small city, with just over a million people. It is the capital of Uruguay, which is considered a 3rd world country. One of our dollar is worth 24 of their pesos. And prices are very good, especially on food and services. Internet for an hour was 75 cents, a 20 minute cab ride was less than $2 with a tip. A nice lunch was $4, with a drink, and dessert.
I read in a guidebook from a few years ago how safe the city was, but that is not what I have heard from people. It appears to have some fairly dangerous spots, in fact, a local woman told me that I was in a dangerous spot and said I should move over a few blocks to a safer neighborhood. Their were policemen on every corner of the tourist zones, I guess to make sure that at least those areas were safe.
The city has some very interesting architecture, from its Spanish roots. The older buildings have great style, with lots of wrought iron, and interesting detail. But this 'old' city is not so classy as it is tired. Sidewalks had huge holes in them where the brick was missing, the building just looked in some cases like they were literally falling apart. The old town was just that - old. Yet in all that, I liked the city. It was full of life. Yes, trash blew by in the breeze, it was not particularly clean, I could not find many special areas that seemed worth taking a photo of. But the people were all very friendly, everyone I encountered, in restaurants, in stores, on the street. They were working, walking, going about their business, eating, buying, just living. This is their city, and I enjoyed being in it. There was a interesting blend here, things I've not quite seen before. On a street that was non-stop, buses, taxis, cars of all vintage and value, horns, smoke, engine noise....all moving at that fast big city pace, and that anything goes type of traffic pattern. And out of this, I see a pony-drawn cart, in the midst of the mayhem, poking along in the traffic. The driver taking his time, going from place collecting things. And I saw several of these carts around town, I think they picked up the garbage, but I saw other things being moved along in the carts as well.
I saw children laughing, lots of them. I saw lovers embracing in a park. I saw old men talking sitting side by side on a bench on a busy plaza. I saw a little boy playing in a fountain, oblivious to all around, just splashing around in the less than clear water. I took my wad of peso's and purchased this or that, giving the clerk or waiter a 20 peso note, and realizing it was worth about 80 cents, when in some cities I've visited it would be ten times that. But the waiter or clerk was happy to receive it, and always said 'Gracias', or 'Thank you' knowing I did not speak Spanish. They were quick to serve, quick to help, the food was excellent, well-prepared, clean....

I will be back here, 2 more times, and that is OK. It does not have the attractive qualities that I found in Buenos Aires, and certainly not a Paris or London, but it is it's own place, and has it's own value, and I'll take it for what it is.
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