A Short Stop in the Capital

Trip Start Feb 15, 2011
Trip End Apr 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Los Angeles

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Friday, March 4, 2011

Arrived by bus about noon – a short three hour journey so hardly needed to be refreshed before off on our walking tour of the city. Impressive buildings, a strange mausoleum under the main square for the country's founding father General Artigas complete with urn full of ashes, straight streets.  Still warm. Had a huge plate of meat in the market for lunch – parilla (BBQ restaurants) are very popular in Uruguay and Argentina  – unfortunately it was rubbish and very expensive so spent the rest of the day feeling unpleasantly full and grumpy.  Market contained shops selling odd stuff like old pics of Graf Spey being scuttled during the second world war. Always surprises me when you turn up somewhere that you learned about years ago and find it still resonates with the locals.

The city was a bit of a shock after spending several days on buses, wandering around waterfalls and riding the range.  We were suddenly aware of the risks to belongings – real or imagined – but we did wander down to the docks taking turns to look over our shoulders.  The waterfront is very patchy. Near the docks it's very rundown although they’ve spent a lot of money on a fancy promenade.  Unfortunately the combined efforts of the South Atlantic trade winds and crap urban housing have defeated the efforts of the city fathers.  But further up the coast the city is richer and the promenade really works – a bit like Copacabana with people running, cycling etc and an excellent view of the sunset.

In the evening we went to a carnival competition in a huge open air theatre on the posh end of the promenade  - bit like Montevideo meets Verona . There were three samba groups in competition showing three different types of carnival genres – yeah I know we all thought it was all fancy dancing, big costumes and scantily clad women… but how wrong we were!

-         First up were a group of singers – all men – excellent voices -  but for those of us seeking a few thrills from the evening basically a little slow.

-         Second up – ha! now you’re talking – the works.  Carnival as we think we know it.  Costumes, rather indecently unclad ladies, pole dancers(!), samba dancing, wobbly backsides and a very large lady with few, if any, inhibitions. Oh and drummers like you have never heard outside of Japan.  We were all rocking on our hard concrete seats,  except Sue who was wallowing on her specially hired deep pile cushion and backrest (wimp).

-         Third act up at 1am so we only watched it on our TVs in the hotel – yes they televise these things here.  Mostly talking by people possibly dressed as trees.  Went straight over our heads I’m afraid as our guiding light, interpreter and general advisor on all things South American (Gigi – Intrepid tour leader) had knocked off by then.

No idea who won but it was all good fun.
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