The clouds were building over the city as we seemed to circle around it. When we woke this morning, we looked out (as we do) and felt sure that the view was that of Punta del Este. Sure enough, that’s exactly what it was, evidenced by the white edifice on the landscape that was CasaPuelblo. By this afternoon, though, we simply had to be approaching Montevideo – not that far from Punta del Este but as we were to discover later, a world away in some terms.
We approached our berth by sailing past containers and, above, stacks of the components for wind turbines.
Oh, and the Uruguayan Navy.
And the Zaandam, an Holland America cruise ship already in port.
With a helpful shove from a tug right beneath our verandah, we made it to our berth.
Although we had tickets for a tour, we decided to throw them in and go it alone, so as soon as we were docked, my Hero and I hot footed it along the quayside and away.
We stopped at the dock entrance though, to take photographs and pay homage to an event we last commemorated on the Oriana, as we sailed out of Buenos Aires that time. The Graf Spee was scuttled in the Rio de la Plata and this memorial marked that event.
We crossed the road out of the dock estate and were soon in the pedestrianised old town.
We walked though a small square with a monument with this lovely sculpture on the side facing us. This appeared to be a “real” gaucho, unlike one we saw last evening…maybe I’ll tell you more about him later.
This part of Montevideo is pretty gritty. The old town is undergoing some renovation but in the meantime the shabby is overriding the chic. We knew of this from one of the lectures we’d heard on board the ship, from Terry Breen, who’d bought property in this part of the city and who’d been able to give us a valuable insight.
As we wandered up the main street, we came across a bunch of people. What was going on? My hero soon got it – a wedding! Quick, said he, she’s about to throw her bouquet!
Well, I didn’t quite catch the moment, but it’s enough to give you an idea. It was a simple, unfussy but heartfelt celebration and the small girl who caught the bunch of roses was thrilled, believe me!
I’ll post some more specific impressions of Montevideo later, but for now, walk with us through this pedestrianised street and enjoy the calm and relaxed atmosphere here.
The remnants of a formerly grander community are still here and, in some places, are being restored.
But it’s going to take time and in the meantime, the force are out on their Segways, keeping order.
We soon approached this landmark which we recognised – the gateway to the old town there at the top of the street.
On the other side lies the newer, commercial capital city, with government offices around this grand square.
Though we were heading right across it, we spotted the theatre there on our right hand side so snapped a picture to remind us to revisit it on the way back!
We admired the various government and offical buildings as we went,
taking especial note of the man on the horse in the centre – Artigas, the founder of Uruguay and generally regarded as the “father of the nation”.
Actually, we were on a mission. The crossroads between San Jose and Paraguay was a short distance from here, but that was where our destination lay.
I know that several of my friends will be familiar with the name Manos del Uruguay. Well, it seemed silly not to make a small visit to the source of some of the most gorgeous knitting yarns around, wouldn’t you say?
It wasn’t a difficult choice. In fact, I’ve seen a better selection elsewhere. But oh my, the prices!
Four skeins of silk blend and four more of the hand dyed chunky were soon picked out and paid for – at a quarter of the price elsewhere in the world. What a great souvenir!
We made our way back the way we’d come, behind this family. I noted mother’s shoes which demonstrate the trend here right now for extraordinary platform soles. Had I not worn similarly crazy shoes in the past I might have tutted…
On our way back, we spent longer taking a closer look. Here, in the corner of Independence Square was a small cloister typical of the slightly faded glory that seems to be characteristic of the city.
Terry had told us that this is a city of atmosphere rather than monuments and catching sight of these two soldiers – one in ceremonial dress – cross the road seemed to confirm that.
Some of the buildings are very grand when seen from a distance, but look a little more closely and all is not quite as it might seem.
Anyway, sitting with a tub of dulce de leche ice cream (is there any other sort?!), we watched the world go by a while and simply savoured the atmosphere, just to see if it’s true.
Those policemen segwayed past us again.
On our way back, we decided to pop inside the cathedral to take a look rather than walk straight past. What lovely floors awaited us.
Though since there was a service on in a side chapel, we simply took a quick look and left.
We quite like Montevideo but after the glamour and wealthy tone of Punta del Este yesterday, today came as a little surprise. Shabby chic doesn’t quite cut it – the shabby is there more than the chic right now, but perhaps in ten, twenty year’s time?
But one thing’s for sure, Montevideo is real. There’s no veneer or any false front: what you see is what you get. It’s a genuine place and that’s fine with me.
It was good to be home though.