Monday, June 1, 2009

Along the coast of Uruguay...

I must admit, the shores of Uruguay have been a main attraction since a few days before we embarked on our boundless South American adventure. Paul and I gazed at the television in his mom’s basement flipping through channels, drinking boxed wine (of course) just to pass a seeming eternity before we boarded the plane. After a while of this we stumbled on to, unknowingly to us at the time, our hero— Anthony Bordain— with “No Reservations” at a shack on a Uruguayan beach. We were sold.

In our quest to find this beach town, several locals gently guided us to Punta del Este, a high-end surfer town east of we bounced along the coast of Uruguay, not quite reaching our hero´s spot; we´re saving that for summer.

The perfect Saturday in Montevideo, by Mel

Wake up with a cortado after another late night at the pubs of Ciudad Viejo…stroll along the Rambla Francia…watch the fishermen cast from the rocks…take in the fresh sea air…nice, huh? Keep trotting along the Montevideo version of a boardwalk, around the bend, past the cargo ship yard and just across the navy yard…discover the most amazing parrilla experience to date!

Red and blue awnings flap in the breeze as waiters try to entice you in broken English into their parlor, but don’t be enticed…don’t stop here. There is much more to be discovered through the portal that leads to the real mercado area of Mercado del Puerto.

This is the place to be Saturday afternoon according to locals and Lonely Planet alike and it will all be clear to you as you inhale the sweet and smokey smells of grilling steak.

Once you enter the market, flames are flying high above the chefs´ heads, flipping the chorizo and ribs from side to side. The sound of chatty laughter echos through the warehouse-esq establishment. It feels so truely local...leave the tourists to the awninged-parrillas outside.

Hint: Take a peek at a parrilla outside and around the back of the market; they just might offer you cheese and champagne on the house for starters and enough meat for a week. (Wink, wink; nudge, nudge)

cortado – espresso with a splash of milk
Ciudad Viejo – the “Old City” area of Montevideo, located at the point of the city
mercado - market

A Shore to See - Punta Del Este, by Paul

If you want a posh beach resort (with that jetsetter feel), the place to go is Punta Del Este, Uruguay. Laying where the Rio de la Plata empties into the Atlantic Ocean, Punta Del Este has made a name for itself as a elite beach travel, which is more than evident by the scores of high-rise condomineums and hotels overlooking the waterfronts.

Walking down to the beach from 1949 Hostel where we stayed (with yet another "pet-for-the-day"), the neighborhood shows off it´s cute little boutiques as well as upscale restaurants. Although the streets were a bit empty, excepting the occasional fellow late traveller (also in beach attire trying to force a summer) or a local, there was still an aura of summer: of people basking in the warm Sun drinking cold beer on the beach; walking around in their bathing suits and flip-flops where ever they go.

It was a nice experience to visit this small town during what is now late Autumn here. With the population known to boom over 100% during the summer, we were able to walk freely among the high rises and pick any spot we pleased along it´s maginifacent, diverse shorelines. Once ploppled down, it was hard to get lost in the sound of the lapping waves while staring out at the lighthouse in the distance or admiring the lush trees that seem to occupy the small islands off the coast.

From smooth to course sand to rocky beaches, from swimming to surfing, the beach front here has a bit of everything. Between the delicious looking restaurants and the mind-blowingly beautiful shore, it is no wonder this little town serves as one of the major attractions of Uruguay.

Things of Note:

Marking the point where the river meets the ocean, Monumento de Ahogado (or Momument of the Drowned) serves as a warning for swimmers of the dangerous waters better served for surfing.

La Fonda del Pesca is a small little restaurant located three blocks from the beach with an interesting chef and amiable staff serving fresh food.

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