Montevideo, Uruguay was the last of our three ports of call before returning to Buenos Aires. Before this cruise, the only thing I knew about Uruguay was that it is a country in South America. I was looking forward to learning more.
Montevideo is the capital city. It sits along the banks of the very wide Plate River (Rio de la Plata). There is a beach promenade (the Ramblas) that stretches for several miles. The thing that first struck me was how brown the beach water is. It is the color of milk chocolate. We were told by several people that the color is not from pollution. Rather, it is the result of the sediments being stirred up from the bottom. Regardless, we did not spend any time at the beach or in the water.
Riding along the Ramblas, I saw the brownest beach water I have ever seen.
Traci and I had signed up for the 4-hour Montevideo Highlights shore excursion. Montevideo is a clean modern city. Even the graffiti looks as if it has to meet some type of artistic standard. Even though it is close in proximity to the much larger Buenos Aires, Montevideo has its own vibe. The city seemed to be more laid back with less hustle and bustle - granted this could have been because we were visiting early Saturday morning. The language of Uruguay is Spanish. We did not encounter many people who were fluent in English other than our tour guide.
The population of Uruguay is 88% white, 4% black, and 8% mestizo (mixed race). This surprised me because I normally think of South American countries as having a more diverse demographic of Indian, white, and mestizo. However, the native Indian population began dying off with the arrival of Europeans during the 1500's. The rest were exterminated in the 1830's under the orders of Uruguay's first president, Fructuoso Rivera.
Our tour started off with a quick photo stop in Independence Square (Plaza de Independecia) where a statue stands surrounded by palm trees and important Uruguayan buildings - one of which being the workplace of Uruguay's president. We later made another photo stop at the Legislative Palace (Palacio Legislativo). There were many steps to climb to get to the multi-columned building. We did not enter but had a quick look at the interior through a guarded open door.
with the guards at Legislative Palace (Palacio Legislativo)
In Montevideo, there seems to be a park, statue, or monument everywhere you turn. We saw several of them during our tour. One of the more interesting experiences was our visit to one of the city parks. There is a triumphant structure there called La Carreta that depicts oxen pulling a carriage. This sculpture is actually guarded by a live guard who will blow his whistle at you and wave you away if you get too close.
La Carreta Sculpture - Don't get too close or else...
Our tour continued into affluent neighborhoods. The houses were not mansions. They were rather close together but each property was neatly landscaped. We finished off the tour by riding along the Ramblas next to the beach. From the window of the motorcoach, we saw the large block letters on the beach that spell 'Montevideo'. Traci and I were hoping we would have the opportunity to pose in front of the letters for a photo. It is a scenic location that captures the crescent shape of the beach with the city skyline behind it. Unfortunately, our guide said we would not be stopping there. I doubted we would have enough time to walk there and back from our drop-off location in the city's Old Town (Ciudad Vieja).
With the tour finished, Traci and I had a few hours of free time to explore Old Town. The main draw here is the Mercado del Puerto. Inside are a multitude of parrillas (grilled meat restaurants). Like Argentina, Uruguay is known for its parrillas. The place smelled delicious! We were warned that the Mercado becomes packed around 2 PM. This turned out to be true. Although the grills smelled mouth-watering good, Traci and I did not eat there. We continued our exploration on foot along the pedestrian-only street outside the Mercado del Puerto. We saw more eateries, souvenir shops, and even a weed (cannabis) shop.
The restaurants at Mercado del Puerto specialize in grilled meats.
The tango originated in this part of the world. As can be seen on the streets of Argentina, street performers in Montevideo's Old City were also demonstrating the tango. They were happy to teach you a few moves or pose for photos but of course they expected a tip.
We were told there was free Wi-Fi at the tourist information office at the pier. The office was closed on the day we were there but the Wi-Fi login information was posted on the door. There was a crowd of people there but no one was able to successfully login. Traci and I decided to go with our 'Plan B' which was to go to one of the nearby eateries in Old City to use its Wi-Fi. We knew we would need to order something from the menu so the plan was to share an order of fries and a soda. It was early afternoon when we attempted to do this and every eatery was packed. We eventually chose one and were given the Wi-Fi password when we were seated. The place was so busy that no one came to take our order even after 30 minutes of waiting. By that time, we had checked emails and Facebook so we decided to leave.
strolling Old City
Back to the ship we went where I immediately went up to the grill on Deck 11. After having walked around for several hours in Old City smelling the parrillas, I had a craving for grilled meat. I had to settle for hot dogs and hamburgers on the ship instead of the more interesting cuts of beef in Montevideo.
Our ship left the port around 4:30 PM. We were headed for Buenos Aires, the final destination of this cruise. What was baffling to me is that Buenos Aires and Montevideo are relatively close in proximity. In fact, there are regular ferries that transport passengers between the two cities in about 2.5 hours. Even though our ship left Montevideo around 4:30 PM, we were not scheduled to arrive in Buenos Aires until 5 AM the next day. I heard this slow pace has something to do with the shallowness of the Plate River leaving only narrow lanes for large ships such as the Celebrity Infinity to navigate. Continue...