By Ferry to Montevideo

Montevideo Travel Blog

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Our leatherman (with Andrew) best promoter of where to go in Montevideo

3rd January 2006

Up early and strip sheets to check out of hostel Carlos Gardel.  Leaving suitcases in lock up for the 6 days in Uruguay.  At the Burquebus Terminal it seems that the world is there.  A local TV station is there with reporter presumably reporting on the busiest day of the year!  Ferries are leaving for Colonia and Montevideo mostly.

On boarding we find front seats at the window in tourist class and are joined by Clare, a 20 something Argetinian tentatively using her school English on us.  She is a delight and we ask her lots of questions of herself, family and her country.  By the end of the 2 3/4 hour trip her English has improved in leaps and bounds and she dutifully kisses us both goodbye.

Teatre Solis in Montevideo
  I love this custom in South America!

We set out on foot for the Hotel Arapay as the details on the net say that it is only 400 meters from the terminal in Montevideo but we feel it missed out on the 1 kilometer.  The weather was instantly cooler over the water and I was a lot more comfortable with the sea breezes.  The city looked a lot more run down than Buenos Aires and the Hotel was the same.  About 1920's built it had 4 floors with a small lift.  The ceilings were about 14 foot and the corridors wide, ceramic tiles and had reading nooks every so often.  Our room had a double bed, cable TV and ensuite bathroom with bidet.  At $AUS 15 per night it was the cheapest we had booked and it had a ceiling fan too!

None of the staff spoke a fraction of English so my trusty Spanish phrase book was my constant companion, in fact I felt quite unsafe without it now.

In Colonia old section of town
  I was able to ask for a recommendation for eating for that night with a Parilla and he gave us two good ones.  We must have looked a little concerned outside of the chosen one reading the menu because a diner came out and asked if he could help.  I said we would be grateful for some interpretation of the menu so he seated us beside his table and was a wonderful help.  He even insisted we try his bottle of Chardonnay to see if it was what we wanted!!!  A family of 4 were walking out when the guy stopped and asked if it was an Australian accent he heard.  They were from Melbourne and recommended the fillet steak strongly.  I asked if he had made it known they were Australian as we were keeping that very quiet. ( Australia had recently knocked Uruguay out of the World Cup Football)  They hadn't and the helpful diner sagely agreed that we did keep it quiet.
Colonia at the restaurant near the sea

4th January.  We headed to a chain type restaurant that had a picture up of a sample breakfast for 110 pesos and order one with an extra coffee.  Out came two orange juices, two large toasted cheese & ham sandwiches, two extra pieces of toast, two croissants, one piece of layered sponge cake, one giant waffle with a dollop of the local condensed milk consistency of caramel topping and two glasses of soda water. The waiter became concerned that we didn't like it and with sign language and a smattering of Spanish I told him that we loved it but couldn't fit it all in!  He reluctantly took it away but returned it neatly parcelled up in paper and tied with string.

Walking on we came into the grand Plaza Indepencia where a small man handed us a flyer for his leather factory.

The refurbished drawbridge and part of the old wall in Colonia
  He spoke English very well and suggested that we took the steps leading underground by the statue to see what was there and pointed at a building nearby the plaza to visit also.  We took the steps down into a huge darkened vault.  As our eyes became accustomed to the dimness we realised that it was the tomb of the person depicted in the statue above and it was guarded by two statues of soldiers on each side, dressed in the dress uniform of an 18th Century soldier from Spain.  Only they weren't statues, I saw one move ever so slightly!  It was awesome.

Out into the bright sunlight to the building our leather man indicated.  It was the Teatro Solis.  We took the 40 peso option of an English speaking tour over the free Spanish spoken one.

The seafront in Montevideo
  The young smartly uniformed guides asked where we were from and Andrew announced "Australia".  I Sssshhhhed him and told the guides that for this week we weren't  from Australia.  Andrew offered that we hated soccer really and they all laughed.  This Italian designed Opera house is just breathtaking and a total surprise once you step through the final layer of corridors.  From the newly renovated front and entrance in marble, glass and chandeliers the interior is multi levels of plush red boxes seating 6 people around the horseshoe of walls and the floor seating also in comfortable red velvet chairs. 

On the streets we saw uniformed policeman bearing the words of Tourist Police.  They had made the streets so very safe for tourists to wander and we were impressed with the cleanliness of the streets.

Fishing long pole style in Montevideo
  In the evenings men driving horse and carts collected anything recyclable from the bins and footpaths.  The food was so cheap  and good here along with the wines.

5th January.  Up early to take a taxi to  a bus terminus to see if we could do a day trip to Colonia. We could and took a bus that cost 300pesos return each and seemed to  pick up all the local people along the way.  The 180 kms took just over 2 3/4 hours and we had landed.  Walked down the sleepy main street to the waters edge were we found a delightful cafe for lunch.  Watched a Burquebus ferry come into port.  The old part of the town showed it's chequered history and the tussle between the Spanish and the Portuguese.  The cobbled streets that remained of the Portuguese had a central ditch for drainage while those of the Spanish had drainage ditches on either side.  There was the remnants of the wall that used to surround the city with it's reconstructed drawbridge over the moat. 

6th January.  Up late but we find all the shops are closed.  A young man with little English struggles to tell me why.  He offers that is is the holiday of the three Queens, Balthazar, Malacci?............  I suggest it is the Three Kings and he enthusiastically agrees.  Later someone explains to us that is is even more special to the children as they tend to get the big presents on this day rather than at Christmas. 

7th January.  We take a taxi to a large shopping centre.  Andrew has a great deal of difficulty getting into the space in the back seat of the taxi.  Behind the driver there is a large fixed clear screen which has reduced the small amount of room considerably.  His knees are parallel to the seat and his head is on the ceiling and bent over!  Realise later that the driver had unlocked the front passenger door as he had anticipated the problem and was offering the front seat!  Find a place to get a pedicure done on my feet.  The woman doing it ticks me off soundly in Spanish over the condition I have allowed my feet to get in and tells me that I have to buy some cream and use it regularly.  My understanding of Spanish is improving but the pedicure brought problems later on and it was  2 months later that before my toes returned to normal!

We have decided to go to a movie and choose "Las Cronicas de Narnia" with subtitles in Spanish.  It was great.   Note for fans back in Australia the cable TV shows "Hijas de McLeod" ( McLeod's Daughters).

Our favourite dessert is Isla Flotilla............  a meringue concoction with little pellets of a jelly like substance dotted throughout the soft meringue.  Find an all you can eat parrilla with meals at $130 pesos each or even cheaper if you purchase a bottle of wine.

On the 9th January we return to the ferry to go back to Buenous Aires and meet a principal of a Catholic boy's school who have an exchange programme with a boy's school in Dural, Sydney.  He makes sure that we are OK with any translations and wishes us well on our trip.  He tells us that the boys love their time in Sydney and they feel so safe when in our country even out at night.


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Our leatherman (with Andrew) best …
Our leatherman (with Andrew) best…
Teatre Solis in Montevideo
Teatre Solis in Montevideo
In Colonia old section of town
In Colonia old section of town
Colonia at the restaurant near the…
Colonia at the restaurant near th…
The refurbished drawbridge and par…
The refurbished drawbridge and pa…
The seafront in Montevideo
The seafront in Montevideo
Fishing long pole style in Montevi…
Fishing long pole style in Montev…
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