October 14-18

Montevideo, Uruguay. This is the Plaza Independiencia that I pass through many times a day as it is between the school and my homestay.

The statue is of José Gervasio Artigas Arnal (1764 – 1850) a national hero of Uruguay, sometimes called "the father of Uruguayan nationhood", and a grand mausoleum is below which I'll visit at some point.
Again, Plaza Independiencia on another day in the middle of the week. They say the Plaza separates the old part of the city from the new although I've seen old parts in every direction.
That large building is Palacio Salvo, completed in 1928 and it's quite the charmer. I'm going to hope for one of the tours but they are limited.
A side street in my neighborhood.
On the way home from school I'm heading through that gate into the Plaza Independiencia and that lighting situation is real, a beam of light shining through a hole in the wall. These are not the only entertainers about.
Fernanda, an excellent local guide and the daughter of my homestay family (lucky me!) puts together tours for the school, at least two a week that are free for the students.

We were on our way to the well-known Mercado Agricola which looked like a train station and had both local and mall-type enterprises, and popular food and drink spots.

We are in front of the Palacio Legislativo where the Parliment meets. The building was inaugurated on August 25th, 1925 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Uruguay's Declaration of Independence from Spain.
Another grand building also on the Plaza Independiencia, the Teatro Solis.

I did manage a tour here on Gratis Wednesday and it was so fun because although there were 100 Spanish speakers for the Spanish tour and 50 Portuguese speakers for the Portuguese tour there was, yes, 1 English speaker, and that would be me. Wow, a private tour. Ok!
It was built around the same time as the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires but on a much more modest scale, as is Montevideo in general.

It's lovely here and as a visitor there is nothing not to like about Montevideo. It's big enough to be a capital city, interesting, safe, friendly, very walkable, and all in all a recommendable destination.
Here is an example of the streets around my school.
Gato! Hola gato!!

Many fine parks and plazas in the center of the city.
Montevideo Metropolitan Cathedral, not the main church now I think, and Fernanda and others have said that Montevideo is the least Catholic among the South American countries.

Here's a quote from wiki about Uruguay in general: "Uruguay is ranked first in Latin America in democracy, peace, low perception of corruption, government, and is first in South America when it comes to press freedom, size of the middle class and prosperity.

"On a per-capita basis, Uruguay contributes more troops to United Nations peacekeeping missions than any other country. It tops the rank of absence of terrorism, a unique position within South America."

And it continues with accolades if you want to read more.
In pretty sure these are the kind of tiles I've been lusting after - encaustic tiles.

They are colored all the way through with differently colored material so that as they wear down the pattern doesn't change. They're made for the ages, for places like churches and markets but since the guests in my little house are not going to wear down the tile, well still, it's beautiful.
They've got these too.
I'm just strollin' around.
There are plenty more too. I'm hoping Fernanda will put together a street art tour. She said she could so that's exciting for me.
A view near the port.
I went into this super-appealing bar/restaurant and asked the bar man what is the national drink of Uruguay and he said Grappamiel. So I said great, thank you, I'll have one. It was tasty for sure, thick and a little sweet for a daily beverage but excellent for a treat.
When I asked to pay this guy said 'Please, my treat, welcome to Uruguay'. So how sweet is that?!

Es Mercat.
October 19

The bigger map shows the relationship between Montevideo and Buenos Aires while the inset is my homestay, the school, and the two big outings, to the Parliament building and to the Fort.

I see now this is not too useful, too small to read...I might do it again...but when do I ever do things again?
Begun in 1809 the Fortaleza del Cerro was completed in 1839 and was the last Spanish fort built in Uruguay. The Military Museum has been here since 1916.

The flag is the first flag of Uruguay, of Artigas, the national hero of independence.

We rode the city bus for 40+ minutes and then we set off to walk up a crazy high hill. I walked halfway up. I could have done it if I had my own time but those kids were trotting along. And then I thumbed a ride! I got in a strangers car and asked him to please drive me 'up there'. What a relief.

It seemed the guy was pleased about speaking English and he drove me around the whole fort pointing out this building and that, the 'real Montevideo' meaning the poor area, parts of the port, and more. Thanks car guy!
While I waited for the gang to finish the walk I got to chat it up with these fellows which was a kick. I understood less than half of what they said but nodding and smiling and asking an occasional question kept the whole thing going.

I did learn many things and especially that Uruguay, and especially for its size, has a large military presence in conflict zones as part of the UN Peacekeeping Force.

They told me about the flag, the flag of Artigas and the revolution.
Here come several views.

Looking into old town where I am mostly.
That tall blue tower is the tallest building in Montevideo and it is possible to get up to the top for a view.
Waiting to get the bus back.
October 21

Remember the tour of the fort. Here is a grab-shot out the window of a speeding van, but it does put the place in some perspective.

Uruguay is a very flat place and this counts for a mountain here.
They call wineries here bodegas which has caused me no end of word-search because I just couldn't get it in my head for bodega to mean winery since it has such a different meaning in the US.

This is Bodega Juanicó, among the best winery tours I've very taken, or that I can remember taking anyway.

From their website: we "show the combination of nature and the fascinating wine`s ambience, achieving an exceptional mix to awake your senses. You will know its ancient historic quarter, really special because of its history, the vineyards and the charming natural environment."
Established in 1830 it's been in continuous operation every since.
Looking out from the central buildings of the winery.
There was a large dining room with many large and lovely tables.
An educational stroll around the property.
Both wineries have been in operation from the days of the concrete tanks which you can see above the newer stainless ones.

They were my biggest surprise. Here's something I copied from the internet: "For centuries, European vintners used monstrous concrete tanks to ferment and store their wines, a technique used in California's oldest wineries before Prohibition.

"But when the state's wine industry blossomed in the 1970s and 1980s, many wineries turned to stainless steel.

"Now, concrete is making a comeback. North Coast wineries are trying an old technique in a new way, installing small, portly concrete tanks that look like creatures from another world."
The tour here was informative, although one would be more informed if one could understand Spanish.
The guide...
...and the mouth-watering snacks to go with the five different kinds of wine we tasted. And to say tasted, I mean drank.

We were joined by two lovely women, a mother and daughter from Portugal, who added a nice freshness to the group.
Back in the van, as the hilarity grew, we made our way to Pizzorno, another lovely bodega...
...and another informative tour although much shorter than the first and remembered less clearly because, you know, already we've tasted five wines.
Here we had a full on meal with four selections of wine. The guys in the back are three lively and adorable fellows from Portugal who fit right in.

Then we went back to the van for the return drive to the city. We were dropped off at the Plaza Independiencia for a refreshing walk home.
October 22-24

One of my classmates is working on a PhD with a project in Uruguay to study their free and widely available system of mediation. I went with her to kick off her interviews.
Here's a museum a block from school which didn't have a lot in it except...
...fine views from a handsome balcony that looked out to the street and to one of the...
...lovely public squares.
Another view, this one to the mouth of the Rio de la Plata that is here flowing into the sea.
Mi Familia! This is the scene every morning for breakfast. Sometimes other people have stopped by too. It's a lively place here at mi casa and I'm having a lot of fun.
The teenage daughter made us a selfie.
One of my daily views walking to school in the morning.

Check out those dogs in the big picture. I called out 'hola perros' and every one of them stopped in their tracks to look right at me. What were they thinking?
Another park. These first three days of week-two have flown by.
A spot in old town. Looks like no street art tour for me since Fernanda got too busy.
One afternoon I was going to do a stroll down the Rambla but it started raining so I ducked into this excellent place for some food and for some wifi so I could call an uber to take me home.

Restaurant El Navegante.
Another afternoon I was planning to take the tour of Palacio Salvo but with the full cloud cover and occasional rain I would have missed out on the views. I did go another day and I'll do those pictures soon.
October 25

Look at the blue sky, good day for a vista. I'm going up to the Palacio Salvo this afternoon after class.
Pigeon on the head of a statue. I do enjoy that.
My classmates and La Professora. The school is pretty packed with students and it's party party party every night, everyone welcome. These parties do run on the late side though, meeting at 9, on until past midnight, too much for me!
There's Gustavo, my homestay amigo who is returning to Brazil today.
The Palacio Salvo and the tour guide.
The tour was entirely in Spanish and as usual I didn't understand too much, but this is cool even not understanding the whole story.
The Pool Club where anyone can play by the hour.
Now it's time for views! We only got a corner to look out of, maybe ninety degrees. This is looking out to The Rambla, the walk along the waterfront.
Looking down on Plaza Independiencia and the Artigas Mausoleum.
October 26

This was another especially fun and tasty lunch at this place where the chef here and the man who seemed to be the owner told me all about their offerings including that their chickens are happy, their vegetables freshly harvested, their pasta made on the spot.

Everyone in the restaurant looked happy. One thing though, everyone in Montevideo seems happy. It's almost odd how tranquillo it is here.

La Fonda.
This is a view from the Mercado del Puerto where there are a ton of restaurants inside an old port building, most of them featuring wood fired meat.
Made me smile, took its picture. The port is two blocks down the road.
This is a google maps shot of the Rambla. Most of the time it's a sidewalk along a seawall but there is a little sand in this part.

People don't come to Montevideo for the beach. If you want to go to the beach you go north including the hoity-toity Punta del Este where I'm going tomorrow.
After the tour I went on down to check out the Mausoleum which was pretty impressive.
October 27

Beatrice and I decided to give Punta del Este a visit. Both of us separately were off and on about going so it was a motivation, and we went. It’s a two and a half hour bus ride from the central station in Montevideo. The buses are those big modern comfortable long-distance road coaches so all was well transportation-wise.

This hand is right outside the bus station in Punta del Este and everyone who goes there has a shot like this one.

Punta del Este is the first of the big resort stops along the Atlantic coast of Uruguay and a bit of a dream for Uruguayans, it even has a section called Beverly Hills.

We took a brief walk to the Visitors Center and then took the most direct route to the shoreside restaurants…
…and we settled right down for coffee and a breakfast.

According to wiki: "The city is referred to as "the Monaco of the South", "The Pearl of the Atlantic", "the Hamptons of South America", and "the St. Tropez of South America", being also compared to Miami and Cannes."

It is nice, including a small but well appointed marina and restaurants and hotels along the coast.
Hola chicas!
There was one prominent pier for commercial fishing boats and this scene was also in every tourist’s camera. The sea lions. One of the fishermen was making a decent addition to his income by luring those two up onto the dock and rattling a can for donations to take your picture with them. I ponied right up, glad to contribute.
This is the pal of the can-rattling man.
The church, The Church of Our Lady of Candelaria, is facing the lighthouse. The church and the lighthouse are prominent on the tourist walk but I couldn't find much information of interest.

The other thing everyone did so we decided to do it too, go to see Casapueblo. We took a bus from the Punta station and they dropped us off by the side of the road, no bench, no sign, no nothing, and admonished us to walk 1.7 kilometers ‘there’ with a point of the finger. No problem, let’s walk ‘there’. At that moment, standing there beside the highway we had already decided to take an uber back to Punta.

And there she is peeking out of the grass.
A requisite tourista foto for Beatrice.
Most of the place was closed (!) and to get anything to eat or drink we had to pay a hefty admission to the 'museum' and then pay like Crazy for everything else. It was a very expensive choice but that's the way it is in Punta del Este.

Created by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró as a "livable sculpture of unpredictable forms", he continued to add on to the structures for 36 years.
Vilaró was big on cats, cats feature in many of his works, and cats, many cats, live here in great comfort.
The works of Carlos Páez Vilaró are everywhere to be seen...
...these are fun. He made a series of watercolors of Casapueblo that are displayed in the shop that are among my favorite of his works, except for maybe the cats.
Adios Casapuebla...Uber to Bus to Uber to home. It was a lovely day.
October 28

Now I say Hasta Luego a mi familia de Montevideo con Muchas Gracias por Todo!
This is it, the entire kitchen from which poured complicated dishes every night and from which Estela fed her family of five every day. There's a small refrigerator opposite the stove and a few cabinets next to the fridge. That's it.

Every night when dinner magically appears on the table and the kitchen is complete cleaned, I am amazed.
I spent an extra night of sleeping in a hotel next to the bus station so I could get off on time and rested, but first I did a fly-by to a plaza I hadn't yet visited, Plaza de Cagancha...
...home to the Judiciary Headquarters, Poder Judicial Sede Central.

I'm off to rest for hours and hours and then go to the bus station for the tickets. I'm going to need three different companies for the best times to make this journey.

Montevideo-Trinidad for a two-night stay at an estancia.
Trinidad-Paysandú to visit a far-away mid-sized town.
Paysandú to Colonia for some architecture and where I can catch the ferry to Buenos Aires.
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