26.01.2013 - 27.01.2013 30 °C
Saturday 26th January - We awoke early this morning to the sound of parrots. There were these lovely green parrots eating the figs.
We went up to breakfast and there was a lovely surprise awaiting Shane. For those that followed the blog last year you will be familiar with Shane’s obsession to his cups of tea. For those new to our blog Shane found a special brand of tea last time we were in South America. Here is a photo of the brand of tea.
We had couple of hours to spare this morning so we had another wander around the old town. The streets have lovely street signs. They are all blue and white porcelain.
We then relaxed again watching the hummingbirds and we actually saw one motionless which was really good. The length of its beak was amazing.
We then went to the bus station for our two and a half hour bus journey to Montivideo. It was 176km from Colonia to Montevideo. It was a nice comfy bus and seemed to take no time at all.
We arrived at our hotel right down by the water front. It was a lovely hotel called My Suites. Very modern and certainly not what we were expecting. Having said that we did not know what to expect. The accomodation in Uruguay was all arranged by a travel company I found on the internet called Enchanting South America. The hotel has a wine bar and we were invited for complementary wine testing this evening.
By 3.15 we hadn’t eaten since breakfast so headed off to find a meal. We found this nice little place around the corner from our hotel where we could sit outside. Once again I forgot to take the phrase book so we had no idea what we were ordering, we could pick out various words but not put a whole meal together and there was no one there who spoke english. There was something on the menu that had the word Canadian in it so we thought why not. This is what we got. It was massive. It had steak, fries, bacon, egg with a salad of potatoes, carrots and peas. In amongst it was pineapple and olives. Quite an unusual combination really but it sure was nice and we were so hungry.
Sunday 27th January - Today we had to pack in as much sightseeing as we could as we only have today left in Uruguay. So we first headed off to see the sights of Montevideo. This is the largest city, capital and chief port of Uruguay. The settlement was established in 1726. It was under brief British rule in 1807 and was involved in the first major naval battle in the Second World War: the Battle of the River Plate. It is also the place where the Montevideo convention was signed in 1933 by nineteen nations of the Americas.
Our first stop was Independence Plaza. There were a few things to see in the plaza. In the middle of the plaza is the Mausoleum of José Artigas, Uruguay's greatest hero, the aboveground portion is a 17metre, 30-ton statue of the country's independence hero. Below street level an honor guard keeps 24-hour vigil over Artigas' remains.
At the west end of the Plaza is the Puerta de la Ciudadela, a stone gateway that is one of the only remnants of the colonial citadel demolished in 1833.
On the east side of the Plaza the 26-story structure with the crazy beehive hairdo is Palacio Salvo, the continent's tallest building when it opened in 1927.
We then went on to the Palacio Legislativo where the Uruguayan parliament meet. The building was inaugurated on August 25th, 1925 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The building was declared a National Historic Monument in 1975.
We also visited a couple of sculptured monuments to celebrate the original means of transport in Uruguay. One of these was called La Carreta.
I cannot remember the name of the other.
The last thing we did was go down to the waterfront that they call the Rambla. This is an avenue that goes along the coastline of Rio de la Plata. The rio (river) is the estuary formed by the confluence of the Uruguay River and the Parana River on the border between Argentina and Uruguay. It is a funnel-shaped indentation on the southeastern coastline of South America, about 290 kilometres long. It is 85km wide at Montevideo. When you look out you would think it was the ocean, except it is brown. It is hard to get used to. We stopped at Plaza de la Armada to see Montivideo in the distance.
We then decided to take a trip to Punta del Este. This is about 120km away from Montevideo. It is located on the eastern split of land separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata. It is known as a scenic resort area with miles of beautiful beaches and luxury hotels. I thought it was a cross between the Gold Coast and Monte Carlo. There are certainly a lot of rich people here in Uruguay. As we did not have much time we decided to hire someone to take us there. We were waiting at reception in our hotel when I was watching an older gentleman trying to park his car. He was having quite a bit of difficulty. Anyway it happened that this was our driver. He was a lovely gentlemen names Juan Carlos. He even spoke pretty good English which was a real bonus. He had a vacation house in Punta del Este so knew the place well. He asked that one of us sit in the front as his English was not that good. Shane gave that job to me, and now I know why. I had my eyes closed for some of the trip as he tended to drive across two lanes. Mind you he was not the only one.
On the way to Punta del Este we visited Piriapolis, this is an important summer resort. We drove up to the top of hill to see the view.
Remember this is still on the river.
We continued on and just outside of Punta del Este at Punta Ballena is Casa Pueblo. It is an amazing villa built by Carlos Páez Vilaró entirely without right angles. It was quite Mediterranean looking. We were not allowed in but we asked the price of staying there and they let us in to make further enquiries. Only $280US a night.
We then headed in to Punta del Este where we visited Punta del Este's most famous landmark which is the monster-sized hand emerging from the sands of Playa Brava. La Mano en la Arena, sculpted in iron and cement by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal in 1982, won first prize in a monumental art contest that year and has been a Punta fixture ever since.
Juan took us through a posh part of town called Beverly Hills. We couldn’t believe they called it that. Anyway there was only one house on each block. The remaining part of the block was all gardens. We were also told that in Punta del Esta the homes don’t have street numbers the owners name their property which makes it difficult for the post man.
We headed out of Punta del Esta to drive over the wave bridge. It was just like being on a roller coaster and Juan drove pretty quickly over it.
We headed back through Punta del Esta to see the Atlantic side of the town. The water is rougher on this side as it is on the ocean.
After a long day we headed back to Montevideo. On the way be stopped at another sea side town called Atlantida. Juan bought us a coffee and he had a rest. We finally arrived back in Montevideo at 8pm. We had spent 12 hours today looking around Montevideo and its surrounds.