To get to Montevideo we decided to pay for a direct ferry as it takes about 2 hours less than the ferry + bus combo and the tickets only cost about $10USD more as we booked last minute. The alternative route does a short ferry hop from Buenos Aires to Colonia in Uruguay before continuing on a bus along the coast to Montevideo. There are three companies to check out for tickets (Buquebus, Colonia Express and Seacat), I found the Buquebus website to be much easier to navigate, even in Spanish, and they have easy options for open return. Seacat seemed the most expensive for our timescales. I didn’t book return tickets as I wasn’t sure if there might be an interesting option to come back via land or whether it might be cheaper to book tickets last minute at the port. We shall see. Our tickets were $88USD each, plus taxes, which came to about $100USD one way. Economy class was full though, so we travelled in Turista Class. The Buquebus terminal is easy enough to navigate and similar to an airport. Thankfully the immigration desks allow you to leave Argentina and enter Uruguay one after the other – no risk of us missing those pesky border stamps again!! Turista Class was upstairs with comfy seats and air-conditioning. The seats also reclined so I had a lovely nap for part of the journey before exploring the duty free shop and putting on as many expensive fancy skin creams as I could find. The exchange booth on board had a fairly poor exchange rate for dollars as does the one at the port in Montevideo, they have an offer where you can get a 20% rate boost for your next transaction but on closer inspection it’s not worth it so just change your money in town. We caught a taxi to the Old Town from the port for $115 Uruguayan Pesos (£3). We checked in to the hotel and the lady behind the desk was really interesting. She offered the choice of English, French or Spanish and for once I picked English. Her accent was very strongly American, though when I asked it turns out she is a local but studied English in Massachusetts. She recommended a restaurant in the Old Town as there aren’t many places open for dinner, it’s more of a daytime area. We walked down the pedestrian street to the restaurant called Jacinto which turned out to be super fancy and the food was DIVINE!! Tastiest meal so far with the freshest ingredients (this is not to play down all the steaks…) and complex flavour combinations. We ordered grilled prawns and two salad dishes (one zucchini and the other asparagus) with a bottle of Norton’s 2016 Malbec Colección, one of my favourites with clear flavours of plum. We had a second bottle of wine, this time a 2017 Trapiche Malbec, which was also good. A good first night it Uruguay!! Our first full day was dedicated to exploring the Old Town and visiting the beach! We found a great coffee shop called The Lab and enjoyed some fancy coffee for about £5. Uruguay isn’t as cheap for food and drink as I expected but the quality is good. We had some recommendations of things to see and do from a family friend so we set out to set lunch at the Mercado del Puerto, in particular a place called Roldo’s. We ordered delicious steaks cooked on the grill with chips and salad along with a glass of Roldo’s own Medio y Medio (half sparkling wine and half dry white wine) and it’s reportedly the best.
Next, we planned to go from the Old Town to Estadio Centenario, where the first football world cup was hosted in 1930, but we couldn’t find any transport for a long while so we walked to tourist information and found out that there is a huge protest today over the death (murder?) of a taxi driver yesterday. We couldn’t find any information about it and I still can’t see anything on the news. But it meant that only a few buses were running. So we took a bus straight to the beach at Pocitos for the afternoon. The buses in Uruguay are easier to use than the ones in Buenos Aires because you can pay cash to the driver. A journey cost $36 pesos (£0.90) and the city is huge! The afternoon at the beach was fantastic, it was nice to catch some of the breeze as today was a scorching 38 degrees. There were hundreds of people out enjoying the beach and the sea, such simple fun. One thing made us chuckle, a gay couple sat near us on two deck chairs had brought a yappy little dog that insisted on digging holes on the beach and flinging sand EVERYWHERE! There was an old man quietly sat next to us and he was being covered from head to toe in sand, he kept saying things to the couple but the dog was a law unto himself. We walked a couple of miles along the waterfront to find a decent spot for sunset. There were hundreds of people out and about enjoying the evening now that it was cooler. La Rambla is a fantastic seaside path for walking, running and cycling that follows the coast all the way around so people were out exercising solo or in groups, and it seems like such a good way of life. We sat on some grass with hundreds of other small groups to watch the sun set and the sky light up red before we walked about 6km back to the Old Town, having already walked 3km from the beach. We arrived back in time to have some chivitos from a fairly highly recommended restaurant called Matriz on the square of the same name. The food was good but the staff and service was horrendous! I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go there really, there are nicer places. I can’t believe how much I like this city already. I feel like I would like to stay here for a month and be part of it all. It feels like a great place to call home.
Today, January 5th, we went to explore an area on the other side of the city called Carrasco, over 30 minutes drive away. We found a nice looking guesthouse/hostel and when we arrived our host told us that this was their opening day!! It seems incredibly homely and in fact, when we walked in we thought we might be in someone’s house rather than our accommodation! The man, not sure of his name yet, is an absolute star! He was going to head out across town to do some errands and offered to take us, but when he found we had come from the Old Town he wanted to give us a chauffeur driven tour of this area. So he spent about half an hour showing us around the Carrasco district, which was fab! Plus it was raining so he didn’t want us to get wet and he then gave us a tour of all of the places to eat and the cafés so we could choose where to get out. The recommended place for lunch was Bar Arocena (because Manzanar was closed) so we tried some more chivitos which were tasty and had a beer too. It wasn’t cheap at all considering that it looked like a fairly run-of-the-mill place but it was still nice. We paid $900 pesos (about £23) for our lunch with beer. It’s in the Carrasco district too so it’s probably pricey everywhere here.
The hostel/hotel wasn’t quite finished, so our host, Fernando, gave us a bottle of Medio y Medio to enjoy on the beach while they installed air-conditioning!
I cooked swordfish steaks and vegetables for dinner using a portable electric hob ring and it was good fun and tasty.
It’s raining today so we are holed up in cafe Camelia. Hopefully the weather clears up a bit tomorrow. We’ve got to work out how and when to go back to Buenos Aires later on.