Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Mixed-Up Day in Montevideo, Uruguay (March 6)

The flag of Uruguay...very similar to the flag of Argentina!

I had booked a city and winery tour and we had 7 people joining us. Hebert was there to meet us and, although the van was a bit difficult to get in and out of, we were soon off.

Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America with a population of 3 million. More than half of these people live in the capital of Montevideo. Uruguay has been called the “Switzerland of South America” because of its small size and its democratic institutions. It was the first and mostly still is the only welfare state in the Western Hemisphere. They provide free education, health care and social security benefits.

It was first sighted by Europeans in 1516 when the Spanish explorer, Juan Diaz de Solis, sailed into the Rio de la Plata and landed near present day Montevideo. He claimed all the land he saw for the Spanish Crown. He was later killed by Indians, and because he hadn't found any gold during his explorations, more than 60 years passed before the Spanish showed any interest in the area. After several clashes over the next two centuries, the Spanish formally founded Montevideo in 1726 as a fortress from which to attack the Portuguese.

Our first stop on the tour was Plaza Zabala with the statue of General Don Bruno de Zabala. He was one of the founders of the city and came from Argentina.

A lovely gaucho statue on the side has been defaced with graffiti, unfortunately a common occurrence.

We could hear lots of parrots in the trees and spotted this guy.

Some of these apartments were for sale, but many were shuttered as it was a long weekend. Carnival celebrations were starting on Monday and a lot of city residents escape during this time.

Our next stop was Plaza Constitucion which had a nice little market. One of the vendors had beautiful antique silverware with some very unique spoons. There were several really nice jewellery displays and I bought a funky purple ring.

Neat old cars…



Some maté pots…

Barb went to pick up the Coca Cola tray and then sent it and another one clattering onto the pavement. How much noise can two tin trays make? A lot! I cracked up laughing and walked away while she tried to put them back.

The Teatro Solis, Uruguay's oldest theatre, was built in 1856. You could tour it, but we opted to just stick our heads in.

This high rise building was interesting with all the air conditioning units on the outside.

A chair awaits you to join in the game…


Plaza Independencia with the statue of Jose Artigas, who is considered one of the most important leaders in Uruguay's wars of independence against Spain. His mausoleum is below the statue.

This was originally built as a hotel in 1928, but has never functioned as one. It is currently filled with offices and apartments. You could buy a small apartment for $30,000-$40,000…

The Canadian Embassy!

Lots of nice green space in the Plaza...

Estevez Palace was originally privately owned until the government took it over in 1880 to serve as the offices of the President. It is currently a museum with artifacts and mementos of the presidents who held office.

Allen and Elaine from California; our tour guide, Hebert; Jim; and Dede, also from California. They were very flexible people, thank heavens, because the tour didn't exactly go as planned.

The arch was part of the wall that surrounded the old city…

Interesting church…looks like something from the Roman ruins!

More graffiti...at least it's artistic!

Montevideo was originally founded as a Spanish fortress. Looks like this piece of history is falling apart…

Lots of rocks at low tide…if they didn’t get you, the cannon would.

Jim and Kim in Montevideo…Jim’s first excursion since Ushuaia a week ago…

A giant trampoline?

South American Common Market building, which serves as the administrative headquarters for the South America trading blocs. It used to be a hotel and casino...

This prison has been turned into the city's most fashionable and largest shopping centre.


Sunday and everyone was enjoying the beach…


La Rambla, the avenue running alongside the sea…

The marina…

So many high rises…everyone wants a view of the water.


Estadio Centenario was the first stadium to host the FIFA World Cup in 1930. Uruguay won in the final against Argentina, which was thrilling for the home team!

La Carreta (The Carriage) by Montevideo sculptor Jose Belloni paid homage to ox cart drivers and was unveiled in 1919.

A cross and statue of Pope John Paul II to mark his visit...

Lots of old vehicles…there are very high government taxes on cars. In 1969, a new Chev would be brought in for $3000 and the government would add $9000 taxes to it! No wonder they keep their cars for so long!


I have no idea what this is...by now we had just been driving around a lot with Hebert yelling at us in his strongly accented English. This was not turning out to be one of our best tours!

Neat zipper on this building made out of different coloured bricks..

And here we are arriving at the Bouza winery, which is where the tour really fell apart. Hebert and I had been emailing back and forth over the last month and he had recommended this winery for a tour and tasting. But on the morning of the tour, he hadn’t made a reservation and when he did call, they were booked. I wasn't too pleased…we decided to go anyway as they had an old car museum and we could still look around and buy some wine.

It looked very nice…

With beautiful grounds…



Grapes overhead as you walked into the washrooms…

Hebert trying to describe the wines to us. They were quite expensive…I am sure the tasting would have been great. Right about now, we were hungry and so we decided to buy some wine and head back to the ship. Hebert said we could buy some wine and cheese and crackers and go to a park for a picnic, but by this time, there was no saving this tour!


Cute donkey outside...

Barb and Jim calling it a day...we didn't have great success with any of our wine tours so far! The guys peeked in the old car museum window, which also wasn't open, and said it was OK to pass on it anyway.

Goodbye to the Bouza winery…too bad they couldn’t fit us in…

This palace was built by a wealthy Uruguayan and now belongs to Rev. Sam Moon.

Hebert took us through a nice residential neighbourhood.


La Diligencia, also by Belloni. Vandals have taken some key pieces from it.

I am sure he had something in his hand when he left!

Hebert told us the name of these trees, but we still didn’t understand…

The vines are taking over this house…

We noticed so much garbage on the streets. Dumpster divers go through the dumpsters and just throw the stuff they don’t want on the streets.This was small compared to some that we saw.

Legislative Palace was built by Italian architects in 1925 and is considered one of the most beautiful houses of parliament in the world.

There is even a "Dubai" tower owned by the telephone company.

Interesting looking church...

Another statue by Belloni, his last, which was completed practically upon his death in 1965 when he was 83. It is called El Entrevero (The Struggle). The beautiful building is Edificio Rex built in 1912. 

Original Jewish synagogue built in 1954...

Port administration building...it's huge!

The anchor from the Admiral Graf Spee, a famous German ship from WWII. After it sank several merchant ships, the British tracked it down in Montevideo where it was being repaired. Rather than face what he considered overwhelming odds of surviving, the captain scuttled the ship rather than risk the lives of his crew. Three days later, he committed suicide.

I was very glad to get back to the ship....a lot of driving around, a lot of trying to figure out what Hebert was telling us and a wasted winery stop.

Sailing away with the “Dubai” Tower in the background…

The boat waiting to pick up the pilot…

Barb and I enjoying the sailaway and sampling the wine we bought in Chile.

And we're on to Rio…

My animal of the day…a funky rabbit wearing my sunglasses. I laughed out loud when I saw it.

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