My annoying-on-paper flight from Buffalo to Charlotte to Miami to Lima to Montevideo went about as smoothly as I could have hoped. My Lima to Montevideo flight was scheduled to take off at 11:59pm, but we ended up watching fireworks from the runway for a few minutes before taking off. It was interesting to see New Years from the sky, and fireworks aren’t really shot very high.
One thing I hadn’t anticipated was EVERYTHING being closed on New Years Day. By everything, I mean there wasn’t even a corner store open where I could get food. Besides the McCafe in the airport and taxi drivers, there was just nothing going on (the bus wasn’t even running). So after wandering what seemed like a litter-filled ghost town, I figured I’d forego judgement on the city for at least a couple days.
During my three weeks here, I skipped around from place to place, essentially doing a week in three different sections of the city: ciudad viejo (the old city), near parque rodo (the center), and the east end in Pocitos near the beach. I didn’t really love any part of the city, and I found it to be quite expensive.
Also, most of the tourists are either from Brazil, Chile, or other parts of Argentina, so there wasn’t a whole lot of English being spoken. Most days I just wandered around, worked from the hostel when I could, and frequented one or two of the coffee shops I found suitable for getting work done.
Ciudad Viejo is the main tourist section, and the buildings there are very nice. Despite the tourist main street, it’s also a rather poor neighborhood if you walk a couple streets over. But there’s a lot of coast, and a shipyard, so you can sit and watch the ocean or try to smuggle yourself to Europe in a container.
Here are the streets and buildings in that area. I took a picture of a couple of them that looked nice.
The main problem with Uruguay, aside form it being so expensive, is it doesn’t have any Starbucks. What kind of rich country is this without a Starbucks. They weren’t even very good at the casual coffee culture, but I did find Chesterhouse, which was my favorite to work from while I was in the area.
The Mercado del Puerto is also definitely worth going to. It was very busy, and it reminded me of the fancy indoor markets in Portugal and Spain. Maybe it’s a new thing, I don’t know. I didn’t actually eat there, but I walked around a few times and it was always busy and people seemed to be having a good time.
In the Parque Rodo area, where I spent the most time, had one of the most beautiful McDonald’s I’ve ever been to. Up there with Granada and Tbilisi. With the shortage of decent coffee places out there where you felt comfortable sitting around, this place essentially become my work for a while (the coworking place near here seemed to have gone out of business). You might not be able to see it in this picture, but you cross the street and you’re at the beach.
Parque Rodo itself is picturesque, even if the water looks like sewage. There was a food truck next to it that served veggie burgers, one of the few things I could eat in this city, so I’d occasionally grab one of those and look at the sewage.
I didn’t take any pictures of the Pocitos area, but it was your standard beach area with nice little pubs and shops. One really nice thing was the boardwalk, which went along the entire southern coast of the city – plenty of space to run. Plus it went right next to the volleyball courts on the beach, which was a great place to run a little slower.
The city was kind of growing on me, but I didn’t really love it. It may be one of the nicer cities in South America, but it just seemed like an equally or more expensive version of an OK city in North America or Europe, which isn’t really a selling point for me. That said, it did feel very safe, had plenty of nice places to eat/drink, and being right on the beach is great (if you like beaches, which I don’t), but there wasn’t really a ton to do either.
Before leaving Uruguay, I went up to Puenta del Este, the touristy beach down a couple hours to the North. It was what you’d expect, although they did have more gringo-friendly food joints with vegetarian food than Montevideo did.
The famous thing about this beach are the hands, or the fingers, or whatever you want to call them. I’m going with fingers. There might not even be a hand there. So I took a couple pictures of people taking pictures with them.
To make my ride to Buenos Aires shorter and cheaper, I hit up the old town of Colonia del Sacramento. It was your classic old tourist city with wide cobblestone streets, pretty trees, and classic sunsets. They had a couple nice little coffee shops here too, but you’d be bored spending more than a couple days here – there’s really just a couple streets to walk.
The ferry ride from Colonia del Sacramento to Buenos Aires is only about 3 hours, which is pretty reasonable. Plus, my apartment is only about a 10 minute walk from the port, which will be great when I arrive, but probably not great for the next 2 months because if I’ve learned anything watching crime shows, it’s that lots of people get murdered at ports.