Archive for the Ciudad Vieja Category

Montevideo – out and about in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , , on November 6, 2015 by gannet39

Please scroll down for a couple of other posts I’ve written on the Ciudad Vieja. Everywhere mentioned in the posts on Uruguay can be found on my Google map.

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I came to Montevideo with the idea of having a couple of week’s holiday before starting a month’s work in Argentina. The original plan was to visit the old town of Colonia (UNESCO listed), go on the industrial heritage trail in Fray Bentos (home of corned beef and the Oxo cube) and hop up the coast as far as Punta del Diablo (a hippy beach resort).

Unfortunately though the weather wasn’t very good so, rather than endure a week of rain, I cut the trip short and went back to see friends in Buenos Aires. Moral of the story: stay flexible and pack a mac! The weather was okay for the first few days though, enought to allow me to get to know the capital city.

Travelling from Buenos Aires to Montevideo takes about four hours on the fast ferry. Dominating the skyline when you arrive is the Administracion Nacional de Aduanas; an Art Deco monster that reminds me of the Ministry of Information in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’. As you can see, the building was too big to fit in a single photo.

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I love Art Deco so I chose to stay at the wonderful Hotel Don (234 Piedras St, www.donhotel.com.uy), a small but perfectly formed Deco boutique hotel in the Ciudad Vieja (old town), just two blocks away from the ferry terminal.

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It had been recently renovated while staying true to its Deco origins and I fell for it straight away. The rooms are a little on the small side but the bed, shower and general layout were great. The staff were all super friendly and on the ball and there was a sun terrace with a small pool at the back where I could kick back in the afternoon after hours of pounding the streets. Even the fruit salad at breakfast was Art Deco!

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It’s also exactly opposite the Mercado del Puerto, more of which in my post on Eating in the Ciudad Vieja.

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Montevideo was founded on a narrow peninsula which meant that the city could only expand inland. The oldest zone around the port (the Ciudad Vieja) is quite run down with lots of semi-derelict buildings and abandoned warehouses. However the atmosphere becomes more refined as you move inland, away from the port area and towards Placa Independencia, which marks the beginning of the ‘new’ town (see my post on the Centro and Avenida de 18 Julio).

Everyone was at pains to tell me to be careful when walking around, especially at night, and to stick to the main pedestrian streets, Perez Castellano and Sarandi, which run through the middle of the Ciudad Vieja. I didn’t ever feel threatened in the day time though and I walked around many of the backstreets without any problems.

On Perez Castellano there are a few old buildings with attractive door and window fittings.

I especially liked the pastel blue Art Deco police station at 2681 26 De Mayo.

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I also love the old fountain in Placa Matriz (the city’s oldest square) with its water-spouting dragons and cherubs riding sea serpents. It was built to celebrate the first source of potable water in the city. There’s a small antiques market here in the mornings.

Culturally speaking, Argentina and Uruguay, and their capital cities, have quite a lot of common. The people of both countries are from similar stock and share a love of parrilla, yerba mate and tango.

The Argentinian flag (pictured), featuring blue stripes on a white background with a shining sun in the centre (a reference to the sun-worshipping Incas) was emulated by several other South American countries after independence from Spain. The Uruguayan version is virtually the same except the face on the sun is happier!

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Things I’d do if I went again:

Try the Basque restaurants.
Visit a vineyard and try Tannat red wine.
Go to hear the Candombe drums in Barrio Sur at the weekend.
Walk around Barrio Reus which is famous for its colourful houses.
Visit the Agricultural Market (built in 1912).
Check out the beach, although the water from the River Plate looks pretty murky.
Take a rain coat!

Montevideo – museums in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , on November 5, 2015 by gannet39

There are heaps of museums in Montevideo.

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Here’s a couple I went to in the Ciudad Vieja:

MAPI (Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena), 279 25 de Mayo, www.mapi.uy

Open Monday to Friday from 11.30 to 17.30 and Saturday from 10.00 to 16.00.

I’m fascinated by the ancient abstract art of the indigenous peoples of South America so I jumped at the chance to see some local artefacts. The museum is smaller than its counterparts in Santiago and Mexico City (see my separate posts for those cities) but it has some nice pieces.

Please click on the images for a better view.

Museo de Artes Decorativos, 376 25 de Mayo, cultura.mec.gub.uy

Open Monday to Friday from 12.30 to 17.40.

I stumbled upon this place as I was walking down the road towards MAPI above and decided to have a look inside seeing as entrance was free. The building is a former family residence known as Palacio Taranco and is now a historical monument. The palace still has all the fittings of an upper class Uruguayan home and there are a few quirky paintings, including a couple of bizarre sketches by Goya.

Montevideo – eating and drinking in the Ciudad Vieja

Posted in Ciudad Vieja, Montevideo, Uruguay with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2015 by gannet39

20141025_121454My hotel was conveniently located opposite the Mercado del Puerto, a dark atmospheric old shed constructed from cast iron sections shipped over from Liverpool. Nowadays it has been completely given over to parrilla restaurants, and one of these, El Estancia del Puerto (Intermediate B+) featured in the Uruguayan edition of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV series (six minutes in), so of course I had to go.

20141025_122336I had a lovely smiley chap serve me at the bar where I could get a good view of the parrilla itself. As in Argentina, the parrillero throws logs onto the fire at the top of the grill and rakes the embers down a slight gradient under the meat which is cooked quite slowly. Many of the grills in the market were piled high with several kinds of sausages and steaks, as well as cuts of lamb and chicken.

After weeks of eating vegetarian food in preparation for this carniverous onslaught, my unhabituated stomach wasn’t ready for the parrilla completo so instead I went for the Chorizo (A), Morcilla (B) and a section of Choto (intestine). Chorizos in South America contain no chilli, unlike those in Spain, but they’re still very tasty. The black pudding in this case was quite similar in flavour to what we have in the UK. The Choto started off very nice (A) but became less so as it got colder (C). I further flavoured the meat with liberal spoonfuls of Chimichurri (B+) and what people here call ‘Provencal’; a green salsa made with parsley and big chunks of garlic (B).

20141025_122320My preferred drink with this was a Chopp, the local name for a draught beer. Next time I might give the market’s traditional bevvy a whirl, Medio y Medio (half wine, half cider), although it doesn’t sound too pleasant.

On another occasion I went to Peregrino (Intermediate B+) outside on the corner of the market (Placa Castellano 1553), which has a good rep according to one of the hotel receptionists.

20141026_133804This time I had the typical starter of grilled ‘Provelone’ cheese, sprinkled with oregano, which was divine (A). Here it came served in a terracotta tray of small compartments, each containing a goblet of gooey gorgeousness.

20141026_134826I followed with two rump steaks with fries which were good but not spectacular (both B). As in Argentina, if you like it rare, you have to be very clear when ordering (vuelta y vuelta, muy jugoso). It will invariably arrive the next level up anyway, i.e. medium rare (poco hecho).

I wanted to try the famous local red wine Tannat, but was told that it was against the law to sell alcohol as it was Election Day. A good rule to ensure sensible decision making no doubt, but a bit disappointing for us non-voting tourists. The water came in a nice bottle though. With service and IVA this all came to 957 pesos, about £23.

20141026_132707In case you’re wondering, after a second round the election was eventually won by the Broad Front, the coalition of popular former president, Jose Mujica. Sadly the constitution did not allow this humble farmer and ex guerrilla to stand for a second time but his party still won.

Montevideo is also famous for its old cafes, many of which have a protected status (some more here). I particularly liked the look of Café Brasileiro with its dark wood interior and beautiful old bar. Lack of space and a bright sun prevented me from taking decent photos but it’s definitely worth a visit on a hot day for a glass of ice-cold homemade lemonade. The food looked ok too.

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I also stumbled upon Café Misiones, at 449 26 de Mayo, with its beautiful green-tiled exterior. The inside is nothing special though (except for the ancient cash register) and the service isn’t great.

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I also tried to go to the oldest bar, El Hacha at 202 Buenos Aires which is in a slightly edgy bit of the old town, but it was shut when I went so I can’t tell you what it’s like.

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