We were lucky to have a friend who had a friend in Montevideo, Uruguay, and he was enthusiastic about meeting us.
Montevideo, Uruguay, is just across the water from Buenos Aires, Argentina, so with a 3 hour Buquebus ferry ride across the very wide Rio de la Plata, which opens into the Atlantic Ocean, we arrived. We met a lively woman from England on the ferry who helped us call our friend in Montevideo.
We took a taxi to his house and there we met his wife and son. They were a sweet and kind elderly couple with a 28-year-old son who lived in a tiny house in a nice neighborhood. Their son spoke English, interpreting as best he could. They served us coke, showed us their large rooftop garden, showed us videos of their travels, and had gathered pamphlets of information about Uruguay.
Around 7 pm, we were getting hungry but hesitated to say anything, and finally at about 10 pm, Edu, the son suggested we go out to eat. This is the norm in Uruguay – eating after 10 pm.
By the time the food came, we were ready to eat the plates. After dinner he took us to a dance club for young adults, where he was very protective, watching the men and guarding our purses when we danced.
A little cautionary note: when we took a taxi to our hotel, the Hotel Ermitage, the driver tried to scam us, insisting that we go to a hotel he recommended, likely for a commission. We won in the end, and it was a good hotel, near the beach.
The next day, Edu said that he was going to come with us to Punta del Este, a beach up the coast of Uruguay. He said we were too naive and vulnerable to travel alone, and we were all too happy to let him drive the car we had rented.
Who knew that Uruguayan beaches were so gorgeous? Apparently Punta del Este is a hideout for the rich and famous, but we went further up the coast, about 3 hours from Montevideo to La Paloma because Edu wanted to surf.
We found a large two-bedroom cabin to rent right near the beach, complete with kitchen. Edu made us Veal Melanesa with a green salad. We now had a private chauffeur, body guard and chef!
The next day, Edu rented surf boards and proposed to teach me how to surf. The beach sand was thick and fine, the day brutally hot, the wind kicking up the surf. While I tried and tried to catch the waves just right, it was pretty pathetic to watch, as D will surely attest. She was madly taking pictures of my flinging exertions. It was a perfect day to be in the water though and it was great fun.
Late that afternoon the wind came up strong and menacing clouds appeared in the sky, the likes of which we had never before seen. Two huge swirls of black cloud, one on top of the other, forming a gigantic funnel cloud, engulfed the entire sky above us.
We ran for cover to our cabin, and the subsequent downpour was so intense that it knocked out power and water. By 2 am we had played dozens of rounds of poker, and finally got to shower off all that fine sand.
We did some shopping in the little village. D bought a fine red leather jacket and I bought a pure wool wrap, both very reasonable.
A few days later, we returned to Montevideo and said goodbye to our young friend and his parents.
We did a little tour of Montevideo before we left. It’s a clean city with a European feel, much like Buenos Aires. There are Central Parks and fountains, which some of us like to play in.
Montevideo is a charming mixture of old and new. There were meat stands and McDonald’s, high rises and horse-pulled buggies, old architecture and new.
And fiddlers on park benches…
Exhausted from all that surfing, we slept all the way back on the ferry.
At least now I could say I surfed. Sort of.