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Uruguay | Argentina Trip
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Archive for the 'Uruguay' Category

You are from where??

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

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I get asked a lot what city I’m from, but most people haven’t been familiar with St. Louis (or “San Luis” as I’ll sometimes say).

I usually add something like “en el centro”, or that it is next to “el rio Mississippi”, which many people know about. If it’s still not helping, and they want to know more, I’ll settle for saying Chicago, which always works.

In Chile when I mentioned the Mississippi, several people nodded their heads and said Tom Sawyer. The book is required reading in some of the schools.

On my last day in Bariloche, I got my biggest surprise yet regarding international awareness of St. Louis. I had spent the afternoon taking a ski lift up the side of a mountain, where as you can see I enjoyed an espresso while admiring the view.

Espresso above Bariloche

Ski liftLocal bus in BarilocheI also used the local bus which is good for this type of short excursion outside the city, but is dusty and hot, so I figured I could use some wine from a sidewalk cafe. The waiter asked what city I was from, and I told him St. Louis.

“Ruta Sesenta y Seis,” he said.

I didn’t think I heard right, so he said it in english: “Route Sixty Six”.

He had never been to the United States, so I asked him how he knew about Route 66. “I read”. Then he sort of shrugged his shoulders and walked back to the kitchen like it was no big deal.

I figured if he wanted to give me attitude about knowing St. Louis and Route 66, he probably earned it. I got a little more out of him later, which is that he read it in a tourism book.

It was a very impressive detail about St. Louis. If he ever does visit the United States, maybe I’ll take him to trivia night.


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A little awkward at the Piriapolis bathroom

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

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The beaches along Piriapolis do not have actual public restrooms, but there are  four or five ¨johnny-on-the-spot¨ portable bathrooms set up for people to use.

Normally these are gross, but here each one had a woman seated next to it, with a cleaning bucket. I asked how much it cost to use and the woman said ¨gratis¨, so I entered the facility.

It wasn´t clear to me how the women were paid - I guess it was by either the city or national government. Or maybe they did this for the tips?

I asked the owner of my apartment if we were supposed to tip them, and he wasn´t sure, but suggested maybe five pesos.

When I was done and opened the door, she was standing right there, her head coming up to my chest. She had put on her red latex gloves and stood there with her bucket, looking at me. I didn´t tip her and I´m sorry if I was supposed to - there was no mess, but I just wanted to get out of that whole situation as fast as possible.

Finding good seafood in Piriapolis

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

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Seafood stand in Piriapolis

I think the key to finding a good restaurant if you are in Piriapolis is to walk northward out of town. It´s only a few minutes, but it is where the seafood restaurants are at, usually with a good view of the ocean and you can usually sit outside:

View from my table in Piriapolis seafood restaurant

Menu at Piriapolis fish restaurantAt this place I had the ¨Brotola a la presidente¨, which is a type of delicate white fish that was lightly breaded and fried, and then covered with a spicy tomato sauce. I think there may have been mussels or shrimp in the sauce also, but it was dark by the time I was served, so all I got was a picture of my wine:

Jar of wine in Piriapolis fish restaurant

Fish for sale in Piriapolis

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

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Piriapolis fish market

One of the best things of being on the ocean is the fresh fish. In Piriapolis, there was a fresh fish stand next to my apartment building, but then if you walked to the other side of town, there were five or six more.

If you happened to walk by around 9 or 10 in the morning, you could actually see the people slicing up the fish, like these two people.

Fish sellers in Piriapolis

I would have liked more time to try the different fish, though some appeared to be an acquired taste.

Fish in Piriapolis for sale


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Restaurant hygiene in Uruguay (and probably the states)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

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Hygiene at some of the restaurants in Uruguay isn’t the same as it is in the United States and is something that one must get used to, or not think about, when visiting.

Health code violations happen in the US (as a former short-order cook I seen the five-second rule in action), but here it seems more obvious because restaurants are smaller and more out in the open.

I haven’t seen a lot of soap in the bathrooms, for example, including at one of my favorite places where I watched the following sequence. The owner:

* brought in dirty plates
* used his hands to take raw meat out of the refridgerator and place it on the grill
* made change for a customer
* used his hands to lift out three ice cubes and put them into my glass of whiskey

Now you have to understand that I had no choice but to drink it. When ordering the owner asked me if I wanted imported or Uruguayan.

“Nacional,” I said, which caused two local guys to pound on the bar and say “Nacional! Nacional!”

There´s no way I could have turned it down after that. I wish he would have used ice tongs, and/or washed his hands, but I came out of it just fine, and after a couple of sips found myself enjoying the whiskey nacional.

Stray dogs in Uruguay

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

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Stray dog on the Piriapolis Beach

Stray dogs are part of the fabric of life in Uruguay and have been present everywhere I’ve gone, mainly hanging out around restaurants or the beach.

The local people seem to view their presence as natural, similar to having birds living around a house. Sometimes the waiters will chase them off, but only if they are in the way. People go up to the dogs and pet them, and then move on.

The most fun thing is to watch the dogs play in the ocean. They love the ocean and the dog games involve running along the water’s edge, chasing each other into the ocean, and getting out of the way of waves.

When I was in La Paloma one morning sitting on the beach, I watched two dogs playing along the water. A third dog came up over the hill and watched them with his tail gently wagging to appraise the game - smiled? - and then ran down to join the fun.

I have no doubt that if the dogs were to cause any trouble at all they wouldn’t last long. But it´s interesting to see the difference between dogs here and in a Buenos Aires, where many times they are fashion accessories.


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Using the G10´s stitch-assist feature on the Piriapolis beach

Monday, December 29th, 2008

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Piriapolis Beach Panorama

I´ve been having fun with my Canon G10´s ¨stich-assist¨ feature that helps create panoramic pictures. If the scene is too large to fit in the frame, you can take multiple pictures and then on a computer ¨stitch¨ them together into one large image.

The camera helps the process by showing a segment of the last picture taken. You can then line up the next shot against where you left off before, with a little bit of overlap.

Here is a shot from the beach. One slightly surreal effect happens if a person is moving - in this case, the little girl was walking toward me, and so appears twice.

Sunset Pictures of Piriapolis

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

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Boats in Piriapolis at Sunset

Couple walking along the port in Piriapolis

Spending time on the Piriapolis beach

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

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Me on the beach in PiriapolisBeach time is different here, especially when surrounded by people speaking a different language.  People come out usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., then leave for lunch and a nap, and then return around 4 or 5 p.m.

It is warm here, but people will still bring a thermos of hot water and drink Mate, a grass-like substance that makes a drink similar to tea.

For sitting on the beach, many people use small yoga mats, like the one you see me on in this picture. It´s a little flimsy, but the cost was US$1.50 and I´ll only need it for a few more days.

There is a regular wind which can blow sand around, and has gotten into my books, backpack, camera, and, unfortunately, even my ears.

Couple under an umbrella on the Piriapolis beach

Next Stop Patagonia

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

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I have three more days on the beaches of Uruguay, and then go to something very different: Patagonia. I spent yesterday afternoon buying the tickets and finally worked out the itinerary, leaving here December 31:

  1. 4:15 a.m. Walk 15 minutes from apartment to the Piriapolis bus terminal.
  2. 4:50 a.m. Take bus from Piriapolis to Montevideo
  3. 5:50 a.m. Take another bus from Montevideo to Colonia
  4. 7:50 a.m. Take ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires
  5. 9:00 a.m. Take cab to the bus terminal in Buenos Aires
  6. 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Wait.
  7. 12:30 p.m. December 31 to 12:30 p.m. January 1. Take long-distance bus from Buenos Aires to Bariloche, Argentina, located in Patagonia.

Because of time changes, the long-distance bus is only 22 hours. A round-trip ticket cost 480 Argentine Pesos, which right now is about US $140. The plane takes an hour, but the ticket was around US $800.

The bus seat reclines completely and is supposed to be quite nice. They serve meals and wine, there is a television (which I know will be awful), and they even have a bar. It is a double-decker bus, but the most coveted seats on the top front were already taken. In fact, there were only a few seats left that fully reclined. I was able to get a window seat, but it is on the lower leven towards the back. But at least I´ll be close to the bar!