March 22, 2011 – March 24, 2011
My grandfather entered the Americas though Montevideo in the late 30s before moving to San Francisco. Even though, I knew the city would be much different than when my grandfather arrived, I’ve been wanting to visit Montevideo since we decided to visit South America and what could be better than visiting while my parents were in continent as well. Those same people who encouraged us to visit Colonia also strongly discouraged our visit to Montevideo, well at least until we shared my familial connection. With such low expectations, we couldn’t have been more impressed by the city after our relatively short bus trip. To give my parents a little taste of what it’s been like traveling through Argentina on buses, we took a bus to and from Montevideo. While the bus wasn’t as large as those in Argentina, it was incredibly cheap and cost about $10 a person to take the 2-hour journey. My parents enjoyed their snapshot view of traveling life! Our hotel was a couple of miles away from the center of town and right on the water. We had a great view of the sea and my parents room was so cool – it wrapped around the corner of the building with the bedroom and a little sitting area both facing the water and the bathroom on the inside of the room. Very clever. Lee and I walked from our hotel to the center where we followed an MP3 of a small, guided tour of the historical highlights. Our walk took us past picturesque fishing huts, dune preservations, Coca-Cola advertisements, and beautiful waterfront recreation spots.
The tour started at the Plaza de Independencia with the archetypal view of Montevideo and the Palacio Salvo, a hotel built by an Italian immigrant in the 1920s, at one end The General Artigas statue is atop a mausoleum for the same man. This mausoleum was incredibly impressive, reminding me of Akbar the Great’s tomb in Ankara, Turkey as well as the embalmed bodies of Lenin, Mao and Uncle Ho.
The rest of the tour wound us through the Peatonal Sarandi, the old city’s pedestrian area, which is now surrounded by great vendors and shops that my mom and I greatly enjoyed (but perhaps bored my dad and Lee were a bit…), and other sites such as the Teatro Solis (built in 1856 and remodeled from 1998 to 2004 after a fire) and the original wall of the city. It also took us by Mafalda’s, the tour guide’s favorite empanada shop.
The tour ended at Mercado del Puerto, a historical food market filled with indoor grills and cute shops. Perfect for lunch and some souvenir shopping.
While not part of the tour, the urban planner in me couldn’t resist snapping a few pics of the Walk/Don’t Walk signs which say Cruce (cross) and No Cruce. I’ve never seen a crosswalk sign in a different language before – all of the others have had pictures of some sort or another. The choice of “cruce” is also interesting as it’s from the same root as “cruz” or “cruces” which can also mean a religious cross.