I´ve had all of these great blog starter ideas in my head, but now, that I´ve finally had a chance to sit at a computer, nothing comes to mind. Where can I start? We arrived at 5 am. We hung out at the airport for an hour because it was just too cold outside, and we wanted to at least see where we were going. So much for the 75 degree temps predicted by Weather.com. I froze my bum off in the 2 minutes we waited for the bus. The ride from the airport into the city was interesting. Lots of simple, middle class people going to work. No one too friendly, but at least I didn´t think the bus driver was out to kill me like the ones in Mexico. We got off the bus alright, found our hostel alright and I passed out on a couch bench in front of the TV. The hostel receptionist kindly woke us up to let us know we could go to our bunks early, and then I passed out again. Carlos complains that I fall asleep too easily and that he takes forever. Not my fault, but I can understand how annoying that must be. Later I´ll talk about the hostel where we stayed, Willy Fogg Hostel.
When I woke up, around 3 pm, it was too late to go around and do much. We first went to Ciudad Vieja, the old city, and wandered around. The thing that is most shocking, maybe since again, we´re coming from Mexico, was the lack of people. The city is just deserted. I think people´ve said the population is about 1 million, and all of them must be at home cozied up in their beds. I wouldn´t go outside either. Who knows. But really, the plazas were empty, and I seriously felt like I was walking through the set of I am Legend because there were just broken down buildings and nobody was around. The city is pretty enough. You can tell that back in the day they had some awesome architecture. Tall wooden shutters on elegant buildings. Now everything is broken and moldy and falling apart. There are artisans with their wares at the beginning of the Ciudad Vieja and there´s lots of hip stores, but after a few blocks people are few and far between. Plus the hostel receptionist kind of spooked us, reminding us not to have our camera out a lot like the gawking tourists that we are. There´s lots of cool grafitti and old school Coca-Cola signs everywhere. And dogs, but not as mangy as the Mexican ones.
We walked all the way down to the pier, a picturesque scene where men were fishing and couples were drinking. Montevideo is right on the water, which is pretty cool. Since it´s winter, the town doesn´t really have that beachy feel. I guess like Ocean City, NJ at Christmastime. We went out in flip-flops to air out our stinky feet, but everyone else was wearing boots, scarves and hats. Most people just looked at my feet as we walked. I guess Carlos wasn´t as obvious. Uruguayans also keep warm by drinking mate, a hot tea sipped through a metal straw (pronounced mah-tay...sorry, I can´t find the accent on this keyboard). I´ll write about that later because I haven´t even started to understand the phenomenon. I´ve been told, however, that while mate is popular in Buenos Aires and maybe other parts in South America, people here in Montevideo seem to carry it around like it´s their security blanket. And it´s true. On the bus, in the supermarket, hanging out at the beach with friends- people have it with them everywhere.
In the evening we took a bus to Pocitos, the newer part of town where we got chivito, the local dish. The bus system is fairly easy to navigate, and comes by every 10ish minutes it seems. It´s about a dollar or two, depending on where you´re going. The prices seem to change every time and we haven´t quite figured out the system. They do make change, and you get a ticket. There are also bus passes, obviously only if you´re from here or planning on staying awhile. Buses, we were told, run all night, but obviously less frequently as the night goes on. Pocitos has a lot more people around. We walked on the sidewalk that goes along the beach. More people were out at night, rollerblading, running, and drinking mate of course. More fun grafitti.
Now for a small rant. (Of course these are all just observations of a very tired traveler who hasn´t gotten out much)... Unfortunately we haven´t even been to the museums, and we aren´t going out at night because everything is so dang expensive compared to our lifestyle in Mexico. A can of Coke is 18 Uruguayan pesos ($1 USD), and 6 Mexican pesos ($0.50 USD). And that´s how everything is, if not more costly. The hostel has been our cheapest thing so far. And people wise, they´ve all been friendly when we have, but I don´t feel that... feeling I get from Mexican people. They´re quieter, more reserved. Maybe more like us cold, cold gringos?
Tomorrow we head to Colonia, which is supposed to be quieter and even emptier. Even though I loooove the quiet and prefer to be alone quite a bit, I don´t really enjoy an empty city. It´s just weird. It´s like having lots of people at the park with you. Each place is supposed to have a certain number of people. But now I´m mentally prepared, and so I´ll make sure I just sit and write and let Carlos take lots of pictures. The hostel and the people staying here are AWESOME, so stay tuned for the next post!