Saturday, 19 January 2008

Around South America – Montevideo, Uruguay

I had a weekend in Montevideo recently, having decided to go on a visa run from Buenos Aires. The ferry over the Rio de la Plata stops at Colonia, which has a lovely little historic part to it, and cobbled streets where you can eat paella under trees in the square, or eat calamari by the river. Colonia has the air of a church or a museum, the kind of place where everybody walks around with their hands joined behind their backs and nobody ever shouts. It’s a relaxing day away from the big city across the brown water but not much more than that. So having been there twice before, we decided that we had to go to Montevideo this time.

It was a Saturday. It was raining. It was grey. There wasn’t anybody else around. The first stop was the Solis Theatre. Signs outside mentioned opera, we had visions of a cultural weekend instead. There was nothing on. Nothing. Saturday night. We went for lunch across the road. The café was empty of customers, a bit of a surprise as it was the only one open. Nobody passed the windows either. The rain didn’t ease. The old town seemed to be so old that nobody lived there. The Iglesia Matriz was open though, so we paid some money to an old woman and wandered inside. A service was taking place in the little chapel to the right so we wandered around the church in the dark until we were politely asked to leave. It was closing.

The night was no easier. We’d asked the waitress in the café where we should go at night. She recommended the cinema. We went back to the pedestrian precinct by the theatre (behind the large building in the photo) and wandered around looking for a restaurant that had closed down. There were a few kids hanging around outside and a few adults in the bars. We walked past a group of similarly baffled Brazilians and headed for the bright lights. A shout from behind us made us turn. A couple of the kids were scuffling on the floor, no big surprise. One of them got up and made to run off. The other one on the floor had grey hair. His companions were shouting, they were older too. The kid turned around and held both hands up, like he was apologising for bumping into the man. Then he ran up a dark street as the people started to complain. The man patted his pockets. He still seemed to have his wallet. We checked that they were ok and walked on. Ten seconds later, another yell. Again, somebody on the floor. Another kid was running away. I shouted at him and started to run. He stopped and looked at me before heading up the same direction as his mate. A dark street, two of them there carrying who knows what and with other friends around – these are the things that you have to be aware of, if only to excuse your own cowardice afterwards.

The woman’s bag had gone and so had our night. We went to the beaches the next day, where we were advised to go the night before, but still found nothing. No bars, cafes or kiosks along the beach road, nowhere to have lunch with a view of the water. The whole place had the air of a tired English seaside town stuck in the 1940’s on a Tuesday afternoon in early February. Even the mugging couldn’t make it interesting.


Anonymous said...

Montevideo is an empty city january. Everybody go to the east, to the Uruguayan riviera beaches.

Red Earth said...

Very good. I went in September. I guess it's like that all year then.

Ray Adkins said...


You don't go to Uruguay after night life...
Montevideo is a great place to relax, great and afordable food and logding and very hospitable people.
A wonderful country!
I am starting to think that your regular state of being negative all the time ends up attracting the bad experiences you describe on your blog...considering they actually happened...

Kind regards

Ray Adkins