The best beef you will ever eat, the chillest people of Latin America, and one of the most unique experiences I’ve had in the past few years. Those are the words I would choose to describe my trip to Uruguay.
It all started a few years ago. I was watching Discovery Channel and they had a special on weird monuments. La mano de Punta del Este clearly stood out as one I needed to visit. Five fingers symbolizing the last memory people ashore have of those that drown. I’ve also heard about Uruguay being the Switzerland of the continent, and I’ve always wondered how life would be here. Fast forward to present day I became more familiar with the global construct and learned more about this country with the hand in the sand.
Uruguay is literally Europe in Latin America. I found myself feeling like I was in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Rome and the likes all the time. It also had a striking resemblance to Havana which, like Montevideo, was modelled after Madrid. Lest you not forget: You are in South America. Being my 7th visit to this wonderful continent, I was pleasantly surprised at the gap between Uruguay and its neighbors. Broad Streets, quiet and quaint quarters, little traffic, and no loud people; A striking contrast with what I had in mind. Oh and get this, the sidewalk by the ocean is not called malecon, but the rambla.
I had a hard time finding a Chinese outlet in Montevideo, and despite the fact that McDonald’s was two blocks down the street from my hotel; I felt no need to. Montevideo’s eateries are BEYOND anything you will expect. I hardly had a bill over 40$ for lunch or dinner for two. El Palenque, La Pulperia, Es Mercat (or anything in that market really) is a must do. Have the Entrecote, the Costilla, or the Pulpon (Skirt steak, not to be confused with Pulpo). Don’t forget the best thing ever: Pulpo a la Gallega, a fantastic treat for land and sealovers alike. The very daring should go for the Morcilla salada, and the real superheroes for the sweet version of this bloody delight.
There are also plenty of deals to strike at the local shopping outlets, bring a creditcard and bypass the sales tax. One of the malls used to be a maximum security prison where former president Pepe Mujica, and his wife, spent 13 years before taking the highest office in the land.
Head to Tres Cruces to meet the common Uruguayan city person, and while your at it take the bus to Punta del Este. The two hour scenic ride is well worth your time, and Punta del Este is the best place to dip your toes in the Southern Atlantic. This port will remind you of Miami Beach, Saint Tropez and the likes, but when you discover its underground it beats them by a landslide. Be sure to check out Lo de Tere and Guappa for some good eats. Seasonally restaurants offer Sushi and other delights and special catches. High season is January and February.
My travel posse and I joke about Australia being the land of upside down, but you’ll quickly understand that Uruguay is the original Don. Blue is for Agua con Gas and Green is for Agua sin Gas, Taxi’s for some reason sport “IXAT” on their hoods, and you would actually want to spend a winter here as its their summer.
Make sure to stay in Pocitos of Punta Carretas, and just walk over to the rambla to catch a breeze. Oh Uruguay, you really captured my soul. I will be back.