Goodbye chi-chi Punta, hello Montevideo! For a short two hour bus journey costing about £4 each, we were overly chuffed to discover that the bus had free WIFI! Back home, a few hours in an internet cafe would cost the same as the bus journey itself!
After some to-ing and fro-ing, a local bus and a lot of help, we found our hostel El Viajero at the top of some very, very steep stairs. Off a pretty square in the old town with an antiques market in full swing, the first thing we noticed were the awesome vibrant murals! Unfortunately we weren’t able to find out the name of the artist, but his colourful street art could be found not only in the hostel & our bedroom, but adorning the many nooks and crannies of the surrounding Ciudad (old town).
Other than my tripping over every five minutes (nothing unusual there!), the other thing we noticed about Montevideo’s uneven pavements were the sporadic colourful mosaic tiles which punctuate the ribbed grey concrete every block or two. We’ve not found out much more about it since, but we were told that there is a local artist who scouts out the loose or broken paving stones and replaces them with these handmade ‘tiles’. What a beautiful idea, cleverly escaping the ‘graffiti’ label given to other street art found around town whilst pleasing the council at the same time. I found this great article about the Montevideo street art, it’s worth a look at the pictures because we sadly didn’t get many photos as it didn’t always feel safe enough to get our cameras out.
An artistic vibe has been woven into the fabric of this city for many years. Perhaps it started with Joaquín Torres Garcia, probably Uruguay’s best known artist, you can see his constructivist murals dotted around the city in prominent positions.
All this looking had given us an appetite, so we headed for the Mercado del Puerto. This had been recommended as the ONLY place to go if you were after some meat- and it did not disappoint! We meandered around what used to be a meat market, now brimming with parillas (barbecues) and little bars serving “medio y medio”, a rather potent half white & half sparkling wine drink unique to the mercado. We grabbed a bar stool at El Palenque, took a sip, and ordered two of the fattest juiciest steaks (entrecôte and pichane) with meat so tender you could have cut it with a spoon. This is a whole meaty world I never knew about! I don’t think I can ever look at a supermarket steak again, perhaps the only thing I’ve ever had that came close was steak at The Hawksmoor- for more than 10 times the price!
As we worked hard to digest our larger than usual lunch, we wandered the streets of Montevideo. Got rained on by churning air conditioning units jutting out of buildings, admiring the large statues and architecture against the cobalt sky & watching complete strangers play impressive street side games of speed-chess on their way home.
After a siesta back at the hostel we ventured out for a late supper at Bar Fun Fun. It turns out Google doesn’t know everything. Particularly not where we wanted to go. It sent us into dark roads in a shady side of town, where we were accompanied only by street scavengers collecting rubbish and recyclables onto their horse & carts. We later found the bar, 8 blocks in the other direction and it was closed. Damn. We were lucky to find a row of bars with people spilling onto the pavements, and a bustling pizza joint across the road called Bar Tasende. Given the low prices & empty plates scattered around people, we guessed you ordered by the slice, so by the time we got a table, we got stuck in & ordered 6 plates. Our waiter pretty much refused, and let us order 3 which we thought was odd - until they arrived. Each was about 9 inches square, thick herby focaccia smothered in cheese, olives or ham. So delicious, but we couldn’t even finish it all… not bad for a fiver, including beer!
- By Cass