Archive for April, 2008
Aaah, it it still amuses me, which is especially self-obsessed considering it was a joke I put in Atlas, Schmatlas; that Montevideo “is soon to be renamed Montedvd to make it sound less eighties.” Well, in the “Discover Montevideo” booklet that I got from a tourist information place, the origin of the city’s name is looked into. Apparently, nobody knows for sure why it’s called Montevideo. There seems to be no agreement on its etymology. The one I like the best is that it makes the site of the sixth important high point head east to west from Punta del Este, and where fresh water becomes prominent in the Rio de la Plata. So that’s Monte VI de E a O – Mount 6 of the east (este) to west (oeste). The booklet says that despite the lack of certainty about the name’s origin, it “has a harmonious ring to it, and even allows for flights of fancy.” Isn’t that nice?
The city has a really nice feeling about it. It’s difficult to describe. It’s not particulary swanky or groovy, but it does have a certain charm; a bit like an old shopping arcade which seems a little bit stuck in the past, the kind with a cafe that old people go into, and hat and wool shops. It’s really quite lovely. Like a glamorous old woman who still dresses in clothes and make-up that she wore when she was young and caught all the men’s gazes. It also reminds me a little of some parts of Brussels, as that’s a feeling I’ve got from there, too.
One of the city’s main thoroughfares is Av. 18 de Julio (above). I’ve not strayed too far either side of this during my two days here. At one end is the Ciudad Vieja, the old town, with some nice fancy buildings and narrow-ish streets. I, err, didn’t take many photos, though.
This is the big cathedral…
… and this is the massive port building.
The old town opens up at its east end into Plaza Independencia where there’s a statue of the dude who did something or other for Uruguay…
And then there’s this: one of the prettiest buildings I’ve seen on my trip so far. I think it’s called Palacio Salvo.
Right up the other end of Av. 18 de Julio, a good 45 minute walk away, is the Estadio Centenario: the stadium where the first World Cup final was played. And inside there, under one of the stands is the Museo del Fútbol. It’s a nice little museum with plenty of cool stuff in there: a football used in World Cup final, shirts of several famous Uruguayan players (as well as Maradona and Pelé shirts), lots of photos, trophies (including what I assume must be replicas of two Jules Rimet trophies), old posters and flags. It’s pretty cool.
With some good fortune, I was there as a guide was about to give a tour. There was another English guy taking the tour. We had a nice chat about our teams’ fortunes (he was a Forest fan). We walked around the curve of the stadium. Stadiums always look cool when they’re empty, I think.
Then we went down below to the changing rooms. Pretty grim in there. Weird to think that this stadium is still in use, ’cause any team that plays there must think they’ve stepped back in time when they see the state of the showers and loos.
Then we got to walk down the (very long) tunnel that emerges from underground, so the players would run up some steps on to the pitch. We weren’t allowed on the grass, but we could stand right at the top of the steps on the concrete rim, and for a picosecond, I could pretend I was a proper football player and ev’ryfink.
Walking back towards the hotel, I passed lots of school children who were wearing long, white lab-coat type things, buttoned at the top with a massive black bow at the neck. It was funny seeing them playing football in these clothes in a schoolyard in Punta del Diablo a couple of days ago. I would’ve taken a photo, but you know, one doesn’t want to be taking photos of schoolchildren in this day and age, does one? Talking of schoolchildren, here’s a photo of a statue of the former leader of the Catholic church Pope John Paul II.
(I wondered if any wag has ever done a “John Paul, George and Ringo” t-shirt, with Lennon and McCartney replaced by the Pope. I’ve never seen one, but surely someone must’ve done it, right?)
A coffee and some bizcochitos; then back to the hotel to watch the Arsenal v Liverpool game en vivo on ESPN; and out again afterwards to have a nice walk around the sea front to watch the sunset at the port.
A rockin’ ham, mozzeralla, and red peppers-filled steak for tea; a nice saunter back through the old town; and I returned to the hotel to take me shoes and socks off to give my blisters some breathing room.
I’m half-tempted to stay a few more days here, especially because I’d quite like to go and see one of the city’s teams, Liverpool Fútbol Club, play on Sunday, but I don’t wanna push it. I’ve had a couple of very enjoyable days here, and I’m feeling up for moving on; so I’m off to the bus station shortly to get a bus (unsurprisingly) heading west along the coast to Colonia del Sacramento.
My hotel room, at the Royal Hotel, is fairly comedic. It is very cheap, though, less than £10 a night; and the old woman at the reception is very friendly. It’s got those horrible foam pillows, plastic sheets under the cotton sheet, the bathroom smells a bit off, and I’ve seen a few ants. Funniest of all, though is the window. No regular window here. No view of the street or anything. The only window is approx. 75cm square and I’d have to stand on tip toes to see out of it; but I can’t see out of the window because it’s patterned glass. Patterned yellow glass. And it opens onto the corridor outside my room. There’s a skylight in the corridor, so I suppose I’m getting some daylight. But it’s very dark in there. This is what my room looks like at midday.
I think the podcast might’ve given you the impression that Punta del Diablo was shit. That wasn’t the case, it was actually really nice there. I’m sure it would be utterly lovely if you were staying in a cabaña with someone you want to cuddle. Plus, I guess it would help if I wasn’t in a bit of a shitty mood in the first place. One must trudge along, though, ’cause there’s no way out of a bad mood by continuing to feel sorry for myself.
My arrival in Punta del Diablo was quite a cool one. It sounded romantic and stuff when the woman at the bus station explained that I would be dropped off on the main road, at a junction five kilometres from the village. That will be interesting, I thought, like something I should be doing. But it was a right old galumph in the early afternoon sun. And as I walked along the road, seeing very few cars go by, and seeing very few dwellings, I did begin to wonder what sort of place I would be visiting. But a friend of mine had lived in Uruguay for a while, and she’d recommended it, so I didn’t worry too much.
It took a while to find the hostel, but I did find a bar near the beach, so took a break to ask for directions (aka have a beer). My first contact with a real life Uruguayan was a guy who’d just come out of the sea clutching a surfboard, and who seemed rather euphoric. He hugged his girlfriend, had a chug of his beer, then beamingly said hello to me, welcomed me to Uruguay and asked if I wanted some tequila in my beer. I couldn’t refuse, really, as the bottle was already virtually horizontal over my glass. But, yes, that was a nice way to arrive. And, hopefully, that’ll be what I remember about the village rather than the low mood and hostel shittery.
Although, the amount of street dogs I saw there, and that I’ve seen on my whole journey, never fails to flick the melancholy switch in my heart. Seeing how they’re treated as a nuisance, and seeing the look in their eyes when you show a tiny bit of friendliness to them. I know I shouldn’t, ’cause they’re probably full of disease, but the part of me that really misses Billy often gives them a pat on the head or a scratch behind the ear and, if there’s no waiter around to get annoyed, I’ll feed them a bit of meat or bread. On the beach on Monday, though, I saw a dead dog. Obviously been there for a fair few days, ’cause as I passed by – giving it a wide berth – it became clear that, well, I dunno the technical phrase, but it looked like a melting blob covered in hair. And it was terribly stinky. Poor fella. The heart-breakingest thing, though, was as I returned along the beach, there was another dog who was sat there, just looking at the dead dog. Of course, I’m probably projecting emotions onto dogs, but we all do that sometimes, don’t we? He was probably having a little chat with his dead pal, about what the other dogs are up to today, what food he’s eaten, and how he found a nice place to have a nap in the shade. And how he wished he’d wake up, ’cause he wanted to play on the beach like they used to do.
I spent my second and final evening there drinking booze at a bar and finding myself wallowing a little in the black bile, like one is inclined to do now and then. I suppose I should’ve made the effort there and then to talk to the friendly-looking German girls at the next table, but I would’ve been terrible company anyway. I went back to the hostel, packed my stuff up, and generally organised things for a swift getaway in the morning. I didn’t set the alarm on my watch; I just assumed that I would wake up around 7am, as I have been doing lately. I was woken up, though, at just gone 6am when I heard the door of the dorm open. Then I heard a man and a woman doing that shhh-be-quiet whispery giggling. Their New Zealander accents continued until the talky noises turned to sloppy tongue noises, then, rather inevitably, the sounds of a bunk bed creaking and the moans and groans of drunk fucking.
So, what exactly is the correct protocol when one is inadvertently party to other people having sex? Thankfully, their bunk was out of my sight line, but I was lying there hoping they’d hurry up and get it over with, ’cause I needed to get up and get ready to leave. Could I have faked some waking-up noises that might have made them stop long enough for me to get out of there? Or would they have just carried on? What happened, though, was they ran out of steam after a while; the shagging petered out, and the snoring began, and I was able to get out without them knowing I’d heard their shenanigans.
Anyway, I’m in Montevideo now. Still not in a great mood, to be honest, but the afternoon walk I had was pleasant. I quite like what I’ve seen so far. There’s a nice faded glory about the place, the atmosphere seems nice. I saw a small carnaval-type procession, and I had some splendid grilled chicken at Mercado del Puerto, a wonderful-smelling indoor market full of meaty restaurants. All rounded off with a nice long sleep in a room, all by myself.