The Americas Revisted travel blog


Today we catch a taxi to Independence Square in Montevideo to do a tour for tips city walking tour, starting at 10.30. Our guide is Florenza and there is us and 3 girls from Ireland, although one has been living in Brisbane for quite a few years.

We start our city tour in the Independence Square. This square was the original site of the fort and city of Montevideo. The city was originally surrounded by walls and the reconstruction of one wall which had the drawbridge to enter the city is at the entrance to a mall closed to traffic. On one side of the square is the Palacio Salvo. Finished in 1928, Palacio Salvo stands 100 m (330 ft) high with the antenna included. It was the tallest building in Latin America for a brief period. It is renowned for being where Gerardo Matos Rodríguez wrote his tango La Cumparsita in 1917. The building was originally intended to be a hotel, but this plan didn't work out so it is mixed commercial and residental use and you can even stay there as an airbnb. We visit the mausoleum of Artigas. Uruguay’s liberator from Spain and Portugal 200 years ago and he was eventually exiled and lived his final years in Paraguay. His remains are in an urn that has light tunnelled to it through a triangular marble recepticle in the square. The statue of himself, seated on a horse is above the masoleum. We walk down the mall and as in all malls there are plaques set into the pavers to represent famous people. There are two plaques of people that we will recognise. One is Carlos Paez Vilaro, the famous artist and the other is the Rolling Stones. The Rolling Stones came to Uruguay only 3 years ago for the first time and the plaque is there to try and woo them back. We pass by Teatro Solis opened in 1856 and Uruguay's most famous theatre. We then walk through some squares to the The Church of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. We go inside and see where a few of Uruguay's Presidents are buried. It is beautiful inside and contains the remains of jose Lavelleja who is remembered as a rebel who lead the fight for independence from Brazil in 1825. We walk past Cafe Brazilero. Café Brasilero maintains its old-time decoration with an art nouveau touch. Tango master and singer Carlos Gardel frequented the cafe, and author Juan Carlos Onetti etched part his first novel right into the cafe’s tables. Perhaps the most notable and longest patron was writer Eduardo Galeano, who visited the place every Wednesday for over 20 years. We then go to the meat market which turns out to be Puerto Mercardo which we were at yesterday. So much quieter today and a chance to take some photos and use the toilets which had a queue of about 20 women yesterday! We finish the tour in a park where Florenza promises us the place with the best Grapamiel which is a mixed alcoholic beverage containing grappa, spirits obtained from various grains, plus honey and water. As it turns out this park is the best place as she brings out a bottle and some little cups for us to try. Its not too bad, a bit sweet. Florenza is lovely and we enjoyed the tour.

We now stop for some empanadas for lunch. A quick bite and then we head to the Andes Plane Crash museeum which is located in The Old City. It is a museum on the story of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 that crashed in the Andes in 1972 with a group of Uruguayan high school rugby players, their friends and relatives that were traveling to Chile to play rugby. Their story of how they survived the tragedy was transmitted worldwide by means of books, documentaries, pictures and conferences and it has been an inspiration to the film Alive and many books. The museum pays homage to the memory of the 29 people who died. Seventeen days after the crash 27 remained alive but eight more died from an avalanche. After 10 days waiting to be rescued they heard on a pocket transitor that the search had been called off. There were several attempts to go for help and each time one of a pair of child shoes (that were meant to be a gift) was taken on the expedition to give hope that the pair of shoes would be reunited at some stage. Finally on the third attempt when weather was better (equiped with a sleeping bag made with ducting from the airconditioning unit) three young men walked for days and found a Chilean muleteer who went for help. The musuem is a reminder of those 16 Uruguayans who came back to life after the 72 days in the Andes weather conditions with no food and proper clothing and the courage they displayed to stay alive even resorting to canabalism. One of the survivors was the son of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró whose sun we had seen earlier in the pavement. A remartkable story and a very interesting museum.

We catch a cab to Parque Rodo where we have another walking tour.The name "Rodó" has been given in memory of José Enrique Rodó, an important Uruguayan writer whose monument is in the southern side of the main park. We meet at Parque Rodó castle, which is being restored and will be a children's library. Then to the Musical murals, one of "La cumparsita" which is a tango written in 1916 by the Uruguayan musician Gerardo Matos Rodríguez. It is among the most famous and recognizable tangos of all time and one of Daniel Alberto Viglietti(24 July 1939 – 30 October 2017) who was an Uruguayan folk singer, guitarist, composer, and political activist. These murals on the reverse of the National Museum of Visual Arts and we look at various outside art works. We see José E. Rodó's monument up close and the Andalusian patio which is covered in thousands of tiles. Finally there is Einstein's monument and hence the connection and reason for a community of Jews in Uruguay and a statue of Confucius. There has been a lot packed into this park.

We walk back to the Hotel from here and eat a a restaurant just around the corner from our Hotel. A snitzel but slighly overdone and of course it came with chips.

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