Montevideo, Uruguay

 In Honeymoon Planning
Hola!  Nestled between  the north bank of the Rio Plata and the Atlantic Ocean, Uruguay is an often overlooked South American hotspot.  Urugauy has two main ports of call.  The capital city of Montevideo lies on the east bank of the Plata.  With a width of 136 miles, the Rio Plata is the world’s widest estuary.  A three and a half hour  hydrofoil  across the Plata separates Montevideo from Buenos Aires. Montevideo was founded by the Porteguese in the 17th century.  The  Spanish then conquered the city in 1724.   The Spanish quickly established a military base on the banks of the river to hold their position.  During World Wars I & II, the British Navy was very influential in the city.  The British used the port as a base to hunt German u-boats in the Atlantic.  The Brits outmanuevered the Kraut battleship Admiral Graf Spree in December 1939.
Today’s Montevideo still retains the trappings of a colonial city.  The predominantly Catholic city hosts a calvacade of meticulously decorated churches and plazas. Statues of heroes and saints meld seamlessly with swaying palm trees.   Sea walls protect over a million residents from the unpredictable Plata delta.  We took an informative tour of the city that taught us a lot about the history and culture.  The city has a first rate airport and is a short drive from downtown.  The population is a blend of Portuguese and Spanish, but nearly all of the merchants speak English.  The city offers very good value for the dollar.  A twelve ounce filet mignon in a bleu cheese and mushroom sauce ran about eight U.S. Dollars ($160 Uruguayan Pesos). Uruaguayan gauchos produce some of the best beef and leather on the planet.
The drink of choice in Uruguay is Mate.  Mate is an herbal stimulant made from the Yerba plant.  The plant is placed into the bottom of a gourd and shaken gently. It is mixed with hot water and consumed through a metal straw called a “Bombilla”  The bombilla filters out the yerba leaves.  The mate gourd is passed around from person to person until it is consumed. Urugains start the Mate ritual at a very young age and go through the process several times a day.
A three-hour drive east down the Plata takes you to the luxury resort of Punta Del Este.  More than any South American city, Punta Del Este reminded me of Ocean City.  You need to cross a bridge to get there and it is surrounded by water on three sides. The unique landmark is a giant sculpted clay hand that reaches out from the beach and up towards the sky.  There are luxurious shopping malls and four-star restaurants and hotels up and down the strip.  This is where the Argentinian jet set goes on holiday. The glitterati of Buenos Aires all own summer homes here.  It’s replaced Rio De Janeiro as the new place to be seen on South America’s east coast. Punta is twice as expensive as Montevideo (yet still much cheaper than the U.S.).  Casinos and nightclubs are packed during the summer (December- February).  The sexy beaches are lined with beautiful people.  Like Ocean City, Punta is a seasonal town that thrives on tourism.  Fishing, watersports soccer and volleyball are very popular.
We enjoyed a “Duck Tour” of the town.  The Duck Tour is an amphibious tour bus shaped like a giant duck.  It rides through the town and then cruises the waterways.  Passengers are given duck whistles to “quack”  when we get excited or need a drink.  The tour was in Spanish but we still had a blast! We found the food and nightlife spectacular.  Our favorite restaurant was “Blue Cheese”. Blue Cheese  Salad House sits on the marina and is home to an amazing salad bar that boasts sixteen  different varieties of blue cheese.  I had a Brotola Roquefort (the local fish in a roquefort sauce). We found a great club called Las  Ruizas (The Ruins) that specializes in Latin house  music.
Uruguay is a hidden treasure worth investigating.  The flight from B.W.I. is approximately fifteen hours.  The time is two hours ahead of us.  It is the second smallest country in South America but is reasonably wealthy. It is one of the safest countries in South America.  The main export is agriculture.  The political situation is very stable. Uruguay is a democracy with very little corruption. The population is primarily of white European descent.  The amenities are very modern along the coastline (we still recommend drinking bottled water).   You can get by without speaking any Spanish, but a little bit goes a long way.  The beautiful countryside is comprised of rolling plains and low hill ranges. If you’re lucky, you may spot a native puma or jaguar.  The immense coastlines offer wonderful recreational activities and beautiful sunsets.  It borders Argentina to the south and Brazil to the north.  Temperatures  are very similiar to Ocean City.  It gets very hot in January and will occasionally snow in June and July.  Montevideo and Punta Del Este offer a nice contrast of past and present culture.  Adios!
– Sean Rox

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