Well, we only stayed a few days in Montevideo, but it really was a fantastic city! So European, and filled with windy cobbled streets and beautiful art gallerys - the best of which was the gallery devoted to their adopted child, José Gurvich (see above for a little example). He was born in Lithuania, but emigrated to Montevideo, with his parents obviously, at the age of five in 1932. His painting and sculptures were incredible, and all looked strangely familiar. Anyway, Tuesdays were free into the gallery, so we were able to stroll around to our hearts content looking at his beautiful pictures for the low-low price of nothing.
We took the opportunity, whilst in Mondevideo, of taking two hours of Spanish classes, for a tenner, which turned out to be fantastic. Our teacher was a bit loopey - but in a very good way - and we learned a lot, so we´ve decided to continue with the lessons here in Buenos Aires. Daragh´s big into learning, so he´s been researching a few places, and the lads are actually sitting down to study every night now too! It´s pretty great!
Anyway, Montevideo......not much more to say on the subject except that it was gorgeous, and had some fabulous tourist attractions. Not least the biggest market I´ve ever seen! It´s held every Sunday, and takes up about a mile squared of streets. Near the top, it´s all fresh veg, and fish, and meats, and clothes, and handmade stuff, but as you delve into the back parts, you get weirder and crazier stalls - people selling antique (read ´old´) knives and axes, alongside super nintendo games! And the craziest old dolls and clothes you´ve ever seen! We didn´t know where to look half the time, but it was hilarious! You also got some good old tapes and records - none of this new-fangled CD nonsense! Also, there were guys set up doing the three-cups-and-a-ball routine...you know, flashing the cups around with the ball inside, and you´ve to guess where it it? There were guys n gals in the crowd obviously in on the whole thing, and they kept winning - just to keep the punters coming! Ha!
We stopped off the in the city hall on the way back, where there was a photographic exhibition going on detailing some social history of Montevideo, which was very intersting. A large man who worked in the centre came over to ask me and Alan did we need any help - we didn´t have much Spanish, and he had barely any English, but he managed to find out our names and that we were from Ireland. As he left, he leaned in conspiratorally to us and said "I believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is my saviour", and with a smile that looked like he was letting us in on a secret, just walked away. Strange!
Went out to a great Irish bar, that was very delighted to have actual IRISH people visiting, and made great sport out of us! They had a guy on guitar singing songs, and he set up beside our table, and got us to sing the words of all his songs - mostly U2. Great fun!!
Near where our hostel was, in the old part of town - on the same square as the Gurvich gallery, actually - another type of market set up every day, filled with the most gorgeous old jewellery and silverware. It was as if the colonial houses of the city had been emptied out onto these stalls, with women´s vanity items (silver brushes and mirrors) that looked like they were from the 18th century, and pearls, and brooches that had such character and intricate detail. And all for a pittance! Given the state of Uruguay - i.e. the economy crashing from a state of wealth - these market stalls could well be the riches handed down from generation to generation, until the present generation fell on hard times. Myself and Alan got talking to a stall owner, and it turned out he had visited Ireland when he was in London in the 50´s, and thought that Dublin was a great city. "Terrible ferry crossing though", he said. I assured him that it was still the same!
We took the 11.30pm bus out of the city. The bus station is better than Dublin Airport (I know, I know - doesn´t take much!), so even though we had to get down there an hour before our bus left, we had plenty of things to do in the various shops to keep us occupied. Also had to get rid of our pesos! After the expensive Reai in Brazil, where everything was practically divided by 2 (I think it´s about 1 reai for 0.60 euro), it was weird to be in Uruguay, where it was 30 pesos for 1 euro. Therefore you paid hundreds of pesos for things! Hard to get used to having 1000 peso notes in your wallet........
The bus was supposed to deal with our border crossing, as it happens at 5 in the morning, but there must have been something wrong, because at 5 we were all woken up and ushered off the bus while the armed border guards got on and searched the bus. Then we had to line up and have our hand luggage searched, and then all our big bags were onloaded from the bus, and we had to go get our bag and bring it to the border police. I was obviously quite dozy, having just been woken up, so when I went over to the border guard with my bag and hoisted it up onto the table, I said "Hola" whilst giving a big yawn. The guard laughed at me and asked me where I was from, and when I said Ireland, asked if I´d enjoyed Uruguay. I said yes - naturally - and gave another yawn. He laughed again, and when I unlocked my bag, gave only the most perfunctuary of searches - didn´t even dislodge any items - before sending me on my way. Definitely the most pleasant encounter with an armed border guard I´ve had! When I think to the behaviour of the poxy Americans coming back from New York with my bag of Jelly Beans?? Bloody hell!!
Anyway, we arrived back in Buenos Aires early in the morning, and headed up to El Sol again. They all remembered us, and were glad to have us back - how nice! Paul, the American/Chilean owner, is great craic, and last night he showed us his hand-made acoustic bass. Very cool! He got some guy here in Buenos Aires to make it for him. He also had a guitar, and taught Alan how to play some Jackson Five and a bit of Neil Young, so we had a nice night hanging out!!
So, since I´m back in the land of cheap beer and steak, I am off to have a bit of both right now! I am far happier now also, as my cousin Patrick has made a bit of an improvement, and is starting to respond to talking. Even though Mam is back on her chemo tomorrow, which is always hard to think about, but she´s a tough cookie, that woman, so I´m sure she´ll be in her usual won´t-sit-still form this weekend.
Buenos Noches, Amigos!