Thursday, April 30, 2009
RAMBLING ON THE RAMBLA
This is going to be a long blog. So go to the bathroom first or go to the frig and get a beer. Relax. It's going to take awhile to read this one. I titled it “Rambling on the Rambla” because I will give a detailed view of what we do in the first couple of days at a place. The “Rambla” is the wide promenade that is on the coastline here in Montevideo, Uruguay. People of all kinds just “rambla” along it. Here goes.
I'm journaling at the kitchen table of our apartment at the Palacio Salvo, a beautiful Belle Epoch designed building. The Palacio Salvo is the famous building you almost always see in postcards of Montevideo, or Uruguay for that matter. We are staying here simply because I love the architecture of this place. She is however like the aging starlet in “Sunset Boulevard”. She might still be the focal point of Montevideo, but she needs a good cleaning. The bottom parts of the building are darker than the top due to the fumes of the ever present diesel buses crisscrossing the center of the city. We are on the 4th floor and I'm staring across the street at a 1960's thirteen story tower which in someways looks abandoned. It has mismatched drapes, some broken glass and other reminders of a building “going down”. It's not that look everywhere here but Montevideo is a bit tattered. A blog I read on this city said it's a bit of Boston (historic) and Lisbon (seedy and decaying).
Our apartment here was a bit disappointing. I thought from Eduardo's e-mails that this place was huge. I was expecting huge. It's merely average in size. The kitchen is large which is unusual for us. Speaking of the kitchen. It has a newer stove which is hooked up to a liquid gas “can”. Not a tank like on our gas grills, but a flimsy steel tank. Never in Cincinnati. They would lock us up if we tried this. There is a small family room nook with a loveseat and chair, TV, DVD (can't get it to work so we use the laptop) and CD player. It is nice especially since I can read after lisa goes to bed in our bedroom without bothering her (see later why this didn't work out in this “rambla”). The biggest negative is the noise. 1926 building = 1926 windows (wood with single panes) which don't keep the sound out. We are on the edge of the building which is adjacent to Avenida 18 de Julio, the busiest street in Montevideo. On our first night I slept for maybe four hours and lisa didn't sleep at all. The second night we moved the mattress into the hallway and closed the doors surrounding it. Not exactly super quiet but with a sleeping pill we made it through without ear plugs.
Oh, and our internet (ALMOST ALWAYS A MAJOR ISSUE) was non-existent when we got here. Eduardo, who is taking care of it for the other Eduardo (the owner), said he would be here at eight o'clock in the morning to install it with his son. He was also to give us a phone to use. 8:00 – no Eduardo....10:00 – no Eduardo....1:00 – no Eduardo and son. As we have given up on him and are ready to leave, the doorbell rings. In walk Eduardo and his son Fernando. I immediately start humming “Fernando” by Abba. I can't get my keyboard to turn the b's around in Abba, sorry. Instead of a wireless modum hook up as we expected, we are handed a Claro Internet stick. We have never used one of these before. After setting it to Uruguay vs. Argentina, it worked fine. Fernando turns out is an accomplished non-classical (rock) violinist. He just finished a recording session at the Teatro Solis, MonteV's world famous opera house.
We also thought we had laundry facilities (washer at least). Nada. Some of our clothes were still wet from the boat ride and shower at Iguazu Falls. So, we tried to lay them out all over the apartment. They, within a day, started to smell of mildew and river water. No problem, just bring them to a laundry and they will wash them. Another nada. Not open for wash and dry on Saturday. So lisa and I “handwash” an entire load of clothes in an attempt to save them. Now I know what washing would be like in the 1890s. Enough of the clothes, let's go play.
We walked to the Mercado del Puerto, a tourist area near the port. Inside the mercado were meat restaurants and the smell was WOW! We just had lunch at the apartment so we passed on it. It was a tourist area so we need to look for Siena and Avocet's Uruguayan dolls. We hung around the area a bit and headed back as it was getting to be late in the afternoon. We were told on the way over by a stranger to not be in this area after dark. Oh poopies!!! As we walked back we ended up on streets where we were the only people around. A bit creepy. I'm sure this was caused by being ripped off in Buenos Aires. Others have said Montevideo is much safer than BA. We could look like marks.
This morning I got up and took a shower. Too hot at the beginning but cooling off quick. Not unlike a lot of places around the world. Our showers at home are not perfect but OK. While showering, lisa went to the bakery to get pastries. It is Sunday morning so she got special sweet pastries: medialunas, some with sugar on the outside, some with dulce de leche inside. Very nice. I am journaling right now with the windows open. It's 9:45 AM and the strong South American sun is shining in. I hear horns, truck brakes from the street five stories below. It doesn't seem polluted here, but it must be with the large number of diesel buses. Montevideo has about 1.3MM people but has never had a subway or light rail. As I look out I must watch out for the pigeon poop on the windowsill. The poop adds to the seediness of MonteV. It's nice being up high where I can watch people milling about carrying on their daily activities.
Yesterday we went to a huge Sunday market named "Feria de Tristan Naranje". Regular stuff like clothes, books (new and used...all in espanol), bolts, bike parts, plus souvenirs like mate cups, paintings, sculptures, etc. Nice market. We would have enjoyed it more had Siena and Avocet found their Uruguayan dolls. Blocks upon blocks of stalls and no tipical dolls de Uruguay! Go figure. On the way home, we stopped at Don Rocco, a traditional Uruguayan parillada (meat restaurant). Our definition in the States of a “meat market” is definitely different than here. We sat down and looked at the menu. In espanol, of course (and without subtitles). Our carne choices were asado, vacio, lomo and entrecote. None of this meant anything. I asked our waiter if we could see what was being grilled. lisa and I went over to the grill, at least ten feet wide with all different cuts of meat being prepared. Entrecote: the cook picked up a piece of lean steak about two inches thick and weighing almost a kilo. GREAT BY ME!!! lisa tended toward the rib type looking meat so she ordered the asado. I liked mine. lisa was so-so on both saying they had little flavor. It will be interesting to test the flavors of beef at home vs. South American beef. Argentinian beef was great (to me...not to lisa). Oh, the girls had pure de manzana and pure de papas (warm applesauce and mashed potatoes).
We headed home and walked the almost twenty short blocks back along Avenida 18 de Julio. Nice old buildings next to crummy looking 1970's monstrosities. The parks were filled to a point as were the sidewalk cafes. Nice walk back but we are all tired.
It's time to go to bed. lisa and I move the mattress back into the hall again. As the mattress slides down it just about breaks the table that is built into the wall. Seeing the table separate from the wall is like watching my $500 security deposit go down the toilet. So we end up rearranging our living room and sliding the mattress in there. Not as good a night's sleep as before in the hall, but okay. I lose my late night reading “nest” but anything's better than trying to sleep with ear plugs.
OK, it's over. Thank you for seeing our day to day life as we merge from one place to another. Hopefully it gave you a better understanding of some of the “stuff” we have enjoyed and also have to put up with. Our first two days in Montevideo. Not really exciting. Not terrifically cool but okay. Follow the blog to see how it progresses. Now you can go pee. And I hope your beer is still cool.