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montevideo: first impressions

Uruguay, Montevideo, panorama

Living in Argentina’s capital city for 12 years, somehow I’d never been to the capital of Uruguay, just across the river. We all know the Río de la Plata is actually a super-wide delta, so the “quick” ferry takes 3 hours & a flight averages 50 minutes. Montevideo isn’t really as close as it appears on a map:

Distance between Buenos Aires & Montevideo

My only experience in Uruguay had been occasional passport-stamp runs to Colonia del Sacramento before obtaining permanent residency plus a trip to Fray Bentos & Mercedes along the Río Uruguay… I just couldn’t endure another ferry ride to Colonia. But the little I’d seen of the country, I loved. When Darío accepted a job last year that would take him there regularly, I had the perfect excuse to visit.

My first trip to Montevideo was a long weekend in October 2012. During those 3 days, I walked & walked & walked… much like I do in Buenos Aires. I had no map, no time to make a plan, no knowledge about the city at all. Taking a random bus that went to the city center, it didn’t take long for me to want to hop off. Beautiful architecture & gorgeous plazas begged to be photographed.

Montevideo, Avenida 18 de Julio

One thing I couldn’t understand: why didn’t I see more tourists? Spring may not be high season, but just look at this city… 18 km of coastline, several different beaches, trees everywhere, friendly people, a nicely preserved city center, & eclectic architecture to make even Buenos Aires jealous. In fact, Montevideo has everything Buenos Aires lacks with fewer people & a laid-back vibe that makes visiting even more enjoyable.

As soon as we hopped off the boat, Darío & I had lunch at the Mercado del Puerto. Unashamedly touristy, prices were reasonable. An empanadas place proved disappointing (seriously, avoid Carolina’s at all costs), but a sampling from one of the parrillas did the trick.

Montevideo, Ciudad Vieja, Mercado del Puerto, parrilla
Montevideo, Ciudad Vieja, Mercado del Puerto
Montevideo, Ciudad Vieja, Mercado del Puerto

Darío’s hotel/home-away-from-home was located on the other end of the city. Ritzy & high-end with mansions & embassies on every corner, Carrasco also has a nice concentration of restaurants… and that fantastic beach, public & accessible to everyone. Whoever planned that feature should be given a national medal of honor. Ursula really enjoyed it!

Montevideo, Carrasco, Ursula, beach, playa
Montevideo, Carrasco, casona
Montevideo, Carrasco, casona
Montevideo, Carrasco, casona, Alejandro Christophersen

The former casino held a lot of potential —at that time under renovation to reopen with a Sofitel inside. French architects Mallet & Dunant should be familiar to BsAs fans since they also designed the Centro Naval on Calle Florida as well as the former Caja Internacional building in Once.

Montevideo, Carrasco, casino, Mallet y Dunant, Sofitel

A day before I arrived on my second visit (which was last week), the Sofitel opened. Lots of work remained to be done, but the casino was going full swing. Entry inside the Sofitel was reservation-only. Bastards. Why renovate without showing it off to the public? At least it’s nicely lit at night:

Montevideo, Carrasco, Sofitel, Mallet & Dunant
Montevideo, Carrasco, Sofitel, Mallet & Dunant
Montevideo, Carrasco, Sofitel, Mallet & Dunant

Future posts will be divided into areas I explored during my first, second & third trip. Stay tuned for more!

Montevideo series: First impressions Ciudad Vieja Avenida 18 de Julio Pocitos Cementerio Central Palacio Legislativo La Aguada Parque Rodó El PradoFinal thoughts

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