As a traveller and often nomad, I find it important every now and then to have a base or somewhere consistent to stay rather than jumping from hostel to hotel, from campsite to website, from bus terminal to airport and from bar to cafe. I found that consistency as I decided to stay for 3 weeks in Uruguay and base myself in Montevideo.
It wasn’t just my fascination for Uruguayan football that brought me to Montevideo. It was basically my first proper stop after the immense trip to Antarctica. Nowhere could really compete with the natural inspiration I got from visiting the world’s coldest continent. And unimpressed with Argentina largely due to the arrogance of its people, it felt only right that I should let Uruguay attempt to keep my spirits high following the Antarctica adventure. In the end, this was a perfect place to come down from the buzz of the land of snow and coldness.
Not content with Uruguayan hostels – which were all very cosy and interesting (though one had rats in the kitchen!), I arranged a homestay with a safe and friendly local family. As I had another few months in Spanish speaking countries, I brushed up on my non existent knowledge of Spanish by doing a 2 week course at Academia Uruguay in central Montevideo. I was a student again and officially for 2 weeks I was living in Montevideo, enjoying the charmed easy life of this flambouyant and proud capital.
Having finished a bit of sightseeing in the old city of Colonia Del Sacramento, I got a bus back to Montevideo. Things had worked out fairly perfectly again. On arrival at Tres Cruces, Montevideo’s international bus station, I had two heavy bags so rather than look around for buses and have to squeeze through queues, it was a nice easy 20 minute walk to my new place!
I was living in Parque Rodo, a nice district of Montevideo, walking distance from the city centre (along the city’s Avenida 18 De Julio. My host family there would be Perla, the mother. She had 2 sons, Andres and Adrian, both grown up and living away from home and a young daughter Cecilia who lived at home. I found the street and flat very easily and was welcomed with open arms to Perla’s place on a quiet Thursday afternoon.
Constant tea and coffee, excellent food, Uruguayan hospitality and a comfy bed in a room coloured green were the extras that made living in Montevideo so easy. I could have stayed much longer there and indeed attempted to improve my Spanish and get a job. But on this particular adventure, I had some more trips ahead planned including Iguacu Falls, Paraguay’s Asuncion and the highest capital city in the world – La Paz. So my stay was short and sweet.
Also staying there were Jack and Shawn. Jack was a Scottish Chelsea fan who had spent a year living in Montevideo, he also had a local girlfriend and his Spanish was obviously great. Shawn was from the US via Puerto Rico if I remember correctly and she also had excellent Spanish and English. My chats and dinner times with them gave me the chance to try and improve my Spanish.
The only photo I got with Jack.
In the kitchen with my host Perla. A truly welcoming and remarkable lady.
Perla cooking for us.
The dining area.
The living room.
My bed with all my stuff after I had moved in, including my typical Northern Ireland flag which travels with me everywhere. Living here gave me an opportunity to throw out some stuff, post some stuff back to my family and write up my blog. It was a safe place to stay and I totally felt at home there.
The hallway with the staircase up to my room. I had access to bikes as well but I didn’t use them.
The back garden.
One of many nice meals for dinner (la cena). Perla was previously a chef and cook and owned her own cake business. Her cooking was fantastic and I got a real flavour for Uruguayan meals.
The rooftop view of Montevideo.
The view out of my window.
Outside the flat.
The flat entrance from the quiet street, Guana.
The day out with Shawn shopping at Tristan Narvaja Market.
My favourite poison – addicted to this stuff from my stay in Uruguay (and Argentina) – the caramel like sugar spread for breakfast known as Dulce de Leche!
A sign up in Perla’s flat. Something like “the kitchen is a sacred place.” Very fitting for Perla, whose cooking had me spoiled every day and night.
Leaving Perla’s flat for my first day of school in Uruguay!
Also staying in Perla’s flat was Kiki, Perla’s brother and Maria, who helped around the flat. I didn’t manage to get a photo with Kiki unfortunately (or Adrian and Andres) but that’s me with Monika and Perla in the dining room on my last night in Uruguay.
I also grew fond of Uruguay and made Penarol my football team to support while I was there. They play in yellow and black. Living so close to the stadium and the cheapness of tickets allowed me to go to 3 matches. The stadium I went to was the stadium which hosted the first ever World Cup Final in 1930. Amazing!
It’s also very rare that I buy or even support another country’s national football team other than Northern Ireland. In 1990 I did lend some support to Cameroon, and in 2002 and 2010 World Cups, I sided with Uruguay. So I had to buy a Uruguay shirt during my stay, with Forlan on the back.
Uruguay was also properly the birthplace of a new romance. Though I had met the small and delightful Yu Pan Yu in Antarctica, it was our 2 meetings in Montevideo that gave us a sign of things to come. Panny and I enjoy the freedom of Plaza Matriz in this photo in downtown Montevideo. Panny left Uruguay that day. I hung around for two more weeks.
My thanks forever to Perla and her hospitality.
Where I stayed – The Green Room, Guana 2077, Parque Rodo, Montevideo, Uruguay
Who I lived with – Perla, Kiki, Cecilia, Maria, Jack and Shawn
Typical Breakfast – Coffee or Mate (Uruguayan tea) with a range of bread and toppings, including sweet and savoury
Typical Dinner – Milanesa, cooked chicken, pasta
KEY SONG – For the life in me I dont know the title, but Perla’s daughter Cecilia always used to sing this Spanish song in the flat and everytime I hear it, the memory will come back.
MY ROOM IN PERLA’S FLAT:
THE ROOFTOP OF PERLA’S FLAT:
CECILIA DANCING IN THE LOUNGE:
URUGUAY IN THE 2010 WORLD CUP:
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