There and back again: Three days in Uruguay

Well, more like a half-day, a day, and another half-day. That’s two days, for those as mathematically challenged as myself. Why spend two days in another seemingly-random South American country? Why not.

We left for the airport at 1 p.m. Buenos Aires time and, after waiting longer to board the flight than the flight actually lasted (two hours vs. 45 minutes), touched down in Uruguay around 6 p.m. Here’s a synopsis-by-category of what I observed in Montevideo, the capital city.

The landscape

Breathtaking. Beachy. Strangely reminiscent of Los Angeles (at least according to one member of our group, who kept up a rousing chorus of “I’m in Miami, bitch!” during our drive into the city). I can’t imagine the sort of tropical paradise the coastline becomes during the summer.

Sadly it was a) not summer, b) windy and c) freezing. We piled out of the van for a photo op at Plaza de la Armada — cue touristy sunset pictures.

Plaza de la Armada, overlooking the bay. Montevideo, Uruguay. July 8, 2013.
A view of Montevideo across the water. July 8, 2013.

The food

Sad to say, our first dinner was at a McDonalds. But It was a McDonalds in Uruguay… a unique cultural experience. Upon arrival we discovered a wonderful Montevideo-an invention: the Toblerone McFlurry. I highly suggest bringing this creation to the states. The McFlurry itself cost $75 Uruguayan pesos, since inflation there is actually ridiculous. Factor in the bright colors of each bill and we felt like players in an extended game of Monopoly.

Ice cream in Uruguay (real ice cream, not McDonalds’) is much like ice cream in Argentina, since ice cream comparison is a huge concern to the general population. The italian food is delicious. Hotel breakfast? A-plus. And that’s all I have to say about that.

The people

don’t stare as much. At least, that was the main difference noted by myself and by my two redheaded companions at said first-night McDonalds dinner. The few I actually spoke with were painfully nice. Go-out-of-their-way-to-help-you nice. Here-take-my-first-born-I-don’t-need-him nice.

The lodging

Hotel, sweet hotel. After some months in Argentinian apartments with questionable mattresses (mine is filled with a strange foam substance and has a gash down the center), a feather bed with multiple pillows and extra blankets was oh, so welcome. I know, first world pains. Get over it.

Aside from the beds, the “Four Points by Sheraton” was a lovely place — multi-storied, marble-bar’ed, with aforementioned delightful breakfast, swimming pool, sauna, and a small selection of TV channels in English. Heaven.

The media

Okay, so “why not” wasn’t the sole purpose of our trip to Uruguay. While there we toured three different media outlets: Radio Montecarlo, Canal 10 and El Pais — a radio station, TV station and newspaper, respectively.

Radio Montecarlo was my favorite. The offices were on the fourth level of a building in downtown Montevideo. They were small, wood-paneled, and in some ways right out of the 1970s. Radio Montecarlo has been around for 89 years and attracts an older audience, though its new FM station is an attempt to capture younger folks.

An operating room at Radio Montecarlo. I asked, and the record player still works. July 9, 2013

We ended up spending too much time at the radio station and showed up late for our tour at Canal 10. Our guide, Rossana Angelone, took us through the enormous, warehouse-like building. We toured studios, sets and even the break room.

We watched part of the filming of this show, “Con Sentidas.” Apparently it’s quite popular in Uruguay. Canal 10 studios, July 9, 2013.
We were allowed to pose for pictures on the newscast set. Here’s two of our number hamming it up. July 9, 2013.

Then came El Pais, the largest newspaper in Uruguay. The newsroom consists of row upon row of desks atop parquet flooring, but our meeting with the paper’s director took place in an upper-level office. There the director told us his plans for social media and digital outlets and showed us physical archives of El Pais dating back to 1824 or something ridiculous like that (actual date may vary). It was wonderful and I know there’s always a paper in Uruguay to try for, should U.S. publications fail to satisfy.

The end

ImageUntil next time, Uruguay.

Literary reference for the title of this post brought to you by J.R.R. Tolkien.

There and back again: Three days in Uruguay

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