On Saturday morning, after two days in Colonia, we moved on to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. This meant riding through the vast Pampa plains for about 2.5 hours, nothing to see but grazing cows.
Arriving Saturday around noon, we found the city almost deserted, with most shops closed and very few people on the streets. At first, we thought that this was the usual fiesta phenomena, but we soon found out that this is just what Montevideo is like: very quiet and laid back!
Having hardly any information about his city, not even a map, we aimlessly wandered towards the Ciudad Vieja, the “old quartier”. Luckily, we came across the Hotel Palacio on Bartolomé Mitre, which has great rooms for only 24 USD or 500 Pesos Uruguayanos. It was built in 1927 and has a great flair to it, rooms with very high ceilings, an antique elevator and furniture from times way back, but modern bathrooms. Another big plus is that it is situated in the very street in the historic center where “things are happening”, at least on a weekend. Luckily, we realized this soon enough and asked for a room on the quiet side of the hotel, so we could get some sleep.
Our first destination was Mercado del Puerto, since it was described in our guide as the place to eat. It turned out to be worst tourist hunt ever, with touts every five meters trying to get you into their extremely expensive Parilla. There waere huge fires in every Parilla, which made us tourists click our cameras. Yes, the meat looked great and Gilles almost felt compelled to rush in one of them, but the prices where so absurd that we decided to move on.
Naturally we took advantage of our prime location and tested three different bars that night. Two had live bands which were great. They were playing songs that we knew and the crowd was easy going and not as young as you would find in similar bars in Europe.
Our first impression of Montevideo was rather negative, a city with little to see or to do for a tourist on a weekend visit. Even the historic center, which is usually neatly restored, was rather rundown. This impression was about to change!