Friday, March 31, 2006

Playa Brava - Punta del Este

Playa Brava is a good beach for spotting white guys and seagulls. (See photo.) Site of the famous Sand Hand landmark, Los Dedos. The surf can be pretty aggresive, as the beach's name connotes. We couldn't really get in the water that day, as it was jelly fish infested.

Napoleon Restaurant - Punta del Este

Eat here. It's at the marina. It's awesome. (The Sangria's GREAT.)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Finger Rock Trail

This is a photo of an ocotillo bloom off the trail.

On Tuesday I went to Finger Rock Trail because I just needed to get a hike in. Monday had been pretty stressful. I chose Finger Rock because it was close. I knew it was hard but I didn't know how hard.

But it's not the full body punishment, the hiking that is more accurately described as mountain climbing due to steepness, the painful slowness it takes to come down without rolling down, the extreme focus needed to choose one foot hold after another correctly, or the ghosts...none of that REALLY bothered me...

What bothered me was finding myself on my hands and knees on a slick rock with nothing to hold on to, sliding slightly towards the precipice and a thirty foot drop.

It had been showering a little, so it was slick. Real slick.

I knew that if I kept my center of gravity as low as possible I could make it across without sliding to my death, so I turned my body around and did a butt scoot very slowly until I got to safety. For a few moments I had to stop and wonder if it was going to work. Have you ever watched a movie where the rocks around the heroine get loose and fly down into the abyss? That happened.

The moral of the story: don't do Finger Rock when it's raining.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Punta del Este - Uruguay

March is definately the time to go to Punta del Este.

Punta del Este has been described by some as a cross between Miami and Ibiza, but if they had seen it in March I doubt they would have offended it with such remarks. It's true, Punta is traditionally the hot spot for wealthy Argentines and global jet setters to "summer" and escape the heat of January and Ferbruary - but by March, they are mostly gone. The playboys and girls who come to be seen and basically be pricks are no where to be found. The more down to earth are plesantly rewarded with open beaches. No fighting for a spot neccesary, no waiting in lines, no dealing with mad traffic, no dueling for tables at overpriced restaurants. In fact, most prices are down and many establishments are simply closed until next season. (But I promise there is no lack of excellent places to eat, snack drink, or what have you.) It is a little creepy to drive past one huge high rise apartment building after another to see only a few lights on, but it is fascinating in that it reminds you that most businesses here make enough money in two months to last out the rest of the entire year.

Museo Torres Garcia - Montevideo

Unfortunately, we did not go to Museo Torres Garcia but I thought I would make mention of it since I did purchase a few magnets in Mercado del Puerto in an art style that I found very basic and appealing. I later found out that they were an imitation of Joaquin Torres Garcia's works, which later I saw originals of in Buenos Aires. (More on MALBA later). I'm now a Torres Garcia fan.

Mercado del Puerto - Montevideo

El Mercado del Puerto is busy on Saturdays at noon - this picture was taken a little early. El Mercado is especially notable as a marketplace because it is not only indoors, but in a french designed stucture from 1865 that reminds one of an old train depot. It's a great place to eat (note how much we ate on this trip), pick up some recuerdos and maybe even listen to live Candombe. Try the ravioletas "La Chacra" at La Chacra. It was the best pasta I tasted during the whole trip.

Don Trigo off Plaza Matriz

Don Trigo is mainly a parrillada, but all food and drink we consumed there was delicious. We originally went in to get off our feet and have a drink when a tropical storm initiated a downpour. After drinks we decided to just stay for dinner as well, and it turned out to be a good choice. We stayed dry, ate well and had the whole place to ourselves nearly the entire time.

Ciudad Vieja Montevideo

Located on a peninsula with the northern side making up the Port, Ciudad Vieja is the historical center of Montevideo and was once surrounded by protective walls as a fortress of the Spanish Empire. (In the back of this photo you can see the original entrance - the only piece that remains). Argentine forces under Juan Manuel de Rosas besieged the City from 1843 til 1851.

Ciudad Vieja is the best place to observe the architectural variety of the city (from colonial to Art Deco). Plaza Independecia is a good place to have the cab drop you off. Plaza Constitucion is the most happening for night life, but no one knows it as Plaza Constitucion (ask for Plaza Matriz).

El Viejo y el Mar - Montevideo

A beach side restaurant also just steps away from the Sheraton, El Viejo y El Mar is named after the Hemingway masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea. The salmon ravioles appetizer is great and the view - indoors and out - is perfect. Just be warned that the glass patio is a virtual greenhouse. If anyone has any photos from this place, email me!

Cafe Bar Tabare - Montevideo

Unfortunately, my photo doesn't do the charm of Cafe Bar Tabare justice. Within a few blocks of the Sheraton we hit this place for an excellent dinner and a few bottles of Tannat wine, (the grape I had never tried before, which is becoming quite popular in Uruguay and surrounding areas. After a bottle of Don Pascual it was easy to see why.) We walked in to find a guitarrist and and bandoneon player churning out a classic, simple tango. The cellar, bar and cooler are original from when the place was set up by a spaniard in the late 1800s. The inside is gorgeous, contrasting the original antique style with the ultra modern. We sat outside, where the quiet surroundings of a residential Montevideo neighborhood made it a laid-back night out. Remember to bring a sweater as the beach breeze reaches you easily.

Sheraton Montevideo

We just happened to stay at the Sheraton Montevideo
which is boasted as the most luxurious place to stay in town. We can vouch for the excellent service. Many of the rooms have beach views, as the hotel is steps away from Rambla Mahatma Ghandi(the boardwalk named after said heroe). The Sheraton is also adjacent to Punta Carretas Shopping, which is very convinient, as you can imagine. I highly recommend the DBD bookstore. They carry some impressive titles including Latin American classics and important works of theory for even the most picky academic like myself. Their staff is great.

I would also recommend eating a chivito (more on this god of sandwhiches to follow) at the Don Peperone next door (popular with tourists and locals alike). It was great to just sit outside in the courtyard enjoying good company, the sea breeze and some Chopp.

First Class Envy and Sky Mall

First and foremost allow me to comment on the two weirdest things about flying: first class envy and Sky Mall.

Why the irrational pang of jelousy while passing people seated in business? I'm never jealous of people with expensive cars, for example.

And then there's the usual perusing of Sky Mall, wondering if I really do want a toaster oven, speakers in the shower, and a wall-mount jewelry armoire.

I love that there are more and more satires on the bizarre nature of Sky Mall cropping up all over the internet. Here are a few favorites:

The Morning News
Penny Arcade
Ape Culture
Michael Verdi

Uruguay and Argentina 2006

Being that we just got back from our long-anticipated trip to South America I'm going to take a break from Tucson reviews to tell you all about some fabulous spots in Montevideo, Punta del Este and Buenos Aires. Don't worry, Tucson reviews will be back soon!