Live the adventures of Dan Walker's travels through reading his travel journal. The travel journals are listed below in descending order of date. To search the travel journals, use the keyword search at the bottom of the page.
|Tuesday, November 22, 2016 06:53:56|
Argentina 2016: 4 - Uruguay & home
Thursday, November 17, 2016
This morning everyone awoke early so we packed up and went for breakfast where there was the standard screaming kid. We have noticed in Argentina that a lot of young children seem have figured out that a screaming fit gets them pretty much anything they want, and as a result it has been normal on buses, aircraft, restaurants and neighbouring hotel rooms. Certainly not among my favourite things!
We made good time to the airport, turned the car in with the same fast, happy service at Alamo as when we arrived, then waited for almost an hour for someone to show up at the airline check in counter. Apparently arriving two hours before the flight doesn't apply to staff.
The check in agent told me only people younger than 65 could sit in an exit row. I'm glad the steward on the incoming flight ignored that rule! The option I was given was business class for 160 pesos, about $10, so I took it. The meal was the same juice or pop and packaged cookies as in economy.
Taxis are not overly expensive, so our ride to the Buquebus ferry was well within budget. The driver was a delightful fellow who told us many stories about Buenos Aires. On arrival at the ferry terminal he wanted to see photos of the Rolls from the around the world trip, so we were a little slow going in.
The procedure at the terminal was change on line vouchers for tickets, then clear Argentine customs. As we had business class tickets went to the VIP waiting room, where they took a credit card for snacks and beer. At boarding time an employee came to notify us, and we settled down in the regular seats on board, but when I headed out to explore I found business class on the top deck where seats were wider and more comfortable. We are low on pesos but they took dollars, so I started with a small bottle of champagne, a croque monsieur sandwich, then a bottle of chardonnay. We had been drinking San Felipe malbec, and the chardonnay was just as good.
The crossing of the mouth of the Rio de la Plata was to be a 3 hr 15 min trip, however the sea was rough for about an hour and the ferry had to slow down. Passengers were falling, and many were violently ill, causing more falls as they tried to rush for the toilet. Some didn't make it and there were no seasick bags available. Our group proved to be good sailors, with no problems.
In Montevideo we saw no Uruguayan immigration, so went straight for a taxi, where a very informative driver took us to a money changer to buy Uruguayan Pesos before dropping us at the Hotel Urban Express. At reception we were informed that the reservation I made by phone did not exist, we had a room only one night instead of two. It turned out to be just as well. I chose the hotel due to its location in the old city, but the area had homeless people on the sidewalks and sleeping in entrances to buildings. The local grocery store was barred and a guard let people in and out. The hotel room was tiny with two single beds and a cot, each with a very thin pillow. There was only a drizzle of water from the tap and no hot water making a shower undesirable. Water leaked on the floor beside the toilet and internet was barely usable, making booking another hotel a real project.
Friday, November 18, 2016
The hotel breakfast wasn't bad. A taxi got us to the Pocitos Plaza Hotel near Montevideo's long, curved, sandy beach. On the way the driver did good job of explaining the sights, so when he told us he could do a city tour for less than the cost of a hop on hop off bus we took him up on it. He didn't speak English, but my Spanish was enough for me to translate for Leo & George.
Our gear went to the hotel luggage room and we were on the tour before 9 AM. The driver negotiated a price for two hours, but it turned out to be three and a half and as he didn't ask for more we gave him a good tip. The tour included a fruit and vegetable market, all the main plazas in the historic part of the city, the cathedral, the city's coast line, embassies and government buildings with lots of time to stop and explore each area before being left at a recommended restaurant near the beautiful old congress building.
Lunch was good with cold beer served in litre bottles. A 3 hour English language tour of the congress building starting in another hour was available, but we were tired so opted to go into the public entrance to wander around the beautiful, high ceiling reception area. Another taxi got us back to the hotel, where Leo and George went for a walk along the beach while I caught up on some writing.
Later we went to the hotel bar where Natalie, the bar lady, poured a very hefty drinks. The glasses for Leo's scotch, my gin and George's vodka were all half full before mix or ice was added. It was such a bargain that we had another round before walking to a beach front restaurant in quite a jovial mood. We were going to try a platter of food available in most restaurants in Uruguay called the Canadian, a mix of many meats, salad, egg and other things, but the bar wasn't serving it yet. No one we talked to knows how it got the name.
The food has not been outstanding in Uruguay, but the wine was superb and we were all in rare form. When Leo jokingly said lets dance it seemed a good idea, although there was a bit of shoving to see who should lead. What really got us hooting with laughter was when a waiter who was trying to be helpful, came over to give us directions to gay bars in the area! We went to the restaurant disco, but were thrown out as there was a private party, so we stumbled home to pass out.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Breakfast was good - it has been included at all hotels. Luis, our taxi driver from yesterday, was to pick us up at 10 AM, but when he hadn't arrived by 10 past we flagged down another cab for the busy bus depot to go to Colonia. Leo was feeling healthy for the first time - it must have been those large whiskys last night.
We missed the 10 AM bus, so had to wait 2 hours. After buying our tickets we took the escalator up to a huge shopping mall above the bus depot, where Leo and George had a coffee while I looked around. I got hopelessly lost, it took me half an hour to find them again. Leo and I had a Subway sandwich in the food court before boarding deluxe bus.
With my long legs the fellow in front of me could not recline his seat. Luckily there was no one sitting beside me so I could sit sideways. After three stops within the city to pick up additional passengers the bus travelled across flat country for 2 1/2 hours before reaching Colonia.
The Beltan Hotel, only 5 blocks away, was a pleasant surprised. We were worried, as the room was only $US 90 for the three of us. There was no elevator, but the room was spacious with three single beds, good air conditioning, a balcony over the street, all the usual amenities and located right in the center of town.
Once settled in we walked a couple of blocks to the World Heritage Site part of the city, maintained much as it was in the 1700s. There were plenty of good bars and restaurants, very little traffic and a wonderful ambiance that made it possible to imagine how it must have been hundreds of years ago. George was the valiant one, climbing to the top of a high, disused lighthouse that has a great view of the city.
Leo found a restaurant with a beautiful outdoor patio, so we went for dinner. A couple we had met on the tour bus in Buenos Aires were there, telling us this was reputed to be the best restaurant in town. Unfortunately, the restaurant was fully booked, so we made a lunch reservation for tomorrow before returning to our hotel where a nearby restaurant was recommended by hotel staff. The meal and Uruguayan wine were great, served by an attentive waitress. We have yet to have a bad bottle of wine on this trip, regardless of the price.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
We had a lazy start this morning. I wasn't up to a major hike so George and Leo headed off to explore the waterfront where ships used to unload, and the rest of the old town. When they returned we checked out of the room, leaving our luggage with the hotel, to walk to the historic restaurant we booked last night. The meal was great, accompanied by drinks and a bottle of Mendoza Malbec. The view across the bay was brilliant, a wonderful place to have the last meal of the trip.
A taxi took us from the hotel to the Buquebus Ferry terminal. Our tickets were prepaid and reserved, but the ferry was oversold with not enough seats for late arrivals. Lots of people go from BA to Colonia for the weekend, and come back on the 4 PM ferry Sunday night. A kindly lady took me under her wing and had us sit near the exit door that would be used on the Buenos Airie side, as George and Leo have to get to the airport for their 9 PM flight. She then took me to a counter so I could buy a taxi fare to the airport.
We were among the first off the ferry, and at the exit our driver was waiting for us. There were no customs or immigration, this likely is done for both countries at the departure terminal. My hotel was about 5 km before the airport. After getting lost the driver dropped me off before taking George and Leo to the airport.
The hotel was fine other than food and bar service not starting until 8 PM. I didn't want to eat much so after an owlet and a couple of beer went to bed early. The hotel booked a taxi for the next morning.
Monday, November 21, 2016
The taxi arrived on time at 3:30 AM, and I was able to prepay it on my hotel bill using visa. It was only 15 minutes to the airport, where I checked in at one of the machines to avoid a line. Security and customs had big lines even at that hour of the morning. In the lounge I had a light breakfast before boarding the plane, where the flat beds were welcome - the entire business class section made use of them to sleep. Most airlines have larger beds, however these did the job.
The flight from Lima to San Jose pulled out of the gate on time, but the airport stopped all flights due to some VIP arrivals. We sat in a long line of aircraft waiting to take off for 20 minutes, which has to be a big cost to the airlines. The seats were the standard type found on North American airlines, however my seat mate was an interesting lawyer from Costa Rica who also enjoyed his beer, so we talked and drank the trip away. Mailynn picked me up at the airport.
We will have 7 of our Canadian family here for Christmas and New Years, then our next trip will be to Quebec for Winter Carnival in February.