A Year Ago

Written By: Charles - Nov• 19•12

Samhain                                                                    Thanksgiving Moon

one of my favorite days on our cruise…

Follow The Green Sidewalk

Posted on November 19, 2011 by Charles

Spring Moon of the Southern Cross

Montevideo, Uruguay On the banks of the Rio de la Plata, overlooking the Atlantic to the East

Travel brings the unexpected. A primary purpose, of course, but after tours with guides, I had become a bit dulled to the canned formula of the best this and the most that and the very special music. Not saying it was all boring, far from it, but too predictable.

Not today. In Montevideo, a city of which I had no expectations, Kate and I had a wonderful day. After being pressed sideways into the dock, we ended up within walking distance of the old part of Montevideo. At about 10:30 I suggested to Kate that we walk into town, something we could do in only a handful of ports. She agreed.

Our way took us first past two warehouses, both as I described earlier, three stories high with iron doors spaced about 50 feet apart on each story, brick with chipped and rusted concrete outlining the doors and interior bays. The iron doors, once gray now have rust blooms, some just a few, others with the gray vanishingly small.

When we got past these, a painted walkway led us through a port welcome area with guides hawking city tours and a free shuttle to a leather factory. Beyond them a memorial to the sinking of the Graf Spee shared a park-like space with painted anchors and their chains, or sheckles, as we learned from our Captain. Policia Turistica sported chartreuse fluorescent vests and stared off, wherever people stare who face an entire day of standing in roughly the same spot.

Across an intersection a sign said, “Tourists Follow Green Sidewalk.” Guess what that made me want to do? Kate said, “We’re following the green sidewalk.” Oh, ok.

A large boulevard with some cobblestone lanes opened in front of us. The buildings were somewhat dilapidated, like the warehouses, concrete and brick that had seen better days. Or, maybe not. There was a shabby chic to it that appealed to me.

A wandering fellow tourist told us about a market hidden by buildings ahead. We walked over that way. Sure enough there was a large open air market with many different things for sale, many of them tourist oriented, but just as many artisans selling their products.

Off the market area, pedestrian only somewhat like Florida Street in Buenos Aires, a large building held more shops and a number of restaurants each of which featured huge fires and metal grills filled with roasting meat: chicken, sausage, beef tenderloin, pork, lamb. Each restaurant had an awning with its name around four sides of an island that contained the fire, the roasting meat, a bar and an area for washing dishes. Tables and chairs flanked the islands in the open area created by the building, fans turning, cooling the diners.

When we firsts went through, tables were set and glasses sparkled. The smells of roasting meat had only begun to fill the room.

We looked in several shops, but continued up another, older pedestrian way with a slight incline. This had a few tourists shops, too, but began to sport a carneteria here, a fruit and vegetable market with their wares colorfully displayed in wooden crates on the sidewalk there, a bar named “Los Beatles” and a petfood store.

The buildings have a colonial look, similar to the older part of Panama City that we saw well over a month ago, balconies, molded cornices, plaster decorations. A few of the buildings had pastel colors, recently added.

Like the warehouses and the building across from the green tourist sidewalk these buildings had a shabby but not run down look to them, more like a neighborhood in which people really lived. As the mid-day heat had begun to settle on us, Kate started talking about air conditioning. About 45 minutes before that, I told her I’d give my 12:30 tour a pass to meander around Montevideo with her.

We walked back down the hill toward the large building with the restaurants.

Inside we walked past several folks hawking their restaurants, “Sir, a refreshing drink?” “Some lunch, mister?” and found a table underneath a fan at the Cafe Veronica.

The waiter welcomed us to Montevideo and to Uruguay with a genuine and warm greeting. When Kate got up to take a quick picture of the fire, another waiter came up and encourage her to go inside the kitchen to take her picture. After some insisting, she did. We had a meal that exceeded our expectations and a dessert, pancakes con leche that would bring me back to Cafe Veronica in a hurry if it weren’t so damned far away.

This was the kind of day I’d been missing, a day of just poking around, meeting some folks, sticking our heads into various places, seeing the layout for ourselves, discovering rather than being led.

We had a great day together then came back and took a nap.

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