Thursday, May 31, 2007


Paso de los Toros

Paso de los Toros is a small town located near the center of Uruguay on the Río Negro in the departamento of Tacuarembó. The locally popular grapefruit soda, Paso de los Toros, originated there. A larger-than-life bull statue on Ruta 5 marks the entrance to the town.

The local Texaco, like many gas stations in Uruguay's interior carried a wide variety of goods, including boots and 20 inch knives for the gauchos. I liked this display at the back of the station with motor additives and horse saddles on the same shelves.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I posted about churros during Uruguay's summer. They make an even better snack for a cool fall afternoon.

Here's a short video showing churros being made:

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007



Salto is a pleasant city of 100,000 inhabitants on the bank of the Rio Uruguay, about 500 kilometers from Montevideo. It's the capital of the departamento of Salto. A bridge built on top of a dam connects Salto to Concordia, Argentina.

We didn't spend much time there but we enjoyed a short walk in a park along the river. Recent flooding left part of their riverside drive underwater. Salto has several nice parks and plazas, including Plaza Artigas (where this photo was taken.)

Some Salto links [all in Spanish]:
City of Salto website
Universidad de la Repúblic, Regional Norte
El Pueblo de Salto newspaper

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Monday, May 28, 2007


Posada del Siglo XIX

The Posada del Siglo XIX is a resort near the city of Salto (in the departmento of Salto) about 5 hours from Montevideo. We enjoyed our weekend there but it seemed very pricey. To be fair, a spa in the US would have been much more expensive. (And our friends told us their weeknight rates were substantially cheaper.)

Siglo XIX is one of several hotels in the termas de Daymán featuring geothermal hot pools. Some termas also sell daypasses. The water is naturally hot and the pools are manmade. One guidebook said the water source was found accidentally while drilling for oil. At Siglo XIX, there are several outdoor pools and a large covered pool and various hot tubs and spas plus a kids area with water slides. In the morning it was cold enough to form frost on the grass and the steam rising from the pools was very atmospheric. The pools themselves were very relaxing.

See a short video:

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Saturday, May 26, 2007



Our friends had been so enthusiastic about their visit to Salto that we decided to go to the same spa. Details when we´re back in Montevideo.

Friday, May 25, 2007



The ñandú [South American ostrich] may be my favorite animal in Uruguay. I've seen them many times driving through the countryside and it's always a treat. Last weekend at the Estancia los Morteros I stood quietly beside a fence and a pair of them came within 50 feet of me. Very cool!

Related posts:
Ñandú is good to eat;
Their eggs are huge.
In Patagonia we saw their smaller relatives, the choique

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


Good Samaritans

We had some minor car trouble on our way home from Lavalleja and I'd like to thank Cesar Sosa and his family for their assistance. They graciously stopped to help us and then drove behind us in case we had more problems. At Minas, they made sure we got to a service station and aided in the consultation with the attendant. Muy amable!

It seems we had some bad gasoline and putting in an additive/cleaner and filling the tank took care of the problem. Our car has been running fine ever since.

Cesar and his wife are realtors specializing in country properties. If you're interested you can visit their website.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Making Chorizo

Once a year at the Estancia Los Morteros they make their own chorizo. Usually it's a mid-Winter activity (June or July) but the pigs had been troublesome this year so they decided to move the process to the weekend we visited. It was interesting to see and a good reminder that meat doesn't ultimately come from the supermarket.

None of the pig was wasted; most of it became chorizo, but the legs were salted to make ham and we ate delicious spareribs for dinner. A couple of big pots simmered on the fire for head cheese. The skins cured on the shed roof and the dogs ate the scraps. The chorizo, cooked slowly over embers, was great.

If you don't follow the dictum, "people who love sausage and respect the law should never watch either being made," you may like this video:

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Estancia Los Morteros

We had a great weekend with friends at their estancia in Lavalleja. It's in a beautiful part of the country, several miles from the nearest paved road. The land was planted in eucalyptus six years ago and now looks like a forest. Livestock graze under the trees. A dozen dogs and horses help manage the cows and sheep. A few pigs, chicken and ducks round out the animal life.

We got to watch chorizo being made-- from pig to parrilla. We ate tangerines straight from the tree to accompany fresh pork and cordero. The kids had a great time catching frogs in the pond and minnows in the creek and they were unhappy when they found the critters couldn't return to Montevideo as pets. The star-filled night sky was impressive.

We were all a bit sad when we had to return to the city. Now we have several loads of muddy clothes to wash.

See a photo album from the estancia

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Saturday, May 19, 2007


Travel plans

We've been invited to a friend's estancia for the long weekend (Monday is a Uruguayan holiday commemorating the Battle of Las Piedras of May 18, 1811). The estancia has no electricity, no hot water, no access to a paved road, and (I'm assuming) no Internet access so I'll be offline for the next few days. Details early next week.



A few days ago I saw someone flying above the apartments in my neighborhood. At first glance I thought it was a hang glider but it wasn't. In some ways it looked more like kiteboarding equipment, but instead of skimming the water, it was 10 stories high. The aircraft had a motor with a propeller just behind the pilot. I'm not sure what this is called, maybe "powered parachuting" or "powered paragliding."I

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Friday, May 18, 2007


Pilsen Stout

Another dark beer has appeared in Montevideo's grocery stores: Pilsen Stout. Today was the first day I'd seen it. It's good. It tastes more like the Patricia Salus Porter, released earlier this autumn, than, say, Guinness Stout. Like the Patricia Porter, it's a limited edition.

The De todo un poco blog says Pilsen Stout had been available for a short time last year in Uruguay.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007



The Prado neighborhood was once one of Montevideo's most fashionable, but in recent decades it seems to have fallen out of favor. (Eclipsed pehaps by the rise of Carrasco and other waterfront barrios.) Prado still has a feeling of elegance & there are some impressive mansions there. Tabaré Vázquez, Uruguay's president lives in Prado. For us, its main draw has been the Parque Prado for Semana Criolla, Expo Rural, and other events.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007



It's easy for US citizens to visit Uruguay-- tourist visas are free and they're valid for 90 days from arrival. We've visited Buenos Aires and Patagonia and each time we returned to Montevideo we got new visas valid for another 90 days.

Since it had been nearly 3 months from our last trip to Argentina, it was time to visit the immigration office (in the Ciudad Vieja on Misiones street.) We tried to go yesterday afternoon, but the office closed at 2:30, so we went this morning. The process was pretty quick and painless. (It cost about $12 U.S.) The renewal is good for another 90 days and we'll be returning to Kalamazoo before it expires.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Everyday Montevideo

I had enough fun making last week's video about Montevideo that I decided to create another one. This isn't focused on any particular event, but it's a sampling of regular life in Uruguay's capital. If you've spent more than a couple days in the city, you'll likely be familiar with some of these places.

Watch today's video:

The old version (with Argentinian music) is available here.

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Monday, May 14, 2007


Tres Cruces

Tres Cruces, on Boulevard Artigas near 18 de Julio, is Montevideo's long-distance bus station. On the ground floor, it has ticket booths for the various bus companies, seating, and the typical bus station kiosks. Upstairs, there's a full shopping mall which, while not as plush as Punta Carretas Shopping, beats any Greyhound station.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007


Llamadas Otoñales

The Llamadas Otoñales, held yesterday in Montevideo's Malvin neighborhood, had candombe drum troupes like the llamadas of carnival, but the atmosphere was much more tranquilo. The parade started in the afternoon and lasted until after dark-- about 4 hours in all.

Like the earlier parades, there were big gaps between groups, but this time I found out why. After the first three groups passed, nothing happened. Since it wasn't crowded, I strolled to the beginning of the parade route. I expected to see other performers getting organized, but there was basically no one there. Eventually a few drummers appeared and made a little fire in the street to tune their drums. Gradually more and more people appeared until three entire troupes were gathered. Groups were scheduled to start every half hour or so, and there were gaps after each set. I guess it gave spectators a chance to drink mate and chat with their companions.

While it was pretty cold for costumes primarily consisting of beads and feathers, everyone seemed to be having fun.

Here's a video of the event:

And some photos

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Saturday, May 12, 2007


Recycling-- in practice

Montevideo is a large modern city yet in every neighborhood you can hear the clip-clop of hooves on pavement. While the city's official recycling system gets little use, scavengers with horse-drawn carts recycle an extraordinary amount of material. A newspaper account said over 65% of the Ciudad Vieja's garbage moves by horsecart.

The scavengers make their rounds of the neighborhood dumpsters collecting all the recyclable materials. They gather huge bags of plastic bottles, bales of cardboard, and everything else that could possibly have value.

I'm told that years ago horsecarts were part of the official garbage collection system but the city government replaced them with a modern fleet of garbage trucks. Without other income options, the collectors continued on their own. When Uruguay suffered its economic crisis, more people entered this sector.

The horsecarts add a certain charm to Montevideo, but they complicate traffic and some scavengers leave mounds of garbage on the sidewalk after they've taken the recyclables. I feel sorry for the people, particularly the children, who earn their living in dumpsters.

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Friday, May 11, 2007


Recycling-- in theory

Montevideo's municipal government installed recycling stations throughout the city. There are separate collection boxes for glass, plastic, paper, metal, and batteries. All of them have space for paid advertising on the sides.

The system is somewhat flawed since the boxes seem randomly distributed throughout the neighborhoods. So, for instance, the one recycling box near our apartment accepts only batteries. As a result, I've only recycled two AA batteries since coming to Uruguay.

The city has been running a cute campaign to promote recycling. An old T-shirt says, "En mi próxima vida quiero ser banda presidencial. RECICLAME." [In my next life I want to be a presidential sash. RECYCLE ME.] An empty toilet paper tube says, "En mi próxima vida quiero ser billete de mil. RECICLAME." [In my next life I want to be a 1000 peso bill. RECYCLE ME.] An old plastic cup wants to be a cell phone, and so on.

I don't think I've ever seen anyone deposit anything into the collection boxes, so I'm not alone in abstaining from the official recycling system. There is another, informal system that recycles a substantial amount of Montevideo's trash. I'll post soon on recycling-- in practice.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007


Estacionamiento tarifado

Most of the streetside parking in Montevideo is free-- requiring just a tip for the cuidacoche-- but some streets, particularly in the Ciudad Vieja and the Centro require payment. These are marked by a round sign with a big letter E above the word tarifado.

The system seems a little complicated. First you find a parking spot. Then you look for a kiosko or a store that sells fichas for the parking machines. These cost about a dollar each and buy 30 minutes of parking. (The time per ficha varies with the zone.) Then you look for a machine and use the fichas to buy a little ticket that you put on your dashboard. (Sometimes you need to try second machine because the first one is broken.)

The city government plans to extend this system to other neighborhoods, like Pocitos, where the street parking is congested. The price mechanism does seem to prevent overcrowding-- when I went to the old city for lunch yesterday, I was the only one parked on the entire block.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Heating season

As we move into Fall, the temperature has dropped into the single digits. Of course Uruguay uses centigrade, so it's nothing like single digit weather in Michigan. But, even 40 degree weather feels cold without heat, so we were happy when the calefacción losa was turned on early this morning.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Montevideo overview

I've posted videos of a variety of events in Montevideo, but I haven't really shown the everyday city.
In today's video, I've tried to capture a bit of the ordinary life of Uruguay's capital: Centro, Cuidad Vieja, la Rambla, plazas, fútbol, etc. If you've visited Montevideo, you'll probably recognize some of these places.

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Monday, May 07, 2007


Museo Naval

The Museo Naval is a small museum in Montevideo located on the waterfront between Pocitos beach and Buceo's harbor. It has two rooms packed with models and artifacts of Uruguay's navy. Perhaps the most impressive piece is the big 150mm gun from the Graf Spee displayed outside the building.

Admission is free. Closed Thursdays.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007



Landboarding, or land kiteboarding, uses an off-road skateboard towed by a huge kite. I'd never seen it until this afternoon at Playa Malvin. There were several kiteboarders in the water and one landboarder on the sand.

Here's a short video of the landboarder.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


Fiesta del Caballo

The Fiesta del Caballo is another horse event at the Parque Prado. It's much smaller than the Semana Criolla or the Expo Rural. It was so quiet my daughter thought the fairgrounds looked like a ghost town.

The Fiesta runs through next weekend, with a variety of horse competitions, lectures, and auctions. Admission is free.

See a short video.

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Friday, May 04, 2007


Universidad de la Republica

Education is part of Uruguay's constitution and the country has a long history of public education. The Universidad de la Republica is the country's largest university with over 70,000 students. It doesn't have the large campus typical of US universities but rather individual facultades throughout the city. As a public institution, tuition is free.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007


Eucalyptus in Bloom

Eucalyptus is native to Australia but it has been widely introduced in Uruguay transforming the countryside. Uruguay has become a wood exporter (see, for example, this pdf) due to its numerous eucalyptus plantations and they will provide raw material for the pulp processing plant being built by Botnia. (The plant has been the target of Argentine protests that have blockaded the border for months.)

Eucalyptus is also a common tree in Montevideo. The photo is from Parque Rodó. I think the flowers are really interesting.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007


La Grasera

In addition to the grasera in our apartment that gets cleaned monthly , our building also has a collective grasera off the lobby that serves the apartments without their own grease traps. A truck comes twice a month to clean it.

I don't know why only the four apartments on the top floor have individual graseras.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Día de los Trabajadores

Uruguay, like most of the rest of the world, celebrates Labor Day on the First of May.

In Montevideo, nearly everything is closed today-- shopping malls, grocery stores, bakeries, offices, and schools. Even the bus service is cancelled, which means most people celebrate the holiday in their own neighborhood.

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