The rough seas of yesterday were all forgotten as we came face to face this morning with this very small South American country. Uruguay is the size of England and Wales and apparently the total population of the country is only 3m – but half of the people live in Montevideo. Montevideo means “I see a mountain” but I had to chuckle because the highest hill in the country is only about 400m high! The country is famous for…football and the tour guide could list every single player exported to play for other countries. Impressive. Amongst the facts and figures coming our way were all the usual historical and geographical ones and, of course, like much of South America, the country has been fought over and conquered numerous times. I laughed when I heard that the English also came and conquered in the 16th century but only stayed one year. However, we left a legacy… newspapers!
The traffic pouring into Montevideo was chaotic and, in the circumstances, it was probably a wise move to opt for a tour to the very upper class Punto del Este, which turned out to be 85 miles away. I confess to having the horrors when it was announced we would go to two museums along the way but they turned out to be the highlight of the tour for me.
They were actually art galleries and were exhibiting some of the most wonderful pieces of modern art I have seen. You were encouraged to explore and get up close, take photographs, etc. Not quite like ours then!!
There were statues by Salvador Dali held in a private collection and works of art from both the famous and the not so famous. One of the collections was in a beautiful, white, quirky building high up on the cliffs, with quiet terraces to drink in the natural beauty as well as that created and collected. The other “museum” was one of the now quite well known Ralli Museums and that was also truly fabulous. Alright, I wouldn’t want to hang the paintings at home but they were incredible. Various parts of various anatomies seem to appear in strange places.
Punta del Este is a beautiful beach resort where the country’s rich and famous have summer homes/holiday apartments. There is an active move to “sell” the benefits of Uruguay to Europeans and North Americans as it is currently reasonably priced, has a stable government and is expected to boom. Allegedly… a high percentage of all who visit Uruguay take a tour on a bus. 20% return to take a holiday in a hotel or rent an apartment. 80% of that last group will buy a house here. I can see the potential… a beautiful climate (today was 29C), lovely houses/apartments, great beaches which are nowhere near as crowded as in Brazil, rather interestingly attractive gauchos who ride their horses across the Pampas and through the lush green countryside. But… no direct flights from the UK and a very long way for a summer break. A great day out but doubt I will come back.
The return to the ship proved a little tricky. Members of the group wanted to buy fridge magnets (!) and instead of arriving back at 5, it was 5.30. That was the time the ship was due to leave… our Captain will not be happy! Thank heavens for organised tours when the ship is guaranteed not to leave without you. On the other hand, Buenos Aires is not far away.