Feu de paille

Source: https://bit.ly/2Z0tXTK

Not long ago, spam filters fingered a questionable blog comment, leaving me the decision rather than deleting it outright. Indeed, in the best tradition of junk mail, it was useless (promoting “health products” I think).

However, what caught my attention was the blog title: The Elementary School Experience in Uruguay. What could I have written about that?

Nothing, it turns out: linked to the then-latest blog post of an enthusiastic couple who had moved to Uruguay from California with their young children…

…which ended up being the last blog post of an enthusiastic couple who had moved to Uruguay from California with their young children…

…celebrated by their last meaningful Twitter post. Their Youtube documentation of the adventure lasted six weeks. Their Facebook page went cold in November 2017.


It’s going on ten years here for us: many people come and gone. This is not the only story without closure, nor the only fire that burned hot but briefly.

But what happens next in the story?

I almost wish I had a creative writing class. I would assign that, in the genre of your choice: crime, humor, sci-fi, romance…. But the assignment would consist of only the first paragraph of the rest of the story, starting with: It was late February when we noticed….

Oot and aboot

The weather forecast – pronóstico – called for two glorious sunny days. Inspired by the first, I proposed a country drive the second. A vague goal was to explore the abandoned ‘gringo palace’ in Pueblo Eden. Long story, but short for now, as we never got there.

In Uruguay, topography = interesting, and we headed into the hills toward Minas, gaining serious altitude, with little more in mind than enjoying the scenery.

However, as we whizzed past Parque Salus (about where the arrow ends above), we remembered there was supposed to be a good restaurant there. It had been ten years and three months (perhaps to the day) since we’d been there last, and we still felt a little foolish that we had completely missed the restaurant, since expounded by a certain person who shall remain nameless – though with whom I walk dogs, and whose nationality inspires the title, in case you’re curious.

We reversed course, and headed in, ending a few dusty, rutty kilometers up the road (as in 2009) at the Fuente del Puma, the magical source of the wonderful water that results in discarded plastic bottles throughout the country.

As before, no restaurant. Time to pull out the guidebooks.

The Lonely Planet guide to Uruguay (2008) offered no help, but Bradt Uruguay, hot off the press in 2010 when my sister brought it, revealed that the restaurant was located after a promenade of palm trees – which we recognized: the entrance to the Patricia brewery, back on the highway! We retraced our steps to find … nothing.

Lo and behold, after a few minutes a couple of guard-type people appeared. I asked about the restaurant and hotel.

Closed.

Permanently?

Yes.

A long time?

At least ten years.

All you can eat – in your dreams

Approaching Minas, and thinking it time for lunch, we stopped at a busy but probably nothing-special restaurant.

None of the cars in the parking lot was from Montevideo or Punta del Este. There were families with kids. We were the only non-natives. Not entirely promising. Yet, far from being the typical boring fare, the meal was fabulous.

My photo, an afterthought, doesn’t do it justice. Suffice to say, if a convenient restaurant of this quality existed anywhere near Atlántida, we would be regulars. In fact, we would actually look forward to going out to eat.


From Minas, we headed south, over twisty, hilly, and mostly empty Ruta 12, a fun contrast to the flat, straight, boring roads that plague the rest of the country. Alas, the gas gauge lit up, and not knowing our remaining range, we headed straight to the nearest gasolinera in San Carlos before backtracking home, where we saw the first clouds of the day, painting a gorgeous sunset.

So, no shun-piking in Pueblo Edén – where the abandoned gringo palace awaits a future adventure….

Image from Google-A (as the locals say) Maps

Wannabe world traveler?

I’ve documented many times the overwhelming assault vehicles that Germans (and some others) apparently feel essential for navigating the wilds of the Americas. And to be fair, I personally know one who has made thorough use of its off-road provisions, in the Andes and elsewhere.

Mostly though, I see them parked in the dunes or supermarket parking lot. And those closeups often reveal fascinating evidence of wide-ranging travel.

As in, you know, suggesting maybe the vehicle was actually in those places at one point.

Enter the Pathfinder.

Nissan Pathfinder
Which to take more seriously?

But first, an acknowledgement that a subset of Uruguayan drivers think stickers filling the back window comprise the essence of awesomeness. The vehicle below presented itself a few minutes later. Shooting through the windshield with the camera on my phone, I felt badly about the poor image quality … until I remembered there was nothing remotely interesting there to examine in greater detail.

So, the Pathfinder. First thing to notice are the wheels on the left. Their apparent offset could be explained by perspective, but no, you had to be there: through whatever misalignment, the car was driving somewhat crabwise.

Then there are the stickers. Most prominent, a person on camel. Let’s see, Africa, eh? Or am I jusr cheating based on not one, but two, sticker outlines of the continent? So has this vehicle been to Africa (maybe twice?). Uh, no. Look 10:00 from there (with your ancient knowledge of analog clocks) and spot the Route 66 sticker. So this vehicle has traversed the southwestern United States? Uh, no.

Then on the window to the right, another camel, and then a dog peering through what might be a shrapnel hole. And then a cross motif, and … hmmm. Will I apologize that you can’t clearly see more? Uh, no.


By the way, no intent to denigrate the juggler, whom in this case I hardly noticed. Though considerably less novel than I’d prefer, unsolicited traffic light performers here are often quite impressive.

The elections office

You might expect to see ballot boxes in the election office. Going there to deal with some paperwork, there they are…

…piled in the back yard, and one being used as a doorstop.

But of course!

City walking tour

We got on well with Charles and Linda, the photographers from my last post, so I suggested we do the free walking tour of Montevideo, which I’d never done. The weather was forecast yesterday to be lovely, and it was.

The tour begins in Plaza Independencia, site of the fabulously overwrought Palacio Salvo, apparently once the tallest building in South America. Our tour guide, however, told us there’s Palacio Barolo in Buenos Aires, built a few years earlier to the slightly lesser height by the same architect.

I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow, but here were a few noteworthy sightings.

Under “STOP,” someone has stenciled “de comer animales.” Stop eating animals. Optimistic soul: Uruguay has the highest per-capita annual beef consumption in the world.

In the Plaza Matriz or Plaza Constitución (take your pick, as you are welcome to do with Uruguay’s year of independence – maybe 1830 or maybe 1824 or…), street vendors have interesting historical items for sale.

But for North Carolinians Charles and Linda, it was the NC Highway Patrol patch that caught their eye. Is there really a market for this stuff in Montevideo? Apparently.

And then this: Happy arrival in Montevideo, showing a couple falling down marble stairs.

Is there a story behind this, or an inside joke?

Oh yes, and the interesting fence design in Plaza Zabala….