Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Walk Through Cuidad Vieja

Viewing Palacio Salvo from Plaza Independencia
Another day.  Another "vieja."

My first day in Montevideo.  I had arranged several weeks ago to do a "walking tour" of the Cuidad Vieja in Montevideo.  I was to meet my tour guide at the Puerta de la Cuidadela on Plaza Independencia.  Plaza Independencia is the point that separates the old colonial era town from modern bustling Montevideo.  And right at the edge of Plaza Independencia is the signature building of the Montevideo skyline:  Palacio Salvo.  It's an art deco masterpiece from the 1920s.  There's an identical one in Buenos Aires.  The two were supposed to be "connected" in the 1920s sense by radio beam.  Unfortunately, that dang "curvature of the earth" intervened and the two could not be so linked.

While the Palacio Salvo is the signature building of Montevideo, its identical twin the Palacio Barolo does not fill that role in Buenos Aires at all.  If one were so inclined, one could comment on how this reflects upon each of those cities, with either city in the more favorable of the two comparisons.  It was a cool and foggy in old Montevideo Town, so my photos of Palacio Salvo do it no justice:

Palacio Salvo
I got to the Puerta de la Cuidadela at 9:45AM, surprisingly well before the 10:00AM scheduled "meet up" time for me who is not a morning person especially when I don't get to my hotel room until 3:00AM.  There was no one there who looked like he was a tour guide for Cuidad Vieja Tours.  So I waited.

Puerta de la Cuidadela, on the opposite end of Plaza Independencia from Palacio Salvo
 And I waited.

Someone muy importante en la historia de Uruguay astride a horse in Plaza Independencia
And I waited.  I've been in Montevideo for about eight hours and this is the second time someone who was supposed to meet me was a "no call no show."  The tour was supposed to cost $25 U.S.  Glad I didn't pay in advance!  Of course, if I had, then maybe my tour guide wouldn't have been NCNS.  So, armed with my trusty tourist map, I decide to take my own-guided walking tour of Cuidad Vieja.

Plaza de la Constitucion
One block into the Cuidad Vieja, I see that a flea market has broken out in Plaza de la Constitucion, which is only two short blocks from Plaza Independencia.  And I'm all about the fleas, so I decide that this would be a good place to shop for a souvenir mate gourd.  (Yes, someone on my souvenir-shopping list wanted an authentic Uruguayan mate gourd.  And, this surprised me, you see people walking the streets of Montevideo with a mate gourd in hand and a stainless steel thermos, presumably keeping the mate hot.  I would like to get a picture, but it's tough to stop people on the street and asked them to pose so you can get a picture of them looking all Uruguayan with their mate gourd.)

Catedral Metropolitana de Montevideo
The Catedral Metropolitana is right on the edge of Plaza de la Constitucion.  Meanwhile, on the opposite side of Plaza de la Constitucion, some sort of road race has broken out.

At the Plaza de la Constitucion
A second after I shot this, the white Mercedes peeled out and roared down the street.  It appears to be a charity event time trial thing.  What sort of charity I haven't a clue.  The sign "Mujeres al Volante" translates to "Women Drivers," so that's not really a clue.  I guess I could ask, but I'd probably get an answer in Spanish that I couldn't "entiendo," so por qué bother?  I did like that old red Saab parked by the starting gate.

A Mini.  A real one.  Trez British from the 60s.
I did see a real Mini waiting in the queue.  But I didn't wait around to see it sputter out of the starting gate.

Plaza Zabala
I continue walking in the general direction of the harbor.  The neighborhood starts getting dicier at this point.  I had read that Cuidad Vieja is a "no va" zone once the sun goes down and some people on were even saying it was "not so safe" in the daylight.  So, in orders to not stand out, I decide to wander around aimlessly snapping pictures with my camera, so that I don't stand out as a turista.

Attractive older building somewhat in a state of decay
The reason this is a "no go" zone at night may be that it is a pedestrian only walkway.  You don't get traffic going through these streets at night.  And "no traffic" tends to equal "breeding ground for crime."

Upward slope.  Could this be the "mountain" that resulted in the town name of "I see a mountain"?
The gates of the Mercado del Puerto
I finally arrive at the Mercado del Puerto, with its famous wrought iron gates.  Inside, there are more than a dozen restaurants, sit-down and counter-service, all grilling delicious cuts of meat.  And by meat I generally mean "steak," although sausages and some chickens were roasting.  The aroma is incredible.  This is carnivore heaven.  This is why we visit Monevideo.  Shall we take a look inside?

Yes.  We shall.  But I will save that for its own post.  It's worth it.

Walking up Perez Castellano
I decide to hoof it back to Plaza Independencia to catch a cab back to my hotel.

Sarandi street scene
Up Sarandi street.

Puerta de la Cuidadela with Palacio Salvo in the background
And I see la Puerta de la Cuidadela, which means I'm about to emerge from the Cuidad Vieja and into the real city.

Neoclassical(ish) style building on the south side of Plaza Independencia
I wander around Plaza Independencia looking for the best place to catch a cab.

Teatro Solis
This is the reknowned Teatro Solis, sitting on the southwest corner of Plaza Independencia.  This is where you go to see the "high art" performing arts in Uruguay.

Palacio Salvo
Then one last look at Palacio Salvo and it's time to cab it back to the hotel.

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