Posts to Come

Rebirth of UR MOVING WHERE!

The decision has been made. The commitment is real. We're back and blogging again about our lives in South America! Check out this short video about our plans: httpvh://youtu.be/YrX5ahqHKTc

We're in Cordoba, Argentina and absolutely love it here. In the coming weeks and months, we'll tell you about:

  • Renting a house as foreigners
  • Banking and exchange rates- some great tricks
  • Travel with kids
  • Location Independent lifestyle/Location Independent Parenting
  • Renting a car (or "You Better Be Able To Drive A Stick")
  • Places to visit in and around Cordoba Capital
  • The Medical System and Health Insurance
  • Looking back at our time in Montevideo, Uruguay and Bariloche, Argentina

Thanks for following our adventures and we look forward to hearing from you!

Our Weekend on The Coast

We had the most amazing time last weekend exploring the eastern coast of Uruguay. On Friday evening, we rented a car from Thrifty.  When considering the name, ironically, it was the most expensive portion of our road trip.  Vital, though, as you can't really have a road trip without a car.  It was a Hundai Sonata-type which was new, but without some of the features that I would consider standard- like airbags. Eeeek!  It did have a great Pioneer stereo system, though…

We took off early on Saturday morning. Our daughter was thrilled to get the chance to sit in her car seat, so luckily we had a very eager traveler (She doesn’t get much of a chance to ride in her car seat here in UY since we have no car.)  After a quick stop at Montevideo Shopping’s McDonalds to get coffee and medialunas, we were on the open road

Atlántida beach
Atlántida beach

Without a set plan, but a few key places we wanted to see, we drove east along la Rambla to find where it would take us. Saturday was a beautiful, sunny morning and we felt a great sense of adventure for what was our first tip into rural Uruguay since August.

La Rambla turned into Route 1, which brought us to Atlántida and we couldn’t pass it by without at least driving though. What a sweet little beach town, and only about 30 minutes from Montevideo! It was obvious to me why this relaxed but upper-end town is a popular vacation spot for both Montevideo-ans as well as Argentines.  It was well groomed, cute houses and hotels, a nice mix of city and beach amenities and beautiful sandy beaches with rolling dunes.

We continued to drive for as long as we could along the coast while dodging dunes that had blown into the road.  It was becoming more rural as we drove and a we had a fantastic peek into these beach towns at the very end of summer, while the weather was still warm, but the crowds had already gone back home.

Atlántida fishermen
Atlántida fishermen

The road eventually brought us back to Highway 9, just outside or Pan de Azucar. We’d been to nearby Piriápolis twice, so we decided to stay on 9 and keep driving past Piriápolis.

Next on our list of things to do was a visit to a very under-appreciated beach with a unique claim to fame in UY, called Playa Chihuahua.  More on that in a later post.

Since we were on the road to Punta del Este, and we were craving Thai food, we drove into town to see what we could find. Our wireless modem was giving us a few options for food, so we drove but unfortunately found nothing. Punta was still surprisingly busy and was slow driving through the main shopping streets. I can’t imagine what it is like in January!

Back to the ocean drive, this time on Route 10 to La Barra.  I thought la Barra was a very cute little town, with a bit of the glitz and glamour of the upscale shops of Punta, with a beachy, small town feel.  It reminded me a lot of Santa Barbara and Montecito, CA.

Still driving and getting increasingly more hungry, we decided to stop for a late lunch in Jose Ignacio.  This was a very beach oriented city with very few restaurants or services.  A beautiful setting, as the whole town in on a hill away from the coast, it felt like the type of place you went to escape and be at the beach… with very few interruptions. But Jose Ignacio still had some inklings of Punta del Este, and not nearly as bohemian as day 2 of our adventures.

We found a good-sized restaurant that was open at 3 in the afternoon and had a great combination of a Waldorf Salad (Brad) an Chicken sandwich (me) and milk/random condiments for our two-year-old.  Being very much a toddler, she decided that she didn’t want what we ordered for her so she ate the ketchup and mayonnaise.  The kid likes condiments.

On the road again with full bellies and somewhat happy to be leaving the beaten path a bit, we drove on.  We detoured into Rocha and after an initially poor view of the cemetery coming into town, we found a few cute tree-lined squares, beautiful cobble stone streets and some charming traditional Spanish-colonial architecture. We decided to press on and spend the night in la Paloma.

Sunset in La Paloma
Sunset in La Paloma

We stayed at a nearly empty hotel in La Paloma called Hotel Trocadero.  The hotel was nothing special but comfortable, two blocks from the beach and for UY$900/night, including breakfast, we couldn't complain.  La Paloma is on a peninsula, so it’s very easy to find beach there.  Also due to its location, it has some AMAZING sunsets over the water. We just can’t get that in Montevideo, at least not on our side of the city where the sun slips behind the buildings and you can never see it hit water.

After getting ice cream, and before dinner, we walked down Av. N. Solari, which is the main road in La Paloma, directly to the rocky beach to see the sun go down.  There were others gathered, standing, in lawn chairs and even in their cars on the hills. We found a place to sit on a rock outcropping facing directly west with an excellent assortment of shells at our feet.  The sunset was an incredible display of red and orange and was worthy of applause by our fellow viewers when it finally slipped below the horizon.

The sunset was definitely the high point of our visit to La Paloma. After a disappointing seafood dinner and some window shopping ("What? That skirt is UY$ 2200??"), we returned to the modest hotel to get some sleep.

The next morning, we ate a beautiful, albeit bready, breakfast at the hotel, took a quick walk on Bahia Chica, the beach on the eastern side of the peninsula and packed the car for another day of adventure….

More to follow about day 2 in Cabo Polonio and Punta Del Diablo, along with our day 1 adventure at Playa Chihuahua.

Dogs in Uruguay Part 2- Gear & Our Airline Experiences

After the paperwork and necessary shots were completed for our dogs, we had to consider how they were to be transported and what was going to happen to them during the long journey to Uruguay. We had previously looked into animal shipping companies that can handle all of the paperwork and logistics for you- including providing a crate for the animal and grooming before departure. These are door-to-door services, and as such, have a hefty price tag. We were quoted between $3500-4500 to ship the two dogs separately from us. We decided for that sort of price, we could go through the steps and handle it on our own.

Pug in Suitcase

Our first questions for the airline involved the crates: We had two plastic dog crates, one large that can hold both dogs and one small. We would have loved to put both dogs in the larger crate together since they are always together and really quite attached, but it was against airline regulations. Dogs have to be the same breed and under 6 weeks old to be allowed in the same crate for international travel. Our pugs were 8 and 6 years old at the time of our travel to South America, so that plan wouldn't work.

/>We sold our larger crate and went out to look for another small crate that would be more comfortable for a single dog and easier to transport. We found a great Bargain Hound crate that is perfect for airline travel.  Not only was the Bargain Hound crate sturdy and a perfect size, it had the following features:

  • Lockable wing nuts to secure the top and bottom together (some airlines require this)
  • Ventillation holes on all four sides
  • Carrying handle
  • Enclosed door pegs- some brands have the metal ends of the door latches exposed on the top and bottom of the crate, creating a potential danger for pets and children.  The bargain hound crate had this enclosed for safety.
  • Zip tie holes to secure the crate door during travel.  The agent at the airline check in will do this for you.  The bargain hound crate had dedicated holes for the zip ties, our other crate did not.
  • Pet travel kit with international travel stickers, water bowl and zip ties

We brought one crate to the airport for a dry run the weekend before our projected departure to make sure all of our questions were answered and there were no unexpected surprises.  I highly recommend doing this when you have pets and so much luggage.  The airline also appreciated it because they could make a note in our record of our discussions and expect us to take a while upon check in.

We packed the crates with a folded 'mattress' of fleece blankets with a towel as the core.  I figured this would keep the dogs warm when leaving MN and the towels would provide some absorbency in case of accidents. It worked perfectly. On top of each crate, I duct-taped a gallon size ziplock bag which contained the dogs leash, two meals worth of food in a smaller ziplock, a few extra zip ties in case the dogs had to be removed, a small water bottle to refill the bowls during transit and another ziplock bag with copies of all the dogs paperwork.  The top of each crate also had the international travel information sticker and the dogs name written in permanent marker.

We arrived at the airport the day of our departure to find that the check-in agents were waiting for us.  We had our own dedicated line for check-in and it was very much appreciated.  The agent asked at check-in if we were interested in a short-check for the dogs and we had never heard of this before.  Since we were flying from MN to Chicago, Chicago to Miami, Miami to Montevideo, we could check the dogs for all or only a portion of the journey.  Our longest layover was in Miami and since that was almost halfway according to the overall transit time, that would make the most sense for a short check.  We could claim the dogs in Miami, walk them and have them out of the crate for a while, then re-check before our flight.  We opted to check the dogs all the way through to avoid the stress on their part (and ours) to have to put them back into the crates for another check-in and long flight to Montevideo.

After all of our bags and boxes were weighted and tagged, it was time to take the dogs for a final potty break and get them packed up.  After I removed the dogs from the crates, a TSA agent came over to inspect both crates and bedding. I took the dogs to their approved area outside the entry (who knew there was such a distinction?) and came back to find the inspection completed and the agents ready to seal the dog crates.  One last kiss to the pups and in they went.  The crates were zip-tied, water bowls filled and away the Pugs went.

We all traveled safely and securely- and were reunited in Montevideo.  The dogs were happy to see us and anxious for a potty break and food.  Thankfully there were no messy dog crates, which I had feared.  We hired a truck at the airport to transport us and all of our things to the hotel- and our adventure in Montevideo began...

Next up in the “Dogs in Uruguay” series: Dog culture in Montevideo, licensing and the cost of dog food.

Dogs in Uruguay- Prep for the Journey

We arrived in Uruguay this past March with our daughter, all of our stuff and two funny little Pugs named Pablo and Paloma. The dogs were by far the most stressful part of the move, in part because we had never traveled with pets before.

Can't we both just go in this big crate? There are many details of traveling, boarding, vet care, food and licensing that we've encountered since our journey to Uruguay began. This will be documented in a multi-part Pet series.

Prep for the Journey:

Uruguay has no quarantine for cats and dogs, and is pretty relaxed regarding a lot of import/customs requirements through the airport.  Since we didn't know if we were going through customs in Buenos Aires or Montevideo, we had to comply with the customs requirements for both countries. The paperwork required to export a pet from the USA and import to Argentina or Uruguay is quite involved and required three trips to our local MN Vet and one to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) office to get the official approval.  All information on the export of cats and dogs, including specific country requirements, can be collected at the USDA website. For export from the USA/import to Argentina (the more strict location), a dog needs:

  • A 1-year rabies shot administered less that a year, but more than a month before traveling
  • A vet exam within 10 days of travel
  • Tapeworm medication administered by the vet at the exam
  • Paperwork completed by the vet in both Spanish and English

We also asked for a cold-weather waiver from our vet to allow the dogs to fly down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

The paperwork from your vet then needs to be taken to your local USDA APHIS office for review by the APHIS Vet and receive the official seal of approval ($48 for both dogs).  Our APHIS office in St. Paul was incredible with helping our local vet understand what is needed for import into Argentina/Uruguay and making sure everything was completed  correctly.  Please contact your local USDA APHIS office first and they can send your vet all the necessary information.

Ours was a somewhat unusual experience because we were flying with Pugs.  Pugs and other snub-nose breeds can overheat easily and as a result, there are tight restrictions on the temperature range that they can fly.  All stops along our route had to be within the temperatures of 32-75 degrees Fahrenheit (this can be different depending on your airline).  In March, it was cold in MN, but potentially above 75 degrees in Miami. Since we waited until the temperatures looked good, then booked our flights last minute, we also complied with the animal import requirements for Argentina, just in case that would give us a better route for the temperature limits. Thankfully we had the additional cold weather waiver  because temperatures were hovering around the freezing mark when we left. We ended up flying from Minneapolis-Chicago-Miami-Uruguay and even after the extremely long travel time, the Pugs came through just fine.

Be aware that there are also summer embargoes where due to the heat, animals are not allowed to fly.  Spring and fall are the best times to travel with pets when crossing the equator. Check with your airline about all requirements before booking your ticket.

Next up in the "Dogs in Uruguay" series: Necessary gear and the adventure at the Airport - including "What is a short check?"

Missing the Coffee Shops

One thing that I miss in Uruguay: American style coffee shops.Coffee I know, I know. This is not the USA and why would there be American style coffee shops here? We knew that this wasn't the same kind of coffee culture as the USA. It's just taking some getting used to.

I love coffee shops that sell a variety of baked goods, roasted coffee beans and fresh coffee- to enjoy there or TO GO in big, big cups. I am historically not an espresso drinker because it's gone in two sips. For me, a 16 ounce coffee is good, but 20 is even better. Not that Starbucks is a favorite, but we used to live right above one in Minneapolis and it was a frequent stop for us.

In Montevideo, you can go to any of the standard fare restaurants or confiterías and get an espresso, café or cortado in a beautifully presented little cup, but not to-go.  They may offer some really fabulous pastries, but it is just not the same. I want to settle into a comfy chair with a gynormous cup of coffee in hand and enjoy some alone time with the newspaper. For now, that will have to be done in the comfort of my own home.

The best alternative that we have found in Montevideo if we want a coffee "para llevar" (to go) is--please don't laugh here--McDonald's. The restaurant side of McDonald's sells coffee or café con leche in a to-go cup.  It is not the best, but it's all we've got here if you want it to-go.

One huge surprise for us has been the McCafé- it is an actual cafe attached to the McDonald's restaurants in Montevideo and quite impressive one at that. The McCafé has higher-end finishes, free wifi and an upscale attitude, serving pastries on porcelain plates and coffee in glass. We have enjoyed some time at a McCafé, but the sizes are smaller and prices are quite a bit higher than the to-go coffee in the McDonald's restaurant. Rightfully so, as the cafe is much more civilized than the standard McDonald's.

We have stumbled upon two places lately that may become close stand-ins for our beloved coffee shops in the USA. More info and reviews to follow in the coming days.

With the occasional visit to the McCafé or the other shops we've found lately, more frequent stops at McDonald's for a paper cup of joe and daily coffee at home, we'll do just fine. The differences here in Uruguay are also leading us to some welcome changes in our lifestyle. We slow down, take a seat and enjoy our coffee and conversation for a while instead of grabbing our to-go cup and running. Not a bad change at all.

Get Your own Toll Free Number

Thanks to Our Readers!

Thanks to all of you who have been sending us email, commenting on our posts and 'voting' in the polls! We've been working to get back to everyone and we're excited that we have so many readers.  I'm nearly caught up on responses.  We also LOVE comments on our blog posts- new or old. Don't be shy! Of course I have a list of potential posts that I need to write, including a new series that is in the works.  I've also been editing some of our previous posts with updated information.  Life in a new country is a constant learning experience! If you haven't looked back in our archives for a while,  now is the time to do it. Check out our information, observations and rantings.

We're excited to see spring right around the corner in our part of the southern hemisphere. Energy is high and we can't wait to get out to the beaches in another month or two. October and November are going to be great months here and I already know of a few families planning to arrive then. When are YOU going to join us in Uruguay???

All Our Best,

Lisa, Brad and G

Do Your Homework

Our adventure started long before we stepped off the plane at the Carrasco Airport, Uruguay on March 26, 2009. We've been planning this move for over a year, with an exploratory trip to MVD in March 2008 (with then-3-month-old Geneva in tow). On that trip, we spent 7 days in Montevideo, two nights in Colonia and 3 nights in Buenos Aires.

Posts to Come

We have a few projects in the works and wanted to let everyone know what will be coming in the next week, in no particular order:          X  Expat Travel Technology Series, Part 2: "How do I get my mail?"  Brad's weekly update on our tech tools.

        X  Setting up Daycare:  Two places that we've looked at, including our thoughts and prices for 5 half days per week in the post "Daycare Options"

        X  "Furnished or Unfurnished?" and why we chose what we did for our new home.

        X  Creepy Crawlies: Post took the form of “It’s The Little Differences"  to discuss lots of small things that are different in UY from those which we are accustomed.

  1. Firing up the Parilla: Our first attempt at an pseudo-Uruguayan Asado (pseudo because it was vegetariano)
  2. Photo/Video gallery via SmugMug

If there is anything you absolutely cannot wait to see, please send us a note.  We can pull some strings.

We will be updating this list to link to the topics after they are posted.