Things to do

A Steady Yoga Practice

I am happy to say that my yoga practice is back on track.

After practicing on and off for 5 years and then trying a few different classes here in Montevideo, I have found an instructor and class format that I really love.

Twice a week (I would love to do more) I am waking before my family to spend an hour and a half on my physical and spiritual connection through an incredibly supportive, nurturing yoga environment. In turn, I have gotten physically stronger, my practice has advanced in ways that I would have never previously imagined and I have an unquenchable thirst for more yoga knowledge. Not only a physical practice, I am inspired by the yogis I have met and read about. Of course, I have a long way to go on this yoga journey and I am, in fact just a beginner.

Brad also appreciates the time I devote to my yoga practice as I'm much more grounded and centered after I practice and in fact, I feel like I can be a better wife and mother as a result.

Another wonderful addition to the yoga practice is my increased knowledge of Spanish. I have learned Spanish words and phrases that I never would have ordinarily experienced without taking a class exclusively in Spanish. Between that and increased sanscrit knowledge, it is a language lesson as much as a yoga practice!

I look forward to yoga in Bariloche nearly as much as I do day-to-day life there. With the naturally beautiful environment comes and energy and a force that is perfectly paired with yoga.  As I imagine myself living in such a place, I cannot help but integrate my practice into the equation. T-2 weeks and we will be moving out of our house in Montevideo, with our flight out a few days thereafter. You can guess I'll have my yoga mat in hand.

If anyone wants the contact information for my fabulous current yoga instructor, Cecilia, please email me. The morning studio is very small (with a class max of 4 people) but she also teaches higher capacity evening classes at a nearby gym.

Our Next Adventure

Bariloche, Buenos Aires, Uruguay MapUruguay has been our home for the past 16 months and we love it. Through the ups and downs of adjusting to life in a different culture, we have been truly fortunate to find ourselves in such a place. We are ready for a new adventure, most likely temporary but we don't know. All signs are pointing us toward San Carlos de Bariloche,  Argentina. We plan to be there for the low season of October through December. If you don't know Bariloche, it is a very different type of place from Montevideo. Located in the mountainous area of northern Patagonia, spring is the low season there with skiing being the main draw in winter and hiking/water sports in the summer.  Since we have never lived in the mountains but would like to, this area really appeals to us.  There are other towns nearby such as San Martín de los Andes and El Bolsón that we plan to explore and the variety of outdoor activities in this mountain/lakes region is incredible.

One challenge with our plan is how to live in a more rural area without a car.  The Bariloche area has a great bus system that runs a loop from downtown to the main roads, with other buses running long distances from Bariloche. While we explored living within the city proper, we were told in no uncertain terms that while the city has all the modern conveniences, the city is not why people come to live in Bariloche. Now we are researching temporary rentals on the main bus loop or within a decent walking distance to the city center.

Our flight is booked for September 25th, our current landlord is notified of our lease termination and we are starting the purging process all over again.  There is no turning back now!

Our list of things to sell will be coming shortly. It is amazing how much you can acquire even when you live in a furnished  rental and never really purchased much.  Alas, we have plenty of housewares, toys, clothes, books and cloth diaper supplies that we will be selling.  The plan is to come back to Montevideo during/after high season 2011 but we don't want to store all our extra stuff, so away it goes.

Wish us luck!  This extended vacation will hopefully be just the thing we're looking for.  New things to learn and explore within a beautiful, restorative environment.  You can't forget the great German architecture, handmade chocolates and artisan beers produced in the Bariloche region!  Sounds like my kind of place!!

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.

"Going to the Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...."

(click to hear "Going To The Zoo" song by Raffi)We visited the Zoo in Montevideo in June (and again last weekend) and the Zoo in Piriápolis in August.  Both are great options but I highly advise that you visit now that we are in the warmer months!

In Montevideo, the Zoo Villa Dolores has a great location, close to the heart of the city. Many of the animals were in hiding when we first visited on a cold Sunday morning- but were out enjoying the sun on our second visit. The displays and animal enclosures were actually quite nice compared to what I remember in the USA as a kid.  Zoo Villa Dolores has all the usual suspects: elephant,  hippo,  lion, giraffe, zebra, along with tons of monkeys,  birds (including flamingo and peacock), goats and sheep.  There was a separate reptile/spider building, a kid's play area and plenty of other diversions in the park.  We had a lot of fun with the standing scenes that you put your head through... whatever they are called...

Location: Avenida Gral. Rivera 3245

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 AM- 7 PM

Cost: $20 pesos.  Free for under 12 and over 70.

Free for everyone on Wednesdays.

Giraffe- Zoo Villa Dolores Montevideo
Giraffe- Zoo Villa Dolores Montevideo
Peacock- Zoo Villa Dolores
Peacock- Zoo Villa Dolores

The Zoo in Piriápolis is in a different league completely.  It is relatively new and I have heard that it is partially a zoo and partially a local fauna breeding center.  It's built into the hillside of Pan de Azúcar (Sugar Loaf Mountain), a  400 meter high granite hill with a 35 meter high cross on top that you can climb up into the arms (after another 100 steps). All of the animals at this zoo are housed in "natural" settings and it is a fun maze to wind though to find the animal enclosures among the trees and flora.

This zoo was free to enter and had some beautiful and unusual animals, mostly on the small side and many native to this region of South America.  The largest of the animals was a single tiger who was maybe a bit too vocal, and in fact, a little scary.  There was also a reptile/spider building here and a true variety of settings as you walked from lake/marshland to heavy tree cover, to prairie setting. It was beautiful.  My favorite, the capybara.  There is a restaurant nearby and a huge play area and park for picnics.  Pack a lunch, as our wonderful friends did for us, and take a hike up the Sugar Loaf "mountain" when you're done.  The path leads up from the zoo.

Location: 6 km north of Piriápolis on Route 37, at the foothill of Pan de Azúcar

Hours: Daylight

Cost: Free

Pan de Azúcar Capybara
Pan de Azúcar Capybara
Pan de Azúcar park
Pan de Azúcar park

A Weekend in Buenos Aires

We just spent a quick weekend in Buenos Aires, and it was a very nice change from everyday life in Montevideo. Since we've been there before and have already explored Recoleta and some of Palermo, a few highlights and notable details of this trip are:

Buquebus: We took the Buquebus shuttle from Tres Cruces bus Terminal in Montevideo to Colonia, then the ferry from Colonia to Buenos Aires.  This is more economical than the direct ferry from MVD to BsAs (and had a departure on Saturday AM instead of PM), but the journey takes longer. Because of the weather on Friday and into Saturday, I'm happy we did it this way.  The winds were strong and as a result, the waters choppy.

Waving goodbye to the Colonia port

Note: Do not expect to be able to get Argentine pesos at the Buquebus terminal in Buenos Aires.  The Cambio was closed on Saturday morning and the ATM's were not working. Exchange your money in Montevideo so you don't have to waste time in Buenos Aires- because there are no banks, cambios or cajeros near the Buquebus terminal.

Hotel: We stayed at a gorgeous little hotel in an out of the way area. The Lola House is rated 6 on out of 341 hotels in Buenos Aires and I can't say enough good things about it. The rates were excellent and we were treated like royalty.  The Subte  (subway) stop is just a few blocks away and you can be in downtown near Calle Florida within about 10 minutes.  Taxis are also very inexpensive, but it will take longer to get across town than via the subway.

Starbucks: You knew this was coming, right? We stopped not once, but twice in 24 hours. The baristas were wonderfully personable, remembering our names from the day before and even giving us free milk for Geneva.  Not that I like the wastefulness of take-away cups, but man, this was really good.

At Starbucks in Buenos Aires

Feria San Telmo:  A fantastic mix of antique vendors and artisans with food and beverage peddlers, street performers and tango demonstrations mixed in. It's a little touristy, but stay, eat and wait for the tourists to leave, there is samba drumming and tango dancing all evening long.  Takes place every Sunday south of downtown, on Calle Defensa between Av San Juan and Plaza de Mayo. We had a great time wandering and people watching.

We also dropped in to see a FABULOUS boutique hotel that Brad has been booking for his clients on the opposite side of town from where we stayed. We'll definitely try this place out on one of our next trips to BsAs- and I'll write about it then.  Contact us if you want to learn more right now.

After living simply for the past 6 months- and loving it- we were both surprised how our consumerism nature came rushing back when faced with all the material things not available in Montevideo.  Other than coffee and food, we bought a few personal care items and an inexpensive handmade bag at the San Telmo market, but thankfully we were strong and that was it for the purchases.

24 hours in Buenos Aires is not nearly enough time. I can't wait to get back.  With a metro area of 13 million people, there is so much to explore!!

Expo Prado 2009

September 12 Prada
September 12 Prada

Another day in Uruguay- another adventure. Yesterday we went to Expo Prado 2009 for their "Day of the United States'.

We hopped the 522 bus on 21 se Setiembre for 16 pesos each, which dropped us off at the edge of Parque Prado in half an hour. Thank you montevideobus for helping plan our adventure!

Expo Prado 2009 is a fair celebrating Uruguay, it's rural culture (fitting, because 'prado' means 'meadow' in English) and showcasing artisans, manufacturers and even exhibits of other countries. This is the 104th year of the Expo and it has been held in the Parque Prado since 1913. It almost like a state fair in the USA- except at a state fair you don't have buildings featuring Argentina, Brasil and Mexico. Since it was the Day of the United States,  the US Embassy had an area selling some products that we can't normally purchase here, like donuts, Dr.Pepper and Starbucks coffee. Is that what the USA is all about?

We entered the Expo for a mere 95 pesos each (adults) and wandered through the exhibits and buildings for 4 hours.

The most fun we had was seeing the animals. Since beef is a huge industry here, the cow was well represented, with some gorgeous Angus cattle and many other varieties, housed in three buildings. The many cows, horses and sheep that we saw were all impeccably groomed, both for judging and for sale. Uruguayos love their pork as well, but funny that there were no pigs, except the ones seen cooking...

Pork Roasting
Pork Roasting

There was a rodeo with steer-roping demonstration, an American football 'game' being played poorly, lots of farm equipment on display and plenty of food (unfortunately not on a stick).  It was a great time and so easy to get there and navigate the park.

The great thing about taking the bus and exploring some new areas of town is that you are free to look around and dream. The route to Parque Prado wandered through Centro and then headed north. The neighborhoods immediately surrounding the park are amazing, with gigantic homes built in the early 20th century. Many have fallen into disrepair, but are still really beautiful examples of the boom in Montevideo between 1900-1940. At that time, there was plenty of affluence and money and Prado was the place to be. I hear that the Uruguayan President's home is also in the Prado area although we didn't see it.

Even if you miss the Expo for this year, still wander through Parque Prado and the surrounding neighborhoods. I can't wait to go back and explore.  The expo takes up only a portion of the park- so it'll be great to see the rest.

Expo Prado 2009

September 9th-20th

9 AM-9 PM

U$95 adults

U$50 kids 6-12 and adults over 65

Free for kids under 6

Cattle Barns
Cattle Barns
Prado Central
Prado Central

Our 'Noche'

The 'Noche de la Nostalgia' festivities are done and while we had a little time to rest today, it's not a US holiday so we both had to work today.  It is was an extremely quiet morning, as I think the whole city was asleep after the late night/early morning celebrations. We had a great time last night but feel quite pathetic in comparison to the hearty Uruguayos who partied the night away. We can claim that we started early.

Our first stop was to the home of an Expat family. They always throw the best family-friendly shindigs and last night was incredible. There was a huge Asado, with plenty of food and dessert, but the element that puts this party well above any normal house party was the dance floor. The center of the house has a very high ceiling with a huge skylight (this is customary in many older Montevideo homes- it gives an atrium feel) and it was turned into a dance floor with disco ball, strobe light, confetti, smoke machine and a great mix of songs from the 80's and beyond.

We were with these friends for about 4 hours, leaving at around midnight (we took Geneva home to meet the babysitter partway through). A group of six of us then took taxis to Centro and I was amazed by the number of people out on the streets.  It was the most people I had seen out in UY at one time. We have not been here for the Christmas parades down La Rambla but I imagine these crowds are a close second.

Alexander PosterMidnight is too early to go to the clubs so we grabbed some beers and sat down to drink some time away. We had tried to get into a few places just for drinks and they were all full, so we settled for an out of the way restaurant. At about 1 AM we went to Club Alexander, a large gay club (straight-friendly) on the main level of Palacio Salvo- the most recognizable building on Plaza Independencia. We had signed up in advance for tickets and arrived at the door with Alexander regulars so we paid out U$Y100 each entrance price (if arriving before 2:30 AM) and were inside within minutes.

The main floor of the disco was small with a bar that stretched nearly the entire length of the club. The crowd was predominantly young and Emo, both straight and gay, but there were people of all ages. Many of Alexander's crowd were looking sullen with Flock of Seagulls hair and all black attire.  The music was electronica with some fun "nostalgic" mixes that got everyone dancing.  After about 45 minutes there, a sea of people flooded towards the doors- it was in fact- towards the stairs. They had just opened up the lower level.

The lower level was FAR better than the main level. The 20 foot+ ceilings and exposed foundation of the historic building made for some great architectural detail and nice acoustics. The bar was in the center of the room with dance space all around and up onto raised steps a the far end of the room. As we walked through, our hosts, the regulars at this club, gave greeting kisses to the DJ and we found a spot to dance.

Unfortunately, our time to depart came way too quickly and we had to leave as the party was just ramping up at 2:30. We walked out the door to find a mass of people waiting to get in and a line of cabs right across the street. It was a prefect set up and we were home to relieve the babysitter by 3 AM.

We definitely want to go back to Alexander when we can spend more time. It was a very fun night and I am happy to have experienced my first Noche de la Nostalgia in Montevideo!