Montevideo

Wednesday 27th January – Montevideo, Uruguay

Well, that started badly but ended well.

There was a notice in the Horizon paper last night, saying that there would be crew drills at 10am, but I wasn’t worried, because we gained an hour last night, so even I would be awake by then. Needless to say, this is not what occurred. Actual start time? 08.50. Not 9.50. EIGHT fifty. And not only that, but all the announcements came through the cabins. What I call the pillow speakers. Which are only supposed to be used for emergencies. So if you were ill, or old, or choosing not getting off here, or unable to, for whatever reason, you were shaken from your bed by the noise anyway. And it was continual. Not just one announcement; there were dozens, for over an hour and a half, to my knowledge – they apparently continued after we had disembarked – they even did an abandon ship drill, which we have never heard before. We are going to do this. We are doing this. This is what is being done. This is what was done. This is what should have happened. Stage Two will be this. We will now do this… Bells and alarms and announcements. On and on and on. And REALLY loud. At the same time, when room speakers are used, the television is automatically muted (apparently in an emergency, they REALLY want us to hear their announcements). So every single one of these meant a portion of The Imitation Game where I was expected to lipread to follow the plot. Very VERY irritating. I reported it to Reception in the evening, and Mika seemed surprised that the cabin speakers were used. She said she will pass on my comments.

While I was at Reception, I booked a seat at Mission Impossible tomorrow evening, which my more loyal readers will be aware was not shown on the first sector due to “issues” in the Screening Room.

Anyway, we disembarked and walked to the port gate. We tried to book the hop on hop off bus, but they wanted eighteen quid a head, so we had a good laugh and then beat a hasty retreat. The pedestrianised part of town starts immediately opposite the port, so we strolled for a while. There is an indoor market, where lots of separate barbecue stalls, with real fires, cook your meat in front of you. We only wanted a drink at 11am, but this took a while and several tries to negotiate. In the end, one guy ‘allowed’ us to sit at his table and drink his drinks and then DOUBLED the cost when we tried to pay the bill. Fine, hon, but we considered having lunch here, so I hope that extra three dollars keeps you warm at night, while we eat somewhere run by someone more honest. I don’t mind paying ‘tourist tax’ but doubling the price is a bit rich, if you’ll pardon the pun.

It was a beautiful day, weather-wise – about 28 degrees, with a light breeze and virtually no humidity. We had blue skies and everything. As the forecast in the Falklands is 12 degrees, this may be our last day of warm for a while.

We found a delightful souvenir shop, with even more delightful staff, who took care of our every whim with a smile. I would tell you the name, but the shop did not seem to have one! So I took a photo of the shop, and the girl outside, and I can tell you it’s about the eighth shop on the left as you come away from the port.

We then pootled a little further and, when we came to a junction where we had intended to turn left into town, mum said that, as we could see the sea up ahead, we should keep going that way. So we did. The port is on the north side of a finger-shaped promontory that sticks out from the town, and we essentially walked straight across from one side to the other.

The maps here are quite bizarre. Some have north at the top, as one might expect, and others did not! They inverted the whole town, and put north at the bottom. I suppose they think it makes more sense that way around, but it makes finding your way using more than one for information a decidedly complex operation!

We found a beautiful beach, that stretched for miles, curving all the way along the edge of the town around the bay. The sea was a bizarre colour here, though – a sort of mixture of purple and brown. It looked nothing like the usual blues and greens we might expect. We speculated that it was silt and sand kicked up in last night’s wind, but it looks very odd in the photos.

A little more wandering found us at the NH Columbia Hotel. Those who read my blog last year will recall me raving about a buffet in one of the hotels in this Spanish chain. There was no buffet today, but the food was still very good. We used their wifi to Skype home, and the signal was excellent here. In fact, there is a LOT of free wifi in Montevideo. There is even wifi in the middle of the parks – they signpost it with bus stop signs!

After lunch, we took a cab to Punta Carretas Shopping Mall, which is a rather expensive choice, but as it was built in a converted prison, it was a very interesting building! Turns out that, although this feels like a very Spanish country, their McDonalds do not do gluten-free burgers. In fact, gluten-free generally is not well-serviced here. They’ve HEARD of it – it’s just a fruit salad and ice cream kind of a place. This place looks so Spanish, though, in fact, that, if I muddled up my photos, you will have no idea where in the world it is. It’s nice to find it easier to communicate, as well, because while my Spanish is fairly poor, my Portuguese is virtually non-existent! Also, whereas in Salvador, the predominant identity seemed to be Afro-Caribbean, down here in Montevideo, it is definitely Hispanic. And most people speak at least a little English. Although by no means all. Oddly, English was particularly in short supply at the Radisson Hotel in Independence Square. In the past, I’ve always thought that big, posh hotels chose staff with language skills. Not here, apparently. But we got by.

After the shopping trip – fairly unproductive, although Dad got a new pair of plimsolls – we took a cab to Constitution Square and then walked two blocks through market stalls to Independence Square, where we had tea at the aforementioned Radisson. I had a plate of fruit, and mum had the biggest piece of chocolate cake we have ever seen. Dad had to eat half! After using the rather lovely loos, we took a cab back to the ship. There was a free shuttle bus from the ship to Independence Square and back, provided by one of the large stores, but they stopped running at 2pm. Not hugely helpful, seeing as we are in port until half eleven tonight! So we took a cab, and the driver managed to talk his way into the port and drop us right at the foot of the gangplank! Nice!

We made it back just in time for dinner, and Chris, Fran and Abigail arrived not long after. They also had a good day, although they did a historical walking tour, which sounded a lot of work for very little gain! They are going on a battlefield tour in the Falklands – Chris is into war history – so we chatted about Normandy for a while. Dinner was fun. I like these tablemates.

Then I crashed. Absolutely shattered. I’m fine until I stop, and then you could not get me going again with gunpowder. In bed by ten (which admittedly is 1am GMT).

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