Montevideo Prison Mall

On Day 3 we took a city bus down to Pocitos, a hip beachfront area of the city known for art galleries, casinos, diverse architecture, and a prison mall. We took some photos, got a workout at a fitness installment on the waterfront, had lunch and a cortado at a cafe recommended by a famous local artist named Febo Aycardo, who we met randomly on the street, and checked in it at a prison mall. It’s not run by prisoners, but rather was converted into a shopping mall to satisfy the endless consumer desires of ravenous capitalist shoppers. A typical youth might be seen walking down the street in a GAP sweatshirt.

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At the cafe recommended by the artist Febo, I ordered dos panchos, which are hotdogs. Much to my surprise, the hotdogs were served boiled and bare on the plate with french fries. Our table had a bottle of mustard, but no ketchup so I asked for some which amused our waiter, who brought a cold bottle to our table. I was hoping for a local twist – maybe a dog slathered in avocado and goat cheese with a tomato relish or something. And the fries were nothing special; “McDonald’s-like, said Isabel; “reconstituted potatoes, added Loreto”. Anyway, the cortado was good, with lots of froth. Our friendly waiter treated us all to a round of fresh squeezed orange juice and a bonbon.

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My wife bought a Luis Suarez sticker from a 80 year old price gouging street vendor for 100 pesos or roughly $5.00 U.S.; a sticker we found out should only have cost 4 pesos or about 20 cents. But we weren’t too upset. I am actually stoked to have the Luis Suarez sticker because of all the drama associated with his name. As you may know, he is the Uruguayan superstar soccer player who was expelled by FIFA from the World Cup for biting an Italian player. Apparently, he has quite the reputation as a biter.

On the way home, I bought a Uruguayan wine, a 2012 Traversa Tannat Roble Reserva made from the local tannat grape, blended with a small amount of merlot. It tastes very much like a typical dry Italian wine, earthy and bright, with notes of cigars, cherries, leather and dark chocolate with light tannins; immensely quaffable and for 112 pesos, about $4.94, U.S., it was the bargain of the day.

Despite the toxic air and sidewalks with lots of dog poop – watch your step – the city is genuinely pretty. The more we walk around, the more I like it. It has a laid back cosmopolitan feel to it with people of all ages walking around drinking mate, the regional alternative to coffee made from the dried leaves of the holly plant. The mate is stuffed in a gourd with a metal straw and then filled with hot water from a thermos and sipped, and quite often shared with others. People here don’t seem terribly stressed or in a big rush all of the time.

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