Uruguay Travelogue Day 4: the Gliptodonte

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The Glipto

We started the day off at the Museo de Arte Precolombino e Indigena (MAPI) housed in one of the most magnificent buildings I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. The four story Italian influenced building must have been constructed in the late 1800s. It may have been another kind of museum or perhaps the headquarters of some important company, or a government office. Actually, I found out that its original purpose was to be a spa with thermal springs.  Re-purposed as a museum, it has many rooms each with different exhibits of archeological finds including fossils, dinosaur bones, pottery, jewelry and musical instruments. My favorite creature on display was the Gliptodonte that looked like a distant and heavily armed cousin of the armadillo, with a long tail that might have been the inspiration for the gladiator club. A janitor, or perhaps she was the art conservator, told us to take the old open-faced service elevator to the top floor, that could have once been a storage room for surplus art, to get a view of the old city. We did, and what a view it was of the foggy la Ciudad Vieja, with its many white buildings and houses where colorful laundry flapped in the cool air like flags. In the distance, the Bahia de Montevideo awakened with activity as barges emerged from breaks in the fog.

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View from the top floor of the MAPI

After the museum, we headed to Jacinto, a chic cafe recommended by the New York Times in an article entitled “36 Hours: Montevideo, Uruguay.” We started with a salad of the day that was to die for: greens, green beans, beets, blue cheese, thin crispy onion strips, with a drizzle of olive oil served with a dinosaur-sized soft boiled egg, The selection of fresh bread was some of the best I’ve ever sampled and came with some sort of chick pea puree sprinkled with sesame seeds. Our entrees included pork chops with sweet potato mash, fish with a puree of carrots and a vegetarian and roast beef sandwich with a liberal smearing of horseradish sauce. The ice-cold Patricia beer, the Budweiser of Uruguay, quenched our thirst. I had a glass of the local tannant wine, that was much fruiter than others I have sampled and I imagine it had some Merlot to sweeten and soften. We ordered a round of cortados and shared two dessert dishes. The first was a poached apple infused with glazed almonds and a caramel crunch served with a delicate dollop of vanilla bean ice-cream. Our second dessert was a chocolate banana sponge cake with caramelized almonds and cardamon-laced bananas or something like that, I don’t remember for sure. Top tip: dishes of the day like our salad and the apple dessert are significantly discounted.

We left the Jacinto for the Plaza de Independencia to warm up in the sun. It’s really cold here in Montevideo, especially in the shade. We watched Uruguayan soccer fans pass by waving flags, in some cases draped in a flag, head off to where they would be watching the match with Colombia. Chile and Brazil had played to a tie and we ambled up the way to watch the penalty kicks outside a pizzeria where fans gathered to see Chile ultimately lose making only 2 kicks to Brazil’s 3. The mood was somber afterwards as it appeared that many of the locals had hoped Chile would win.

We took a bus to a working class residential area of the city down by the river, took some fotos, dodged dog poop every step of the way and ended up randomly at a public viewing of a the World Cup match between Colombia and Uruguay. As it got underway, fireworks deafened our ears as the local police force looked on with bullet proof vests and clubs at the ready. The festive folks in the crowd were drinking beer and passing around what looked to be wine, not the usual mate. As it became a little more crowded and chaotic and canons went off, I felt like I was on a battle field and that it was time to leave. And we did, but our daughters wanted to stay and film the spectacle. We ultimately caught an empty city bus to head to a cafe to watch the game. We ended up at the Cafe Paris, in a mall of all places, and saw Colombia dominate Uruguay who played without their star biter, Luis Suarez, who had been banned in a previous match for biting an Italian player.  Last stop before retiring was La Inglesa, a Walmart like superstore, with better working conditions for the workers, as the cashiers sit on the job in comfortable chairs and watch TV on their screens when things slow down. There, we bought an international calling card, some bread and another bottle of cheap tannant that my wife and I polished off back at the house.

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Abandoned apartment complex

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