Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Panama City, Panama and Home

I slept through most of our Copa Airlines flight between Montevideo and Panama City. I was awake when we made an unscheduled stop in Cali, Columbia due to needing more fuel because of heavy headwinds. Then we finished our flight to Panama City arriving an hour late at 8:00am.

We put our carry-on bags in luggage storage and hired a friendly cab driver to take us touring for the day.

Our first stop was the Miraflores Visitor Centre where we watched a big ship go through the Panama Canal locks. It was $20 US per person to watch this and there is a small museum. I thought it was expensive but John was very excited and it is not something we would do every day. 

We next went over the bridge that crosses the canal and links North and South America.

Our next site was the Amador Causeway which was built with the debris dug up while building the Panama Canal. This picturesque causeway connects a number of islands.

It was so hot out. Every time we got out of the air conditioned car, I would just melt.

When the sun was at its hottest, we were travelling through the highly trafficked Casco Viejo which is the historic part of town.There were many beautiful plazas and colonial buildings painted in bright colours. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

There was a large police  presence. Then our cab driver pointed out the president of Panama walking down the street talking on his phone.

Our final stop was Panama Viejo which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was where Panama City was originally founded in the early 1500s. The population grew to over 10,000 people. However they were attacked many times by pirates and natural disasters.  Finally in the late 1600s Captain Morgan (you know the pirate on the rum bottle) attacked the city and burned it down killing thousands of people. How does a jerk like that end up being imortalized on a rum bottle?

After that the city was unsalvageable so they rebuilt it a few miles away where Casco Viejo is located.  Meanwhile, the ruins of the old city are very picturesque.

On the flight home from Panama City to Toronto, for some reason unknown to us, we were in business class. As we had booked economy using points there was no basis for us to be in business. We kept thinking that we would be outed as "economy class freeloaders" but all went well and we enjoyed our pampered flight... the first time John has been in any class above economy. I could get used to this... economy is really going to suck next time. 

After two months of travelling, it was great to be home.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Penus Fences and Uruguay's National Plague- Montevideo

Our last day in Montevideo. We arrived at  Independence Plaza for our 11am walking tour.

We walked through many of the places we were at yesterday, but this time we got the history behind them.

In the Plaza Zabala, the quaker parakeets were extra active and noisy while the guide was speaking. He then mentioned that they are Uruguay's national plague because they eat the farmers' crops.

There is a fence around this park that looks like a fence of penises. Apparently after much work on the park, the architect found out he wasn't going to be paid as much as he was told so he changed the design to express his displeasure.  The penises don't really stand out until you are near about them.

We ended the walking tour at the Mercado del Puerto which is said to have the best barbeque meat restaurants in town. We were told that Uruguayans drink more mate and eat more meat than even the Argentinians.

All these different restaurants are housed in an old train station. John and I had one more prime rib meal for lunch. We only ordered one and we still couldnt eat it all.

We then walked through the pedestrian area where I bought a couple mate spoons and a cup. We then couldnt agree on which museum to go to so I went to the Museo Taranco which is an old mansion complete with it's original furnishings. On its lower level it had over 2000 classical archeological artifacts from ancient Rome, Etruscan, Egyption and Greek. It was a really enjoyable way to spend an hour.

Meanwhile John went to the Museo Andes 1972 which commemorates a plane crash in the Andes mountains in 1972. Many of the 45  passengers on board were members of a Uruguayan rugby team. The story of the ordeal of the 16 survivors who were rescued after 72 days became a bestselling book called Alive. The museum has many artifacts from the crash and lots of information on how they survived.

Walking past some stores, we were perplexed by their names. I am not sure if their names were missed in translation or deliberate.

John and I met up at 5pm and went back to our hostel to shower and pack for the flight to Panama City, Panama.

At our hostel they taught us how to make and drink mate. Mate is drunk by almost everyone in Argentina and Uruguay. People carry around their cups and thermos es everywhere. Making it is a bit more complicated than I thought. There is a whole procedure of dos and don'ts.  Mate is an acquired taste. It tastes like a bitter green tea and you consume your cup by adding hot water to it a bit at a time over the day.

John and I grabbed a quick supper at a local diner that was frequented by locals. We tried the Uruguayan Tannet wine which was quite good.

Our prearranged taxi picked us up for the airport at 9:30pm. 

Montevideo, Uruguay

Today we took a 8:30 am bus from Colonia to Montevideo through green agricultural lands. The trip took about 2.5 hours. There were cattle  everywhere which is not surprising since both Argentinian and Uruguay cuisine is centered around meat.

From the Montevideo bus terminal we grabbed a cab to our hostel (El Viajero Hostel),  dropped off our luggage and headed to the Sunday Market which apparently is a must do in Montevideo. This market was huge. It went on for blocks and blocks in all directions. People were selling everything from pets to antiques to food to garage sale stuff.

After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed back to check into our hostel and get changed then back to exploring the city.

A lot of things were closed because it was a Sunday but we also discovered it was their national election day...and not a protest to be found.Lots of cars were driving around waving the Uruguayan flag and flags representing a political party.

I noticed some Christmas decorations around....but it really doesnt feel like Christmas with the warm weather.

We walked some of the La Rambla, the waterfront boardwalk, which apparently runs for  22km.

We next went into the Old Town. The architecture is gorgeous. We saw the Palacio Salvo, the twin building of Palacio Barolo that we toured in Buenos Aires.

We went for supper in the Mercado del Puerto which is the old port market building that has been converted into restaurants and shops. We tried the Chivito, which is the national dish of Uruguay made with thinly sliced beef, ham, mozzarella, eggs, bacon, mayonnaise and olives. Although tasty, it was heavy on the meat and eggs and I couldnt finish it.

Thoroughly stuffed, we returned to our hostel for the night.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Colonia del Sacremento, Uruguay

We left our Buenos Aires apartment early and headed to the ferry terminal for the 8:15 am  ferry to Colonia del Sacremento, Uruguay. Apparently a lot of people also do this as a day trip from BA. The ferry took about two hours.

Upon reaching port, we dragged our luggage to our accomodations at Celestino Hostel which was located 2 blocks away from the ferry terminal and an eight minute walk from the old town. Conveniently there is also a hospital on the same block in case I have to make yet another trip to the doctor.

We couldnt check in for an hour so we dropped our luggage off and checked out the Saturday street market a few blocks away and stopped at a sidewalk restaurant with a gorgeous view of the colonial building across the street for lunch.

After checking into our hostel, we walked along the grassy shoreline towards the Old Town. Many families were enjoying picnics overlooking the water. We found many Quaker parakeet nests in the palm trees around us and there were always Quakers flying above or squawking in the treetops.

We crossed the drawbridge into the Old Town which was a mix of colonial Portuguese and Spanish architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Beautiful blooms including Jacaranda trees and bougainvillea were everywhere. It was totally lovely.

We took a break at an artesian ice cream place before heading back to the hostel for a nap.

We were up in time to go back to the waterfront in the Old Town to watch the sunset. And what a actually set right into the ocean and set the sky on fire.  Pure magic.

We stopped for a yummy pasta supper at a quaint restaurant and made our way back to home base for the night.