Monday, April 25, 2011

South America - Day Two --Montevideo, Uruguay

Today – Montevideo, Uruguay. I am in bed with the laptop in room 8019 of the Norwegian Crown and the tv has a bow camera which is playing pretty music and I can watch cars driving by the bow of the ship. It just played “Cheek to Cheek” with Ella and Louis. Out my huge window I have a view of an old, very Uruguan-looking church steeple. The reported temp is in the seventies and there is cloud cover.

To get the fussing over with – my lower middle right finger remains extremely painful, which makes a series of routine chores difficult to impossible, like opening the digital camera, typing of course, dressing etc

To fuss further, the announcements in English, German and Spanish that we had docked in Montevideo came at – 0430 on my watch, or 5:30 AM local time. I am very glad that I picked the noon tour and not the earlier one. Am lazily contemplating room service, but, since I have all my clothes now, I shall probably put on shorts and venture forth for some coffee, which I think is aft and one deck down. I am embarrassed, but I haven’t worked out which side of the ship I am on yet.

Further embarrassment when I went by the Internet Café at 5AM and the guy was in it, and said “Didn’t you set your clock? And I had set it the wrong way. So my watch is three hours slow, and I am wondering whether I brought my short wave with me. I know I could use sneakers which I did not bring. Could have been worse I suppose, like the couple on Roatan who missed the boat and spent a week there with no ID and no money.

As it WAS in fact eight AM, the Yachtclub on deck seven was quite busy, so I returned a glass from the bar last night (water) and brought back a cuppa to the room. The little suitcase is all unpacked and sox, underwear and t shirts neatly put away logically in separate drawers. By the way, it is raining heavily outside now, so going out onshore for an internet café session is out, and I will bring this down to the café presently and see if I can get going, at least posting yesterday’s blog.

//Made my way with wireless card and puter over to the internet café where the guy who runs it got me going. I took the hundred buck package and got onto journalspace first, posting my gps fix blog on it and then looking a little at pprune. He seems to know what he is doing but he has a bit of an attitude about him which is going to bear watching. It was freezing cold there and I wanted more coffee, so I logged off fairly soon and went and got a second cup for the room. While there, I finished unpacking the suitcases, leaving the real cold weather gear in them under the bed. Looks like the rain stopped but could begin again.

Went for a real breakfast, cold meat, cheese, sc eggs, toast, sausage, oj and a pancake with syrup. The room had been done when I returned, and so now I have about two hours to kill before the tour of the city on a bus begins later.
Well, it’s quarter to ten now. Having finished emptying the big suitcase, I tackled the tangle of papers that have already piled up – boarding passes luggage claims, ship maps, letter re sickness of ten percent of prior trips, map of Atlanta airport, extra copies of Argentinian customs and immigrations forms, the baggage tags for the flight and extra cabin tags for the 4112 stateroom in which I never set foot.

Got the ticket for today, the photocopy of my passport, put the key card in my wallet and found a letter showing I had On Board Credit of $50, so I took a few minutes and walked down to the pursers desk where she was totally mystified, and it was not until I dropped the magic name of *** that her face all lit up, attitude improved and she assured me they would get in touch with Miami and send me a letter to my cabin, and experience has shown me that they damn well will. I also had a letter to give to the Maitre D because I was celebrating an important event on the trip – dunno what, but the name G** has somehow crept into the equation, and I am trying to remember if C** had dealt with me in those terms – don’t think so.
While I was at pursers, people were complaining of wrong wine in the cabins, non working toilets and everything in between. Brother of one of the ships officers was sent to the bridge, and I explained that I wanted to go to the bridge too, and she laughed and said so did she, but she didn’t have a brother who was an officer.

// . The sun has come out before 11am at least partly, and that is better than rain for sightseeing. It seems the tour sold out (remember Virgin Gorda) and I am glad I went to the tour desk yesterday before even going to my cabin.
OK – it is coming up on seven PM now, and there are several ways I can do this. One is to go fresh with what just happened, then read my copious notes for the day and then try to do the earlier part. More commonly, but more disjointedly, I just pour out my feeling, thoughts and impressions of Uruguay and they patch up the rough edges later from the notes.

Most everything in Uruguay went well, and my impressions were almost 100% favourable. The country is well educated, with literacy rate of 97%, crime rate seems ok, they have one doctor for every 270 people and one hospital for every 70, with life expectancy of 75, about what I am expecting for myself actually.
One interesting thing is that the big tour bus loaded and actually departed the dock ten minutes before the assembly time and 15 minutes before the scheduled tour was to begin at 1230. The good news is that I was aboard by a window, which, sadly had a curtain, but the big expansive window seats were all taken, and the bus rolled minutes after I boarded. The first thing I saw of interest was the anchor from the Graf Spree, which is sunk in the harbor behind where we are docked. Uruguay has several hundred miles of coastline, mostly on the Porta Plata river, which was so rough today that they were literally surfing on it, and some on the ocean. Houses sell for less than 200K USD in nice areas. Condos can be had on the ocean as well for less.

We saw, and I photographed, many different official buildings. There are palm trees, and plane trees which are pretty. In BA they had Jacinta and barrel trees. The lady guide was named Betty and she spoke basically perfect English and was funny and attractive as well and I enjoyed her. There were stops for photos, postcards, for others to buy water which I had brought with me, and a 15 minute stop at the Memorial to the Marines, down on the very windy beach, and then back to the ship along the shoreline.

I had made a quick foray onto the dock well before the tour, and returned for additional clothes. Had my pic taken by the ship with an Uruguay flag for my collection, and also snapped a readable one of a Uruguay license plate from the bus. I wore cashmere turtleneck with the Australia light sweater over top of it, and think I left the heavy cop sweater home. With the sneakers and short wave.
Two parenthetic thoughts: first, a fancy platter of choc and vanilla covered strawberries has found its way to my stateroom courtesy of the hotel director. Hmm. Second, met a guy playing with a Garmin GPS on deck, same as I met Bob D on the fantail of the Ecstasy. Told him about my blog and he’ll probably read it next chance he gets.

Possib blog joke – Good news – lots of mother-daughter combo’s aboard. Bad news, in every case, the daughter is older than I. Bit of a flap over the stern flag, which looked like a photoshop of a Danish and Guyana flag, but upon long walk and many queries, is Bahamas, not Uruguay as I had been told. Nice girl took my pic by the real Uruguay.flag with ship gangway behind. In State line photo folder already.

This is my fifteenth port since September, and my 14th ship sponsored shore excursion, with three of them off the Ecstasy. All have been way better than average, leaving nothing to be desired IMO. Was bored on bus and listed them: Acapulco, Puntarenas, Aruba, Ocho Riso (no tour) Cozumel, Cancun, Roatan, Belize, St Croix (no tour) St Thomas (no tour) Tortola, (Virgin Gorda trip) Domenica, Barbados and Antigua. And plenty more to go.

As I had an empty seat beside me on the bus, I was able to have my water, some peanuts, writing paper, binoculars and camera spread out and handy for me, and as I put, stayed well within my comfort zone every inch of the day in this country, which I find to be highly under rated. Given the lack of Indians, browns, or blacks, and mostly a solid European Portuguese stock, I would think there would be crowds of older Americans retiring here. Perhaps the welcome Fidel (Castro) signs might put some of them off. They were graffitied everywhere. They have low tax rate as well. Sounds like a variation of the Costa Rica story. Just heard that Montevideo is second lowest crime rate in the world, behind only Tokyo.

The square in the center of town was loaded with cops and dozens of television trucks with various Uruguan twinkies doing stand ups with the building in the background. The New president is being sworn in tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Castro pays a visit. Doubt that old GW will be here, tho we did drive by a hotel where Hillary is said to have stayed. BTW, failure to vote here is reason for a fine. Montevideo means 6th hill and Uruguay means river of colored birds. Didn’t know that. Thinking now of ALL the tours I’ve taken: Iceland, Rio, Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Madrid, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong , maybe Taipei, The temp was 24C.

The buffet is NOT serve it yourself. Having had my hands sterilized twice in ten minutes, I all but had my hand slapped by reaching for some salad (!) when I saw they had blue cheese dressing. Has to do with the Norfolk or Norwalk Virus which I guess hit them pretty hard, and resulted in the obligatory letter as we boarded.
BTW, my cute little stewardess confirmed that the strawberries etc are NOT routine for this cabin, just the tenth floor penthouses. Hehe. Postcards were a quarter each, or actually, four for a buck, but I only got two, and really only because I missed one in Buenos Aires. Statues seen and photographed included a stagecoach and a covered wagon…where are we again?? Sure enough, they formed a part of their history as well.

My finger, likewise, has gotten better and worse in stages, to where I might consider sitting in with the Dixie group now, whereas I couldn’t play a single note with my right hand last night. Typing likewise affected.

I saw (and photod) but one mcdonalds all day, and down by the water there seemed to be a few more signs in English than anywhere else. This is the first time I can ever remember seeing surfers on a river, with spray bounding twenty feet in the air. It apparently rained really really hard this morning on the tour that I didn’t take. They have a beach called Little Copacabana, and sure enough, that IS what it looks like (fun to be able to say that).

Back on board, it was tres windy. The ship behind us was from Valetta, and my mind skipped to my walk by the docks in Valetta where I saw a ship from Swansea, and how close I was to that earlier this month in Dublin, and like that. There were two Chinese ships tied up behind us side by side, and the sight of the big (relatively) ocean liner leaving had the rails filled with the curious. I was fascinated by the cranes handling the huge cargo containers, some of which roll along on wheels like a gigantic upside down U, and some are just little one at a time backhoe type operations, loading them onto trucks which hold two small ones. There was also a rail siding there and lots of lumber which is one of their exports, like leather and football players.

The eighth deck holds most of what interests me right here. I can get glasses of water, hear very good jazz trio with pretty female vocalist and f\lute player with bass and guitar and OH are they mellow. The internet café is right there, and in the library, I found a huge book with all of the New Yorker Cartoons therein. I am up to page one hundred and have not put a dent in it.

Supped, still in shorts, at the yardarm. Had chicken cutlet parmagiana, a little salad and then a huge plate of spaghetti and ziti with tomato sauce and cheese. Followed that with rum raisin ice cream, and it is no wonder I weight 162 on the scale in the gym, which says no street shoes. Let the record show I skipped lunch and have not used the elevator once today, even to the eleventh deck. I watched us push very slowly away from the dock and out thru the breakwater, and the people on the pilot boat all waved cheerfully back at the hundreds of passengers who were lined up and waving at them. As I said, an old, white, mellow and pretty compatible crowd. Very very few kids, teens or even young couples. Pretty much as I hoped it would be actually.

Just before 2100 went down and had a second dose of rum raisin ice cream, out on the back in total solitude. One woman was smoking a cig all alone too, till she left and twas just me. I finished another hundred pages of the New Yorker cartoon book and got a glass of water from the 8th deck bar to bring back to the bottle in the room, and learnt that the music there starts at 2115, so I will go listen.
The cabin stewardess has brought me blankets for tonight and eaten my choc strawberries at my request. No little animals tonight, but I got tomorrow’s Daily sheet and two little chocolates. Have been careful to go for short walks instead of lying down, cuz I suspect I am going to be flat on the bed for the balance of the night

Short version – went to aft lounge to listen to Brazil trio, who also played on the dawn. She was one of the loveliest women I’ve met aboard yet.
Musically, they are superb trio – standup elec bass, acoustic guitar and female vocalist who also plays flute. They play bossa nova, Brazilian style music. She has a soft, lovely voice and hair nearly to her waist, pretty face, slim attractive figure, and last night she was wearing a black outfit.

I fell into conversation with them on their breaks, and they were friendly and engaging. The guitar player has lived all over the US, from Louisville to Los Angeles and San Francisco, so is English is perfect. She is Argentinean and her English is more basic.. I expect to become a fixture there, as they play at the glass covered lounge at the aft end of my deck, adjacent to the bar where I have been getting my drinking water.

Monday, February 28, 2005


Fijufic said...

I always love reading about your travel adventures. Before long I may be setting out on a few of those adventures myself.

Anonymous said...

I remember travelling South America....ahh the tales I could tell, too. Maybe one day.

Anonymous said...

I hope you will. I appreciate that these accounts are distressingly long, but they are written 'at the time' and editing them down is harder than I imagined it would be.

Thanks for stopping by!