ontheroad

Exploratory Tour of Uruguay

johnIn May John S., a teacher and scientific minded Virginian in his early 50’s came to Uruguay for 2 weeks to find out as much as he could about the country and possible relocation.  His wife Sylvia was counting on him to post lots of photos since she didn’t come due to work, and he not only posted great photos but lots of comments about his experiences and thoughts on the place.  This is a compilation of those touring notes with some additions by John after getting back home and contemplating the trip.

 

John S. in Uruguay….an exploratory tour

MVD

May 20 & 21
These are from my first two days in Montevideo, Uruguay.

 

This place is beautiful. Going east to Punta del Este, probably mvdstreettomorrow as I have a meeting for lunch on Saturday with some Americans I met in the MVD airport.

 

1stMeal

My first Uruguayan meal. They mix mayonnaise with cilantro and it makes an excellent topping for the grilled steak. The Olive oil is Uruguayan.

 

May 22, Day 3
Another busy day in Uruguay. Went to go up in the tallest building to catch a view of Montevideo and they wouldn’t let me go because I had the time wrong for today and its in the afternoon. Then I went to the oldcityUruguayan World Trade Center which has 4 high rise building and they wouldn’t let me go up in any of them – bummer. Then I ate at a Japanese Restaurant and then went to visit my new friend Edy, who I had dinner at her home last night (it was her bookstorehusband’s B’day), and we went to the British Cemetery here, and learned each other’s history and talked about teaching and real estate and other points of interests. Then (after a number of things happened) we went to a restaurant about 3 blocks from her apt and had a most excellent meal. I’m in a hotel instead of a hostelB&B (which was very nice and at $26 a night was really cheap) but tonight I’m going to sleep very soundly as I won’t be able to hear anyone who decides to break into song on the street at 1am (which happened last night but I do understand that in Uruguay this is considered just a part of life)! Tomorrow by 9:30 I depart for Punta Del Este and meet archa couple that I met at the airport just 3 days ago. They invited me to come and I’m taking them up on their offer. They found me a home to rent for $50/night. Remember its getting colder here as they are backward to us in seasonality. Their winter is our summer and visa versa. I didn’t take very many pictures today and will post them tomorrow. It is still 80* here which is really unusual as this is almost Thanksgiving time if we were in the States but it should get a bit cooler tomorrow when a front comes through and we should be getting a high of 60. I will be grateful because I mostly packed fall clothes but this feels like summer! Wish I had brought another pair of shorts!

 

These are from today in Montevideo…

The Rambla in Montevideo Journal

The Antel (phone company) Tower that the would not let me go up in because I (actually they) gave me the wrong time. Later in the day I went to the Montevideo World Trade Center where there are 4 towers and I couldn’t go up in any of them- bummer.

 

La Courta Restaurant (The Court) in Montevideo. Was recommended by my B&B owner so I tried it. Had Grilled Chicken with mashed potatoes. Excellent

LaCourtaRestaurant

Near Independence Sq – I can see it but you probably can’t.

oldcity

To the right in this picture is the Montevideo Leather Works were I bought a belt that should last for 20 years. I hope I last for another 20 years!

 

president’s office – Pepe Mujica who was the immediate past President used to drive here in his beat up old VW Beetle!

presidentsoffice2

salvo palace, An awesome old hotel that is now been condo’d

salvopalace

The door to the Gaucho Museum. An amazingly funky building. The Gauchos are interesting too!

doortoGouchomuseum

Edy Kizaki’s Refrigerator door. This is the kind fishing you will find in Uruguay!

ekfridgedoor

Dinner at Edy home. It was Steve’s 67th B’day. The couple on the left, she’s an American who met him on her job and fell in love. He is Guatemalan and speaks perfect English. The pair in the back is Diane and her son Chris. They live in Rocha and were in Montevideo so Chris could renew his passport at the American Embassy.

dinnerEdy&Steves

Steve and Daniel with Max, a 13 year old blind dachshund who is a sweet dog.

SteveDanielMax

DanielChris

May23 day 4

Another exceptional day in Uruguay. Woke up in the Regency Hotel regencyat 7:30 and went downstairs to my first Uruguayan breakfast, which is Regencybreakfastbasically a European breakfast – no bacon and eggs but pastries and fruit and coffee. Then got in my car and headed east to Punta del Este to meet Mike and Judy Curry, who I met in the airport as we were going through customs. The invited me to come visit them and of course I did! Also the temperature dropped by 20 degrees and it was about 60* today with intermittent rain, which they have not had in about 5 weeks.

rambla1Had a lovely drive east, first on the Rambla and then on the IB, which is a toll road where twice I had to pay 65 pesos, which is $2.50. at 90 to 110km/hr it makes for a pretty American kind of ride. Stopped at Piriaopolis and small town west of Punta del Este, which is gorgeous and it turns out where the Curry’s are renting a small farm. RamblaHotelI had to do it or I would have been too early. I spent about 20 minutes looking at the town and then headed on to Punta del Este and arrived at 11:59, one minute early. GPS systems are most excellent!!!

So they took me first to where I am staying, which is called Solano piriapolisand it has probably 50 apartment buildings and I am staying in a one bedroom apt which I got for $50/nite. It is very very nice. All of the buildings are empty as this is considered vacation homes and the place only is crowded in November -February and is livingbasically dead the rest of the year! Apparently it is very popular with Argentines and Brasilians who come here because a) it is a very beautiful place and b) because their currencies are going downhill fast so they buy these as hard assets and park their wealth in these buildings.

Then I got in their car and went into Punta del Este. PDE is also pdelEbasically empty as the country is heading into their winter. So we explored Punta and they showed me all the sights. As Punta is a peninsula it has the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Rio de la Plata on the other side. The Rio side is much calmer and has excellent beaches. The Atlantic side is mostly a rocky shore but there is an excellent sand beach about in the middle of PDE . Then we stopped for lunch at Virazon Restaurant and I had virizon2an excellent Paella with scallops and octopus and shrimp and fish, etc on rice. Then we went east into Maldonado (yes I was staying on Maldonado Street in Montevideo) which is where everyone who eggsworks in PDE lives. We stooped at a grocery and I bought bacon and eggs (the butcher had to slice the bacon off of a big slab of bacon meat) some Olive Oil (Uruguayan) and some Uruguayan made NON ALCOHOLIC beer called Pilsen Soul! ( I found it at Virazon!!!).

puntaballena3Then we went to back west a bit to Punta Ballena (Point of Whales) which is even more upscale than PDE. Very large and very (VERY) expensive homes. Some had to be 20,000 sqft. Even though these homes are empty many had security guards watching them.

Then they brought me back to Solena, and dropped me off. So I am in the apt and writing this. What an awesome day. I will go see their place tomorrow and then see what develops.

My first Uruguayan breakfast. Continental/European style. Pastries and fruit and coffee.

 

My bedroom at the Regency Hotel

Regencybedroom

evening: My place for Saturday and Sunday nights. $50/night and there are two other apts occupied, the rest are waiting for November.

 

Virazon Restaurant.  Punta del Este is a very nice vacation place and lots of Argentines and Brasilians are buy homes and apts to get hard assets as their currency is hurting in their home countries.

Virizonrestaurant

Another home in Punta Ballena. This one has a thatched roof and neat statue.

puntaballenahome

May24

visit to Mike & Judy Curry

MJ

This is Mike and Judy’s solar hot water heater. It does have an electric component if its shady for more than a 2 days but on sunny days Judy says the water is “nuclear”. Because this is the southern hemisphere they have to point them to the north while in the northern hemisphere they must face south.

MikeyJudy1

A wild chicken is what they call these birds that are all over Uruguay. They have little fear of people and they will come up on the deck.

wildchicken

Piriapolis from Mike and Judy’s deck

landscape

The front of their chacra. Its about 800 sq. ft and has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath.

chakra

Mike demonstrating how to use the grill. It has a Uruguayan name but it has slipped my mind!

MikeGrill2

You pile the logs on the left and build a roaring fire and then you rake the coals under the grill (while adding more wood to the fire) and you can adjust the height of the grill to control the temperature. You see these inside in restaurants and they work very very well.

 

The living space and kitchen behind

living

 

Steve, an orthodontist from Minnesota who moved to Uruguay a bit more than a year ago. Very nice guy.

steve

This is a low speed 4 stroke engine in a front yard in Piriapolis. This is what you need to produce electricity from “biogas”, ie. methane from poo. Can be cattle or pigs or chickens or people, put it in an airtight bag or box and give it a few days and you will get a flow of biogas! Keep adding poo and keep making power. This was an awesome find for me. These things run at a maximum speed of maybe 300-500 rpm.

strokeengine

The sun has set and the lights are on.

currys

An awesome veggie pizza Judy cooked up.

judyspizza

These eggs are store bought but the yolks look like the ones we used to get that are “home grown”.

eggs

Long story on this place but some really nice homes

piriapolisrealtor

My first Uruguayan bacon. Thickest slices I ever had but the cooked up excellently.

uruguaybacon

May 25 at 5:24pm ·

A very long day of cruising in the car but I saw the Atlantic coast up to Rocha, then went inland and north then turned west a bit and then south to Minas where I am in a nice hotel right in the central square. So the wifi wasn’t working in my room so as I was working with the hotel lady (who speaks no english) I ran into 2 Americans with their Russian garndmother who gave me some pointers and we shared emails and Facebook contacts.

Uruguay is an awesome country.

buildingswindmills

You probably can’t see them but there are vertical windmills on the top of this building.

Brenda: love your pics. As opposed to horizontal windmills?
John: The horizontal windmills are about 500 ft tall, and 3 massive blades and are all over the country. I hear that windmills produce about 30-40% of the electricity in Uruguay.
Shelley:  Why is it still so expensive then?
John: Because they just put the mills up and they have to import all their other fuels.

There is very serious money in Punta.

hand

This is the lighthouse at San Ignacio.

JoseIgnacialighthouse

This is an olive orchard with this huge building. It is private property.

oliveorchard

Dinner in Minas…

dinnerMinas

Lamb Serrano with leeks and white rice. The rice was in its own pile but I was hungry and ate some before I remembered to take a pix. The spread in front of the plate is very finely made chicken salad type of a spread. It was, of course, delicioso! It was another excellent dinner.

dinner3

This a Serrento type dessert. Graham cracker crumbs soaked in coffee, which sugar and some other stuff in it. I ate the whole thing and scrapped the bowl.

dinnergrill

Loaded down now with baked potatoes, 4 whole chickens, some red peppers plus some sausages.

 

May 26

oliveorchardselfie

Not sure but somehow the phone got switched to selfie mode in the olive orchard…After this I turned it off and back on and fixed it. Its foggy because my fingerprints are all over the working side of the iPhone.

 

So someone has brought 3 old railroad cars, and track, up this hill/mountain to n=build a home. Coming along nicely.

roadfromVtoAlgua

road3

 

So I asked the owner of the Plaza Hotel were I stayed in Minas last night ( he speaks almost perfect english!!!) how I should route myself to get to Durazno. He suggested that I should first go look at Villa Serrana. So I drove back north on Ruta 8 and went to Villa Serrana. I am really glad I did!

There are two roads to the Villa and he routed me to the 2nd on as it is paved. I came back on the dirt road. Glad he made that suggestion as the paved road I took up the hills and the dirt road coming down the hills! This is the entrance.

roadfrV

Stopped at this Catholic Church and met 3 really nice small dogs.

church

Quary near Minas:

cementquaryatMinas

They have the huge VW trucks pulling double trailers. Some haul logs, some haul grain and some haul cows, though those are single trailers.

 

In San Ramon I stopped first for 2 Pilsen Soul (the N/A beer) and a bag of Lay’s Potato Chips. Right out back, were bushes of flowers. Its fall and everywhere there are flowers blooming, seems strange to someone from Virginia!

 

I love the alternative folks popping up everywhere.

alternatives

And then a couple hours of driving and I got my first Uruguayan “Hambergesa”. This one is the top of the line, the Hambergesa de Milaneso. It has freshly grilled burger, a fried egg, a slice of ham, mozzarella cheese + lettuce, tomato, onion and some mayo. It cost $2.70 or 70 pesos. It was AWESOME!

hamburgesa

I saw km after km of row cropped fields. They are bare now as the harvest has occurred. But there are greenhouses still producing.

greenhousesatMinas

The Hotel Santa Christina were I am staying tonight, Just to the south of Durazno. This is the “Center of Uruguay”. Nice town with lots of kids and Mom’s on motorbikes with a kid riding in front and sometimes driving at what appears to be 4 yrs old!

hotelSantaCristinaDurazno

A friendly man checked me in. He spoke no English and I spoke no Spanish, but it worked out. The room was $84/night.

hotellobby

Fire in the lobby fireplace. It was 47 when I got up and hit about 63.

pool

The pool. Surprised it is still open. Remember its fall here!

I got my first close up of a windmill. I have heard that Uruguay gets 30-40% of its electricity from windmills!

famousgrouse1

So the restaurant here at the Hotel Santa Cristina is called La Perdiz or, as you can see in English – The Famous Grouse. They have it written in english pretty much everywhere. They also have a few dozen bottles of scotch called The Famous Grouse on the bar. So who ever owns this place is definitely into Scotch!

famousgrouse2

I had chicken in a spinach sauce. Here is the chef cooking MY chicken on the perillada.

fg3

These are sausages of various types on “standby” waiting for someone to order them. They are a big part of the entrees.

fg4

I ordered a “Simple Salad” that they said I could have one of the list of specials. It could have been, lets say cucumbers. I asked for Hearts of Palm and my waiter brought me a bowl of nothing but Hearts of Palm. I though there would be some lettuce but this was a big bowl of just Hearts of Palm. And yes I started to eat it before I remembered to take a picture. Another excellent meal!

fg5

Cheesecake with Raspberries and a cup of coffee. Small cup but it packs a punch!

 

May 27 John Strause The breakfast this morning at the Hotel Santa Cristina. Typical Uruguayan breakfast.  The coffee pot and bread with a toaster. The British flag must be because the owners must be Brits or Scots.  This is a very nice hotel. If you ever find your way to Durazno, Uruguay stay here. You won’t be disappointed.

HotelSantaCristaDurazno

HSCduraz

John Strause This is Carmelo were I stopped for lunch. I stopped at 3 because I was famished. Walked into the place to find the waiter eating spaghetti. He got up to find the chef and came back and said the chef had left but the owner would fix me a simple meal. So I chose fried chicken breast with french fries. When the owner came out with the meal, which was big and delicious, it turns out he speaks pretty good english as he had worked for several years in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. It seems everywhere I go I run across someone who speaks english.

carmelo

carmelolunch

There’s my lunch! Also every place will give you bread but its the spread they delivers that is a) different in every place and b) excellent in every place I have been so far!

hwytoColonia

Heading to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay’s St. Augustine. Founded in the mid 1600’s it about a 100 years younger than St Augustine. This place is so far south it took the Spanish another 100 years to get here.

May 28

The Raddison Hotel & Casino. They wanted $150/night and I said NO. Came two blocks over to the Plaza Hotel and have a nice room for $61/night. I asked a Raddison desk assistant and he recommended it.

Raddisonincolonia

raddison

The (or a) Rowing Club with a ramp to get the boats in the water.

rowingclub

Walking to the waterfront.

street

John Strause The structure may be ruins but the design is too cool. These bricks are from the 1600’s.

colonia

The lighthouse. You can climb it but the Naval guys had just closed it for the night.

colonialighthouse

See the ruins. St Augustine Fort was built out of cochina or shells maybe 20 ft thick. These are stone walls maybe 6 feet thick. Unreal.

coloniabell

Two different Uruguayan Navy vessels. Both crews got off while I was walking down to take this picture.

coloniatwonavyvessels

This fish car is right outside the Aquarium.

coloniafishcar

Getting dark.

coloniaeveningstreet

Inside of colonial government building.

coloniagvtbldg2

May 28 at 10:16pm

My last night in Uruguay.  For the last 10 days I have discovered my idea of paradise and it is in Uruguay. Mucho gracias, Uruguay.

fish

coffeeypostre

Edy

In the river, the water is brown as this is the west end of the Rio de la Plata and the water is coming from the Rio Uruguay that runs south from Paraguay and Brazil.

MVD

May 29 at 6:26pm

I’m in Panama and homeward bound. Won’t land until 12.55 on Saturday morning .  Big rainstorm here but having been here before I bet it won’t delay my departure. I AM looking forward to seeing Sylvia even if she is asleep.

As for Uruguay, what an absolutely awesome place!

I asked John why he wanted to relocate to Uruguay, and here is his answer.

Why would I, a person who lives in my version of paradise (and it is paradise!), be coming to tour Uruguay with an eye to living there? My deep conviction is that the land of the free and the home of the brave doesn’t exist in America any more. It is purely because I feel America does not honor and practice our Constitution and our people have lost their understanding of just how important our Constitution is to having our land be a free place, where our citizens will be brave, if threatened on their home turf.

I am a history teacher, and when you look at the facts, America has not followed the Constitution since at least 1913 when the Federal Reserve Bank was created. I say this because the Constitution says in Article 1, Section 8 that the Congress must  “coin money, and regulate the value thereof.” The Congress WILLINGLY gave up this REQUIREMENT of the Constitution when they created the Federal Reserve Bank and gave the Federal Reserve Bank the authority to “coin money” but mostly when it says to regulate the value of our money. Congress does not do this anymore. The Federal Reserve Bank does this now. So our Congress no longer controls either the coining of money nor determining the value thereof.

The Federal Reserve Bank is supposed to be independent of control by anyone other than its own directors. However they are appointed by the higher ups at the commercial banks, which are privately owned. The Fed has two duties, to maintain the value of our currency and to keep our public as closed to fully employed as is possible.

They have failed on both counts. For starters an ounce of gold used to cost $20 US.

That was its price, as set by Congress. An ounce of silver used to be $1 US, also set by Congress. When Franklin Roosevelt determined that gold was a threat to our economy, (mainly because the Federal Reserve HAD ISSUED MORE PAPER DOLLARS than there was gold bullion in hand to match up to the paper), he wrote an Executive Order that forced all Americans to turn in any gold coins they had and then once he has collected most all of the coins he revalued the currency by saying gold was now worth $35 US per ounce. That is a 43% devaluation of the dollar. Did our Congress do anything about that? The answer is NO! They did nothing while our currency shrunk in value by 43%.  And this was 23+ years before I was born!

What is the value of our currency today? Well the value of gold in dollars is now .01687 or 1.7¢ per dollar or a devaluation of 98% since our founding. So basically if you are holding only Federal Reserve Notes your currency has declined to basically 1.7¢ where it used to buy $1 in items of value.

As for its job on employment, the government claims that unemployment now resides at 5.5%. But this is not true for the government does not follow people when they STOP looking for work because there is none available. They are missing all these people who have given up looking for work. That number equals 23.2% of people who are not working but would like to be working “full time”. (This is from Shadowstats.com which follows economics “the old way” i.e. before the government started redefining what these words mean.)

So right there you have two of the main reasons why I am looking at Uruguay. Our government in the United States is not “of the People, by the People or for the People”. It is being run by a small group of individuals who could care less what actually happens to “We The People” as long as these individuals “stay on top” and “run the show”.

Our country was supposed to be operated by the people/citizens. These people would elect representatives who would consult with each other and when in agreement, would pass laws for the rest of us to follow, mainly because it makes sense to do so.

But by now most of our representatives are 1) wealthy when elected  2) get even wealthier when they are in office and 3) could care less what happens to their constituents, i.e. the people with little or no wealth to their names who put them into the legislature and 4) take their “orders” on how to vote from their “party leadership” which is either Republican or Democrat. But both of these parties have only one goal and that is to be re-elected again (in 2, 4,or 6 years terms) and that directs all their activities. So the Republican Party, once the party of liberation for black people in slavery, now stands against all minorities (except the wealthy) as they struggle for equal rights and services. The Democrats used to be the party of resistance to change, but now is the PARTY OF CHANGE, that wants to liberalize every action that our government takes.

The thing is that our Constitution, the foundation for our government, makes no mention of political parties and many of our founding fathers were against having any political parties at all. The creation of political parties was the beginning of the end for our country, and unless we can terminate both of these parties our country is lost.

This is more than just sad, as the American people were once given the power to rule via representatives, but they let that power wane because the never stepped up to see it enforced. I do not wish to be living here when this ending finally happens.

Edy’s note:  these opinions are those of John, and do not necessarily reflect those of “Who Is Uruguay”.  (It may be unfortunate that I myself don’t have the degree of knowledge necessary to debate these points, although I have started paying attention!)  But it is important to note that in conversation with many of those who have come here from the United States in recent years, these themes crop up over and over again.  Uruguay, being a small country, may have the advantage of being able to directly address some issues of the country as they crop up, avoiding the difficulties in even understanding what is happening in such colossals as the U.S. or other large countries.  We all know we buy too much and we are generally in too much debt for things we don’t really use or need that much.  Our impulse to collect luxury “toys” and other costly things, our distraction with fashion and other disposable elements of culture, our lack of concern with how over-consumption is damaging our world beyond reason, are a seemly acceptable (since they are being accepted by so many) result of what I have secretly called to myself “consumer slavery” ever since I got out of university and got my first job.  We are manipulated into wanting better more and different, whereas right in front of us are the treasures of our loved ones, the beauty of the luminous natural world, and the arch of the heavens telling us that we are very small in the great scheme of things.  These treasures get trampled in our rush to possess… and you can’t take it with you.  Not only that, not only that you can’t take it with you, but it becomes tarnished once it’s yours simply because it was the glamour of the hunt to acquire that made it so attractive in the first place.  And it takes you away from living life to the full.  Uruguay seems to present a relatively tranquil and balanced way of living and a connectedness that is rare in our North American society.  I guess that’s my two cents.  John, it was great meeting you while you were here and we wish you the best in your attempt to make it all come together and move to Uruguay with Sylvia!

 

 

 

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