Monthly Archives: August 2012

Visiting a Bullring … Not in Session

Laura drove me to a part of town that I hadn’t visited on foot earlier that day. We had a little bit of daylight left and Laura took us to two historic places.

The first was, in its heyday, an amazing and architecturally amazing bullring called Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos.

Unfortunately, the Plaza de Toros is no longer in use … as anything.

It is such a shame because if someone had the money to restore it, it would be quite an amazing place/concert venue/museum.

It’s quite run down and if there were safety codes, I’m sure it would fail all of them.

We had ducked under barbed wire and entered through a hole in a rusted gate – thank goodness for the tetanus shot – to enter the land surrounding the bullring. (No photos of this set up, it was only my first day and I was trying not to break any skin!)

As we walked under the stadium seating to enter the center of the bullring, Laura warned us to watch for loose and falling stones.

Along with the warning signs outside of the stadium, when I Googled the stadium later I also learned that  Wikipedia states that it is forbidden to enter the bullring.

It was well worth the risk. It was gorgeous inside and if you can use your imagination to picture this place in all its glory, it must have been incredible.

The center of the ring was full of grass that wasn’t too overgrown – which leads me to believe that someone must be caring for the property. There was also a fair amount of graffiti all over the stadium walls that a good scrubbing should be able to remove.

If it were to be restored, I think that it could be turned into an amazing concert arena. There is no shortage of seating, the stone work is beautiful and the acoustics are stellar.

The first two were easy observations the third I found out when Laura told me to shout ‘Hola, Hola!’

I wish I had an audio recorder!


Estas Aqui!

After hours of wandering around town around 8 I made my way back to the BuqueBus Terminal to meet Laura for our scheduled meeting time.

I settled into a seat in the arrivals terminal and took a look around and for the first time that day, realized, with loads of excitement and butterflies in my stomach that I WAS ACTUALLY IN URUGUAY!!

I must have been sitting in the terminal with a dumb smile on my face.

Soon after coming to the realization that I was in Uruguay, I saw a girl about my age with two other women, look over and walk towards me. I stood up and we introduced ourselves.

I guess I wasn’t hard to find. I am pretty certain that I was the only gringa in the arrivals area of the terminal.

Laura came with her mom and her friend. I quickly learned that Laura’s mom didn’t speak more than a few words of English, which would prove to be a great, and very quick, immersion back into speaking Spanish. I didn’t want to alienate her in the conversation, but it took a while to get my grammar straightened out but Laura did a fine job of translating.

We learned that it wasn’t user error at the cash machine at the terminal. It didn’t work. We would sort it out later and we got into her car and dropped her friend off at her car just a few blocks away.

Laura was eager to show me around and I was eager to start seeing!

The Car That Followed Me Around Town

The title of this is much more interesting than the story behind this post.

As I explored Colonia on my first day in town, I saw this car at least five times. I don’t know if it was the same car, or if there are many, but it kept popping up all day and finally I just took a photo.

I’m not sure why but this photo makes me smile and I just wanted to share.

Stumbling (Figuratively) and Hopefully Not Literally

After a refreshing shower, I had left my (ok, really Fred’s) apartment and wandered around Colonia alone for a few hours before I was scheduled to meet Laura.

As I explored Colonia on my own, I turned a corner and stumbled (figuratively) onto this gorgeous pier.

Here’s a wider shot of the pier. I didn’t want to get this close because I was nervous I would fall (literally) so excuse the people in the photo.

I laughed when I saw this Ravens jersey in Uruguay – the brother-in-law and his family, and by association, my sister, are huge, huge, huge Ravens fans.

After taking in the views, I realized something was missing. Can you guess?

Here’s another shot.

Did you figure it out yet?

Well, I will tell you. GUARDRAILS.

Not only were there no guardrails but as you can see in the fourth photo, the boards were pretty far apart. I lost my flip flop in between those boards more than once.

I am not good with numbers but this had to be close to, if not more, a ten foot drop into the water below. With no guardrails. Anywhere.

I took in the views for a little while, took a few photos to record my disbelief and then I headed back towards solid land to continue my exploration of this historic city.

First email home…

The original email I sent home was in all lower case, and lacked punctuation, and I will keep it as such, only because it shows how I was speeding through to get an email out to let everyone know I had made it to my destination. However, I did remove totally irrelevant pieces. But, rereading this as-is makes me laugh because you could tell I was exhausted and pressed for time.

While my previous blogs about my journey thus far covered what happened after I can take a step back from the situation, here’s how it was written when I was in the middle of it!

I added hyperlinks to link back to those stories as I have written them out, after the fact, if you needed to play catch up.


hola familia!

i have arrived in uruguay! i dont know how much free time i have of internet so here’s one long email to all of you. unfortunately i was told (after 45 minutes of aimless wandering in the airport) that i wouldnt be able to use the business class lounge and the shower unless i had another flight today.

so much for that nice shower i was dreaming of. while i slept. in a bed. in business class 🙂 i am not sure i will ever be able to fly coach on a long haul flight ever again.

i had halibut and risotto for dinner with a cheese and fruit plate for dessert. nearly all the tvs in coach were broken and mine wasnt great but i was only up for a few hours. my pillows and down comforter (yes, im totally serious) awaited me 🙂

was able to take a taxi (this is a story in itself — i felt like i was on the amazing race with a bad taxi driver. he was asking EVERYONE where to go and everyone but him seemed to know and i was racing the clock because i wanted to make the 12.30 so i wasnt sitting around all day) to the port and get on the 12.30 ferry to colonia uruguay instead of the 6.30 so i have just arrived here.

first order of business, find the info center and get a map, check and second, find out if they have wireless, check and third, let you all know i am alive.

the port where the ferry left from was puerto madero, where we had lunch last year with a and c with the big gnocci and the cheap steak with the spinach deliciousness – the restaurant was happenings, and i even saw the ice cream place we ate afterwards. i felt like i knew better than the taxi driver and i was there once.

i wasnt on the street in colonia more than a minute and saw my first stray dog. ugh

thanks to accruing a lot of american airlines miles [through a previous job], here’s how i flew down 🙂

ok off to find lodging for tonight. thanks to studying trip advisor, i already know where i want to stay, for 17 dollars a night.

ps – my sea cat ferry wound up getting put on the buque bus ferry anyway. more on why its such a scam later. it was only 3/4 full too.

pps – its SUNNY AND HOT HERE 🙂 people are in sandals, dresses, shorts and im in yoga pants and a long sleeved thermal. i need a shower asap.

ppps – boyfriend – please can you call citibank and find out when i took out money at a citibank in the airport it said i would get a charge from another bank called banelco. im not supposed to get any charges. thanks. love you all and i will check in again soon. not sure when i will be buying a phone but when i do i will send you the number. just check with your carrier to see if you will be charged if i call you from an international number.

boyfriend – also i will try to call you collect today when i can find a pay phone that is not near stray dogs.

love you all.

Next Order of Business

Now that I had a place to lay my head for the night, it was time to move on to the next order of business.

Shower, find something to eat and get Uruguayan Pesos.

The shower was so refreshing and the clean backpack I opened to retrieve my clothes and toiletries would never be so pristine and organized again.

The second two orders of business turned out to be a challenge as I arrived in between meals. Restaurants were closed until dinner and the first two cash machines I tried did not like my card.

Thankfully I would be meeting Laura in a few short hours so I was hopeful that she would be able to help my cash machine situation. In the meantime, I was ready to hit the ground running to start to explore Colonia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

These trees were outside of my apartment (ok, Fred’s apartment) and they pretty much lined every street in the city.

I didn’t take any photos of this but there were several tree-lined streets where old men brought out folding chairs and sat on the sidewalk. They rested and drank beers and said ‘Hola’ and ‘Como estas’ to passers-by, including me.

I had already fallen in love with Colonia but that sealed the deal.

Lo Sentimos, No Disponible and How Fred Saved the Day!

Using two hostel booking sites, Hostel World and Hostel Bookers, I found a hostel that had great reviews. I cross checked it on and was happy with the reviews. So I packed myself up and walked a few blocks, uphill, with my backpack, still in my airplane clothes, to the hostel.

When I arrived ten minutes later, there was a sign on the door that said ‘Lo Sentimos, No Disponible’ which translates to ‘S0rry, No Availability.’

It also meant that because I didn’t write down any backup places I would be heading back to the tourist office.

You may be asking yourself, didn’t she pack a guidebook? Oh yes, I did. But it was packed away and, blame it on the jet lag and the positive thinking that I’d get my first choice of accommodations, but I didn’t even think to cross-check places noted in the book.

At the tourist office, I resorted to emailing. One place after another quickly replied to my note stating that they were full. Getting nervous that the only place that had availability in my budget was a 45 minute bus ride away, I started to wonder why this small, colonial town was so booked to capacity on a Wednesday night and I took a step back to think.

Thinking back to my half-hearted effort to find a place while I was still in the States, I decided to send another email to a Fred who had rooms available and ranked very highly on TripAdvisor. He had only had a garden apartment (that sleeps four) available rather than a single bed. The original rate he quoted me was too steep, and provided far too much space, for my current backpacker budget and solo status, so I had politely declined.

Today was different. It was nearing 4pm, and I had to hope that if he had any space maybe he could do a little better with his price. After all, I could be there as fast as my feet would take me.

I was hot, tired and growing increasingly frustrated (my own fault) as I waited for his reply. I did not have to wait long. Fred wrote back right away with a revised price for the apartment, $80, which was 25% of his original quote. Knowing that $80 would later cover at least four nights on this adventure, I chalked the cost up to a first night splurge and the much needed confirmation that I had a place, in town!, to lay my head for the night!

With my map in my hand and my backpack on my back, I walked another ten minutes and found myself in the garden of Fred’s home.

Fred invited me inside and I was pleasantly surprised, and slightly disappointed that I didn’t have travel companions to share the large space with me!

The apartment was located on the ground floor and just up a separate staircase led to his own home.

I had a kitchen, an eating area, a private yard just off the kitchen, a bed in the ‘living room,’ two twin beds in the downstairs bedroom and a full size bed upstairs. Yes, there was even an upstairs.

For $80USD it was a very nice place to start my trip. And I did have some unexpected travel partners staying the night…the biggest beetles I had ever seen. They were harmless and stayed on the floor. I hope!

Disembarking in Colonia

I disembarked in Colonia del Sacramento (Colonia is more commonly used as the name) and my immediate priority was to find the tourist office to get a map and figure out where I would be sleeping that night. Oh yeah, because someone (else) would have figured that out prior to arrival. But not me.

I arrived at the very modern tourist office in Colonia and was greeted by a friendly woman. She gave me a map, pointed out some highlights and confirmed that there was free wi-fi in the building. Score! Let’s get myself a room for the night!

First I emailed my family to let them know that I had arrived.

I also emailed Laura, a fellow CouchSurfer, with whom I had exchanged several emails prior to my trip. We had made plans for her to meet me as I disembarked at the ferry terminal at 8.30pm.

Because I had made the earlier ferry I wanted to let her know I would be in the arrivals area sans backpack. I was certain there would be other solo female travelers disembarking and I wanted to make this as easy as possible.

Since I didn’t have a phone or know my internet situation for the afternoon, I let her know that we would keep our 8.30pm meeting time at the ferry terminal.

Eagle-eyed readers: Uruguay is an hour ahead of Buenos Aires, so even though the ferry is an hour, you arrive two hours later than you departed.

Now that I had let my family know I was alive and I confirmed my whereabouts with Laura, I had to get down to business. Where to sleep?

In retrospect: accommodations for my first night should have been planned earlier. But, you should know that I arrived in most places without planned accommodations so this experience served as preparation for the next 50+ nights as well.