Montevideo, Uruguay

During our stay in Argentina, March 30-April 13, ’06 (Sept. ’06, pg. 84), my husband, Joe, and I took a few days to travel to Uruguay. We wanted to see both Colonia del Sacramento and Montevideo and decided to spend three nights in Montevideo.

While in Buenos Aires, we went to the ferry to reserve our trip to Uruguay. It was good that we did that ahead of time because we heard that others were told the ferry was full. As it was, only first class was available and we paid nearly $200 for both of us.

On April 8 we took the fast ferry — one hour rather than the slow ferry’s three hours — to Colonia del Sacramento. We put our luggage in a locker at the bus station, about a block from where the ferry docked, then purchased our bus tickets at less than $7 each for the 2_-hour ride to Montevideo.

We then walked around the historic portion of Colonia del Sacramento for about three hours — a very pleasant experience.

We had read in the October 2002 issue of Gourmet magazine that the best pizza in South America was at the restaurant La Bodeguita (Del Comercio 167), along the riverwalk, so of course we went there and ordered the pizza, eating outside.

My broccoli pizza, with big broccoli spears across it, was wonderful. It was square cut and thinner than what we call Sicilian square pizza in the States. Including a pitcher of Sangria and bottled water, we paid perhaps $14 total.

The bus trip to Montevideo was uneventful; we enjoyed the scenery. Upon arrival, we went to the tourist bureau and booked a tour of the city for the next day, then for 75 pesos (about $3) plus tip we obtained a remise (hire taxi) to take us to our hotel.

The Sheraton in Montevideo was great. In a nice neighborhood, it was attached to a mall and had a fabulous view. Our room was spacious and clean, the bathroom was large and comfortable, and we immediately felt at home. We had booked the Romance package on the Sheraton website ( at $129 per night for the room. An excellent breakfast buffet was included.

We got in late and, with the help of the front desk, found a restaurant that we could walk to at night: Da’ Pentella (Luis de la Torre 598; It was an Italian/Mediterranean restaurant, and we highly recommend the antipasto buffet, which, along with the bread served, was really an entire meal.

My husband ordered that, which was about $10, and I had salad and pasta. Including the local varietal wine tannat, bottled water, coffee and a dessert sampler with some stellar desserts, our meal cost about $47.

On our first full day in Montevideo, we took the 3-hour city tour we had booked upon arrival ($15 per person). I highly recommend it, as it takes you all around the downtown area and then into the suburbs. There are stupendous views.

Upon our return, we took a remise to the El Prado area and attended the Criolla de Semana, a festival with a rodeo that occurs the week prior to Easter. We had a great time. We watched the opening ceremonies and then the bronco riding by the gauchos. There were tents set up for tables, and we ate grilled meats from the barbecue. Several bands played and there was piped-in music throughout the area. Artisans sold local arts and crafts, and vendors sold jewelry, clothes, jams and preserves in addition to home-improvement items.

Our second day in Montevideo, and using a map we picked up at the tourist office at the bus station when we booked the city tour, we enjoyed a leisurely self-guided architectural tour of Montevideo’s downtown and Old City. The walking-tour map, “Montevideo – Ciudad Vieja/Centro,” has pictures of 63 buildings with distinct features. Captions (in English and Spanish) give the name of each plus the date it was built and the style. Montevideo has incredible buildings in various styles, such as Art Deco and Eclectic.

We started from the outer area and walked toward the port, ending up at the Mercado del Puerto for lunch. What a wonderful experience! There were restaurants along the exterior of the market, and the interior was filled to the brim with restaurants. Smoke was rising from all of the grills inside and out. It was so hard to choose, but we elected to sit outside at the very busy Don Tiberon.

We had appetizers (sweetbreads) and then I had fried chicken breast (enormous) with bacon, French fries, fried banana and creamed corn, and Joe had two huge pork chops (the menu said “pork ribs”), with a fried egg, roast peppers and fries. We could not believe the size of the portions. Despite that, we still ordered the chocolate fondue for dessert. Including bottled water, a beer and coffee, it all cost $31 for two — an excellent meal, one we would repeat anytime.

We took a taxi back to the hotel and then walked along the water on the paths designated for walkers and bikers. It was very pleasant there. We returned to Buenos Aires the next morning on the 3-hour high-speed ferry.

Redondo Beach, CA