Today after years of talking about it and months planning it, we finally arrived in Montevideo! We were a little behind schedule due to our flight delay but made it safe and sound. Entering the country was fairly easy...once we deboarded the plane we walked through passport control, moved to another area to scan our bags and "viola" we were through. Next stop the Europcar desk to rent our car...manual of course, automatics are non existent here. Again, fairly simple process, though a bit long. She walked us out to the parking lot and brought the car to us while we waited. Incidently, standing next to us was a young Uruguayan girl with an "NCSU golf" backpack...what are the odds? Her dad knew the previous coach, from what he said, and was just there 2 weeks ago. Small world.
Surprisingly (to me at least) Bryan had little trouble with the manual car. With Payton's assistance working the maps we found our way to the hotel, the Regency Rambla Design Apart Hotel. It's a great location right across from the Rambla and Rio de le Plata river (which separates Uruguay from Argentina), in the Carassco neighborhood of Montevideo. We were able to check in early and set out to walk the Rambla and explore. The weather was clear blue skies and mid 70's. Gorgeous. We went by the Sofitel Hotel and Casino, a grand presence across from the water, and down to an area of small shops and restaurants. We were told this is where the wealthy live in Montevideo. Avoiding the exchange booths at the airport we instead exchanged money at a Cambio, where 1 USD was about 31-32 Uruguayan pesos.
We stopped for lunch at Garcia, where the wood-fired, grilled steak and lamb are the house specials. That is, of course what Bryan and Payton ordered. I tried a kebob of grilled chicken with ham and grilled pineapple. All of it was delicious with the local Tannat wine. We couldn't resist sharing 2 Dulce de leche pancakes for dessert, basically a crepe with dulce de leche inside and carmelized brown sugar on top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. YUM! At the table next to us we heard four young guys speaking english. They were from Oklahoma and picked their destination by spinning the globe! How adventurous! Satiated from lunch and drowsy from the trip we walked back along the rambla for a nap.
After waking, we cleaned up and walked back down the Rambla. This time we walked through the Sofitel hotel. It was gorgeous and we quickly felt out of place in our casual clothes. We wondered more, stopped at the Stella Maris Catholic church, then through some residential areas and came upon the Carassco Lawn Tennis Club. Stunning! To see everyone out at 6:30 pm with lights on the courts and everything glowing was beautiful. The courts were the dirt clay type. After walking inside they gave us a quick tour. 20 courts outside, 3 futbol fields, a small theater inside, a restaurant, 3 lush, outdoor pools and multiple work out rooms for spinning, cardio, etc. the guide told us it was about $4-5000 to join and approximately $200 per month. It was definitely a place we could spend some time.
We walked back and came across several restaurants with outdoor seating, however many weren't yet open, like europe they don't open for dinner until 8 pm (it was 7:30 pm). We found Don Peperone which allowed us to sit outside and have a beer until the kitchen opened at 8. Of course we ran into our Oklahoma friends there. In honor of our Brazilian friend, we had the Patricia beer. Dinner was a shared sausage pizza, followed by gelato nearby. I got a second try with my banana split flavor after my original scoop dropped off my cone just out the front door. Bryan and Payton each had dulce de leche. We walked back under the deep, dark sky, and the moon glowed onto the water and prepped for the next day.