|Today we go on our all day tour to Punta del Este, the place the rich and famous from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay go to for their summer holidays. We are picked up from our Hotel in a small bus and transferred to a bigger bus and there are 16 on the tour. We are the only English speakers. We drive down the remaining rambla to the edge of Montevideo. The rambla goes for 22 kms from north to south Montevideo. Then we pass through the countryside, very flat as Uruguay has only 5 hills and the highest of those is 250m, so no mountain climbing here! There are some of the 11.5 million cows, sheep and horses. We don’t see any crops in this area, but Uruguay does grow rice and exports to China who can’t grow enough for their own needs. We cut back into the coast and visit our first stop, Piriapolis, a town built by Francisco Piria, from the money he made from the sugar cane he grew in the area. He built himself a castle to live in and then in 1930, the 300 room impressive and imposing Hotel Argentino on the rambla. He organised holidays there for the wealthy from Argentina. The beach is long and protected and we climb up to the top of one of the Argentina’s 5 hills for a view over the town and port.
We continue on to Casapueblo, the home of Carlos Paez Vilaro, the famous artist. He built this house over 30 years, with the help of his friends, into the side of the cliff overlooking the ocean. It is all white with some blue touches and there are very few straight lines. It is sprawling with one area on the left still the home of his widow, the central area the museum of this work and life and the area on the right, is a Hotel. He was a prolific artist, painting both murals and canvas, sculpting and using mosaics. He was also a big traveller, especially to Africa where he loved the music and brought the style of music called Condomba to Uruguay. This music uses 3 drums and the dance is done by planting your feet on the ground and moving your hips. In his artwork he often depicted the sun in various stylised forms and he also loved cats both as pets and also depicted them in his works. Another thing he is know for, is his son (Carlos Páez Rodríguez) was one of the 16 survivors of the Andean plane crash in 1972. His son along with the surviving 15 others spent 72 days in freezing temperatures after a plane crash and had to resort to canabalism to survive. He was the only parent that never gave up. that his son was alive and would return home.
We continue on to Punta del Este which has a population of 12,000 which swells to 500,000 in the summer months. It was originally a small fishing village and now there are high rise apartment blocks everywhere and estates with huge mansions where the rich and famous spend their summers. We drive past many houses and the guide explains who some of the owners are, rich football players and singers etc. No-one we know! On the beachfront we drive past a house owned by George Bush, and also a Trump tower under construction. Most, and that is probably 90% of the homes and apartments are closed up, curtains drawn and window shutters closed. It has the feel of being deserted. It’s only Spring here so too cold for the beach.
We are dropped off in town for 3 hours. Phil and I walk to ‘the hand’ which was the winning sculpture in a competition. The hand is the five fingers, from the knuckle to the nail, sticking out of the sand on Playa Brava beach. Interesting! We share a hamburger, and you guessed it, chips, for lunch and then go for a walk along the main street. It’s not as flashy and exclusive as I expected. There are 2 casinos but they are bland square buildings with no bells and whistles. Punta del Este is okay but nothing really special. It's not as flashy as Vegas or even the Gold Coast. Phil manages to buy a pair of thongs and then we decide to walk along the beach to fill in the rest of our time. We walk past the hand to the point but along the way we can see a small black thing lying on the sand. As we get closer we can see that it is a baby sea lion. It looks thin and I don’t think it looks well. It does look small to be away from its mother. Nothing we can do - unfortunately.
Back at 4pm to meet the bus for the 2 hour trip, back to our Hotel. The tour had its good and not so good bits. The guides English was not great. Her accent made her hard to understand and some of her sentances didnt make sense! Casapubelo was good, el mano (the hand) and the beach were intersting and it was great to see some coutryside of Uruguay but Punta del Este didn't really impress. Tonight we are eating at the Trouville Pizza Restaurant. We will have to find some healthier food in Colonia or back in Buenos Aires as we seem to be eating too many carbs and not enough fresh fruit and vegetables.