Friday, January 22, 2010

Uruguay, Day 4

Fruit seller in Montevideo.

So I left a bit of paradise today when I said goodbye to San Pedro de Timote (people and animals included). There wasn’t much to my morning besides showering, having breakfast, thanking Beto the gaucho, petting the cats and dogs, and then grabbing a taxi for the 11 km ride down a long dirt road to the Cerro Colorado bus station.

I was taken to a different part of Cerro Colorado (population ~2000) that served as a “station” – instead of the gas station where I was dropped off before, I was let out in front of a small shop and closed-down bank.

It was a quaint little area in the middle of nowhere, and I had a 15-minute wait before the bus arrived. With nothing else to do, I wandered this way and that, confirming that in fact, nope, there was nothing at all around.

Like I said, there's not much here.

The bus ride was fine. I wasn’t clear on where I was supposed to sit, so a teenage boy pointed to the seat beside him and told me I could sit there. As a way of saying thanks I offered some crackers to him, which he declined, and twenty minutes later he offered me some of his potato chips, which I snatched from him and poured down my throat. I’m kidding – I declined, too. At another point during the trip I couldn’t figure out how to straighten my seat, and a woman behind me helped me figure out the half-stuck lever I needed to pull. These probably seem like mundane details, but to me these were small kindnesses that stay with me on a long journey. They tell me what people are like, and it’s good to feel I’m taken care of given the various missteps I always make. This isn’t always how it goes. Reading some of my past entries should make that perfectly clear.

By the time we arrived at Tres Cruces terminal it was 2:30 p.m. I got hold of a taxi, and to my surprise my driver had spent a year recently living in Atlanta, Georgia. I asked him about this, and he said there was a Uruguayan community in Atlanta, and his siblings and parents all live there. He came back to Montevideo to help look after his grandparents, apparently, though he expects to return to the U.S. in another year or two. I asked him if it was hard to get a job in Montevideo, as I thought that his time abroad might allow him to get more lucrative work than that of a taxi driver, and he said, “No, it’s easy to find a job here. In Uruguay, everyone is lazy and doesn’t like to work.” Fair enough. I had a hard time understanding him, unfortunately, due to the thick glass that separated the front and back seats of his car. He soon dropped me off, anyway, and we wished each other “Suerte!”

I checked in to my hotel and asked the owners to recommend a restaurant nearby offering typical Uruguayan food. They pointed me two blocks away, very close to the ocean, to a place called Parada Sur.

The street corner where Parada Sur does its meat magic.

This place was great! Not only did the restaurant itself boast a great atmosphere, but the people working there were incredibly friendly, and the other customers were having a lot of fun. And why not? The food here was outstanding.

There was something very gaucho about this place, which was nice.

As always, I couldn’t read the menu, not even the one in English (or should I say “English”), but after getting an explanation of what pulpa is I decided to order it along with a glass of local Tannat wine. What can I say? I’m writing this after having skipped dinner tonight. There was simply no need for more food after this.

I had to include this close-up shot. The scale of the serving is a bit lost in this photo, unfortunately.

From what I can gather, pulpa in Uruguay is a boneless, grilled or charred piece of beef – from the breast, I think – served in its own juices, along with a little chimichurri (a condiment of sorts made of cooked parsley and garlic) and salsa criolla (a somewhat sweet relish made with tomato, onion, and bell peppers). This was so good, and yet it’s hard to describe. I’ve had beef plenty of times. And I’ve had steaks prepared in many styles. But this was in a class by itself. Not only that, but it was also a ludicrously enormous portion. I tried my hardest to eat the whole thing, but I ended up leaving with a few small bites left on my plate. It became difficult to eat after a while, so I had to – I had to – order a second glass of wine, which they really topped up. In Hawaii, this meal, with two glasses of wine, would have probably run me…what, $80 at least? It cost me $12! I was astounded. They asked me if I wanted to take a photo of the chef standing before his grill, and how could I pass that chance up? He was very happy today.

Meat genius.

Parada Sur is located at Paraguay 1049 esq. Carlos Gardel. Tel: 908-2327. Email:

I was desperate to walk off some of the calorie binge I was happily guilty for, so I walked another block or two to the water and soon came upon people swimming and fishing. This was, as one commenter rightly pointed out, the River Plate and not the sea as I had originally (and ignorantly) thought.

I wandered around a bit more after that, taking photos of the odd plaza, tree-lined street, colorful house, and sidewalk fruit seller. Montevideo has a very run-down feel to it, but to me I find that appealing somehow.

Tomorrow, if it’s not too hot, I plan to walk around as much of the city as I can. If it’s as hot as it was today, I may just take it easy…

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  1. Honest to goodness look beautiful .. delicious :)

    Thank you for sharing your pic , and your dishs!

    Have a great day !!

  2. So "the water looked brown and kind of disgusting". For your benefit sir, the water IS brown, although you find it kind of disgusting its perfectly alright .That water is not sea water, is RIVER water. The brownish colour is the silt carried from the tropics of Paraguay and Brasil, by the Parana and Uruguay Rivers that form the widest river in the world called River Plate. What it's really disgusting is to publish misleading "information" and convey the idea that the inhabitants of the place swim in s... because the hot weather.

  3. Foodcreate: Thank you for comment! Yes, I like it here quite a bit. And the food tastes as good as it looks. :)

    Anonymous: Thank you for correcting me. I should have checked my facts before writing what I did. I will go back later today and right my wrong. I’m sorry that you feel my post was “disgusting.” You, however, really need to lighten up. I in no way intended to convey that “inhabitants of the place swim in s…” I live in Hawaii, and the ocean there gets brown sometimes, too, often after a storm, for example, or after something has stirred up the ocean floor. I would never attempt to convey the kind of thing you’ve accused me of. I'm ashamed of getting my facts wrong, but you should be more ashamed for suggesting that I believed the ENTIRE RIVER was brown because of shit…and that people would be swimming in it. What a ridiculous idea.

  4. Sapuche - Even though I may not comment every day, can I say how much fun I am having following you on your adventures. I'm living vicariously through you while living in a cold and rainy SF. You're my daily dose of escapism and I am looking forward to day #5.

  5. OysterCulture: I'm really glad you're able to follow my travels and are having fun doing so! Sorry to hear about the cold and rain in SF. January is definitely a good time of year to hit South America. Not to rub it in or anything, but I think it's rained three times during my entire two months in the southern hemisphere. Okay, enjoy the escapism, and thanks again for stopping by!

  6. I'm with OysterCulture. I don't comment every day either but read every word and love to be there virtually. I'm in the cold rainy Puget Sound area :)

  7. Olivia: Sorry to hear about the cold and rain in Puget Sound. But I think you're lucky to live there! In any case, I'm glad that you've enjoyed my posts and can visit virtually the places I'm visiting! Have you been to South America before?