Thursday 28th January
Another 6.30am alarm to watch the sail into Montevideo. The buildings emerged out of a misty dawn, lining the edge of the river for miles either side. We didn't have to go in backwards this time but pulled up level with the quayside and then were pushed sideways into our berth by a large flat tugboat. We were alongside the huge Crystal Symphony cruise liner, just metres from her nose with several of her upper decks towering over us. The port was in the oldest part of the city and it was a 5 minute walk from the ship right into the old town centre. We found the Tourist Information Office to get a map and the girl behind the counter was very helpful, showing us where the major tourist attractions were and recommending that we went into the City Hall up to the 22nd floor where there was an observation deck that gave you 360 degree view across the city. After a look in the local artisan craft shop next to the Tourist Information Office we mapped out an approximate route through the pedestrianised part of the old town to the City Hall, down to the riverside and back to the port. We walked though streets lined with buildings only a few storeys high with huge ornate double doors. Most had crumbling plaster exteriors and worn carved stone decoration but that was part of their charm. We passed the organic Cannabis seed shop and cafe (it did not sell Cannabis though the sign outside the shop said) - the Uruguayan Government has legalised Cannabis in the attempt that they can control it and it is legal to grow your own. Further on we got to a small park - Plaza Constitucion - where there was an outdoor antiques market. As we went on through the pedestrianised part there were several market stalls down the middle of the street selling various crafts, bags, clothes, leather goods, hats, jewellery, souvenirs etc. All around were modern shops too and some of which were very upmarket. We came to the Plaza Independencia (Independence Place) with a large statue of a man on a horse in the middle. The big open square was surrounded by huge buildings both old and modern in different styles. We walked across the square right and down the main street, called18 July Avenue. We passed Locks Fountain, a small fountain surrounded by an ornate metal fence covered in padlocks - a sign read 'The legend of this young fountain tells us that if a lock with the initials of two people in love is placed in it, they will return together to the fountain and their love will be locked forever...' I couldn't see any locks actually in the fountain, they were all on the fence...
When we got to the City Hall we had to go down to the basement to find the elevator to the 22nd floor. The doors opened and we got into the tiny glass elevator that went up the outside of the building to the top. It was another clear hot sunny day and through the open topped glass edged walkway around the building we could see for miles across the city and out to sea. We could see the port, but our view of the Marco Polo was obscured by buildings. After coming back down we made for the river's edge, which actually looks like the sea because the other side of the river is over 100 miles away and you can't see it (on a clear day you can normally see about 20 miles across water to the horizon). There are also beaches dotted along it. We walked along the wide pavement/promenade beside the river, making our way back into the old town and port area. Along the way I happened to glance up at old framework for a gas reservoir and saw a rainbow in the sky, except it wasn't a normal rainbow, it was straight across the sky with a slight upward curve. It was very bright - there is probably a special name for it. There was also a rainbow halo around the sun too. Several photos later we moved on and passed the Teatro Solis (Solis Theatre), the oldest Theatre in Montevideo, opened in 1856. A very impressive Roman temple type building with huge columns at its entrance. After that we went to a cafe restaurant called Cafe Brasilero that I had seen in a leaflet handed to us at the port. Founded in 1877 it had kept its Art Nouveau style and had a wooden and glass facade, high ceilings, a wooden floor and part wood panelled walls with white walls above and lots of antique style pictures. It was on a side street called Ituzaingo and unfortunately there were road works outside so it was a little noisy. Afterwards we walked through another outdoor market and Martin bought another souvenir t-shirt in a nearby shop (which was quite good because that meant I didn't have to wash one of the ones he brought with him!). I went into what I thought was an indoor fruit & veg market that had been mentioned in the ships' Port Guide, but it was an indoor eating area in the 'Sea Port Market' - an old market hall with individual cafes & restaurants where you could see the food being cooked over open fires and elevated grills. It was fascinating! Half the people in there were eating and the other half were walking in between the restaurants just watching everything like us.
Then it was back to the ship ready for the sail away at 5.30pm. As we left the port we waved up to another cruise ship - Rhapsody of the Seas - was that the Royal Caribbean ship we had been on for the day when we were in Sydney with Sam and Laurie? We also passed close to a ship's graveyard where lots of old rusting ships lay close together, some half submerged or almost on their sides, they looked so sad.
After dinner we went back to the cabin and both of us fell asleep so we missed the evening entertainment!