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Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2003
South American Adventure - Part 2

Montevideo, Uruguay

The morning began with the "Art and Architecture" tour of Montevideo town. We began by driving along the waterfront, passing the new Telecomms building, completed earlier in 2003, and designed by Carlos Ott.

We continued north to the Liberty Building and the garden of 11 modern sculptures. The first sculpture was made in 1966 and is in the centre of a roundabout. It has the shape of a tuning fork, and is a Monument to Luis Batlle Berres.

The other sculptures in the park shown below are from later, mostly from 1996.

We retraced our steps back to the waterfront and into the narrow streets of the Old Town.

We stopped for 5 minutes at Constitution Square to take photos, and several of us managed to get across to the Cathedral and still have time to browse the stalls. The fountain in the middle of the square was by Gianni Ferrari. Then we continued to the excellent Gaucho Museum. The building housing the museum is magnificent, built in 1896. There is a good description of the gauchos, including a collection of typical rural silverwork. The mate pots, some silver and all highly decorated, are used for drinking the infusion. There are also a number of different sorts of bombilla used to suck the liquid - rather like a straw with a strainer at the end. The Gaucho Museum is sponsered by the Banco de la Republica Oriental del Uruguay.

We drove down the Avda 18 de Julio to the Plaza Independencia, where the main interest is the statue of General Jose Gervasio Artigas , the father of Uruguay, and his Mausoleum. Around the square there is the Estevez Palace, the former seat of Government, and the Palacio Salvo, once the tallest building in Uruguay. Nearby is the Teatro Solis which is being rebuilt after a fire.

Just a few steps from the Gateway on the western corner is the Museum of J Torres Garcia, a modern Uruguay artist. His most famous pictures use only the colours red, yellow, blue, white and black.

Our final visit was to the Romantic Museum. The house is on the first floor, with a central square courtyard. The building has been deliberately filled with typical furniture and artifacts of Victorian times, and is a real journey back to those days. Even the materials used have been made copied from originals.

After a quick lunch on QE2 we were off again, this time to visit the vineyard of Juanico, some 50 kms north of Montevideo. We were surprised that the country outside Montevideo was very flat, and quickly became agricultural. The village of Juanico comprised a number of small detached whitewashed bungalows, each with their own neat garden.

On the coach we were handed a brochure about the vineyard, and tasting notes on the wines. The predominant grape variety is the Tannat, which came originally from the Madiran Region in the SouthWest of France. The main building has a nice large reception area with a comfortable tasting room. The large round tables were made from the trees which fell in the recent hurricane. Our tour began with a short visit to the cellars where the wines are stored in French or American oak barrels. We were not able to see any more details of the manufacturing process, although there was a bottling line running in the next building, and there were a number of stainless steel and concrete fermentation vessels in the open air, sheltered from the sun by a canopy.

The four wines offered for tasting were Vinison Richards Chardonnay, then the Reserve Shiraz Tannat, followed by the Tannat Roble and finally the Preludio Barrel Select. The Chardonnay had a nice bouquet and taste at the beginning, but faded as time passed and the wine warmed up. We were provided with rolls, cheese and salamis to go between the white and red wines. The Shiraz/Tannat was a nice light blend. The Tannat Roble had a good varietal character, but the Preludio was more refined and ready to drink now. We bought a special pack of 4 bottles which included a Cava which was bottled on site using traditional methods, supervised by a retired staff member from Perrier-Jouet. After the tasting we were taken around the vineyards, passing the artificial lake which is to assure plenty of water for irrigation, and then getting a good view of the site from the watch tower.

The following morning we had time to walk around the port area. We knew that the Mercado in the port was an interesting place with lots of restaurants, but had not realised that the building would be so pretty. Apparently it had been originally commissioned as a railway station but then not delivered, and ended up in Uruguay. While it was indeed full of restaurants, there were gift shops and artists. We bought a woodcut picture of the inside of the building, coloured with chalk and crayon. It was still being finished when we purchased it. The artist also had a nice panoramic view of Montevideo.

Too soon it was "All aboard". It was expected that we would pass the wreck of the WWII casualty Graf Spee and lots of passengers took pictures of a promising mast sticking up above the water, only to be told that it was the Campion Star.

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