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Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
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Montevideo, Uruguay - Monday 6 February

We had also previously visited Montevideo on the QE2, touring the city in the morning and then visiting the Juanico winery in the afternoon. This visit we decided to explore the city independently.

Montevideo is Uruguay's capital and the port is just inside the estuary of the Rio de la Plata. The Bay is shallow and large ships have to use the dredged and buoyed channels. Buenos Aires is on the other side of the Bay and much further away from the Atlantic Ocean, again access is only by buoyed channel and supervised by pilots.

Unfortunately the wind had been very strong overnight and we saw gusting of 68 knots on the TV Channel 46 which gives navigation information. Although the Queen Victoria coped well with the weather conditions, the ships which were already berthed in Montevideo could not depart. We had to wait outside until the wind reduced, as the forecast did expect it all to get better during the morning. Eventually we joined a procession down the buoyed channel into the port, following the cruise ship Norwegian Sun.

It is not far to walk from the gangway to the Port Gate. Guide books about Montevideo and Uruguay are scarce so it was good to be given a brochure about the Old Town, including a walking tour to see the historic buildings and museums. The map marked the key public spaces : the Mercado del Puerto, the Plaza Zabala, the Plaza Constitution, the Peatonal Sarandi, the Peatonal Bacacay and the Plaza Independencia. The Mercado del Puerto had been a highlight of our previous visit. It still has some local craft stalls but they are mostly on the pavement outside. Now it is full of bars and restaurants, all getting their BBQ fires ready for cooking. We have a painting of the building with its central clock but could not find the artist again.

Walking towards Sarandi, first impressions are of nice old houses, some sadly left to decay. There are many pedestrian streets and it is possible to not share with a car from the start of the walking tour at the port until the end in the Plaza Independencia. The intention was to explore, and not spend too much time inside buildings, unless the weather changed.

Plaza Zabala, just to the side off Sarandi, is a nice park with a central statue dedicated to the Buenos Aires Governor Zabala who founded Montevideo in 1726 and established a Spanish fortress. There were several items we hoped to buy while exploring - coffee, granola and local wines. Returning to Sarandi the shops changed and there was a nice wine shop - "Esencia Uruguay". Prices for local Tannat wines started at 200 peso, around 8 US$, and good quality wines were between 300 and 600 pesos. The only problem was that there was too much choice and the customs limit for New Zealand is only 6 bottles.The Cathedral at the Plaza Constitucion is impossible to photograph from the park because of all the trees and foliage, but is interesting inside. At the other side of the park is the Municipal Building, the Cabildo, which had an interesting free museum about the port of Montevideo on the ground floor, in spanish. It was here that the Constitution was signed. Continuing along Sarandi it was not far to the only remaining Gate of the original Citadel It is one of five monuments which are original remains or reconstructions of the old wall that defended the city during the colonial period. The Gate led into the Plaza Independencia. At the centre is the statue of independence hero José Artigas and the subterranean Mausoleo de Artigas where an honor guard keeps 24-hour vigil over Artigas’ remains. Significant buildings around the square include the Government House (Palacio Estevez), and the Palacio Salvo. On the corner is Montevideo's Opera House, the Teatro Solis.

The main shopping street, Avenida 18 de Julio, starts at the Palacio Salvo, and continues beyond the Museum of the Gaucho, our final target for the walk. The Museum of the Gaucho in the Heber-Jackson Palace is worth the detour. The building dates from 1896 and is in an area of many other interesting buildings of the same time. The house was acquired by Banco Republica in 1983 and has been restored to preserve the historical and architectural heritage. It is open on weekdays and entry is free. The first floor exhibition rooms are used to display art and there is a permanent exhibition of banking and finance. The Gaucho Museum is on the second floor and although it was allowed to take photos it was very difficult because the collection is all behind thick glass. The gaucho art and silver collection is one of the most important collections in Uruguay and it is an extraordinary and beautiful collection of mates (drinking vessels), belts, waistbands, knives, spears, spurs and other tools essential to the work of the gaucho. (museodelgaucho@brou.com.uy). There are many other restored buildings in this area and throughout our route back, including the Casa de Rivera which is now the Museo Historico Nacional. Fructuoso Rivera was the first President of Uruguay and this residence used to belong to him.

The return walk was quicker, although there were stops to buy coffee at the Palacio del Cafe in Av Uruguay near the Teatro Solis, and then at the Esencia Uruguay for wine.

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Content revised: 17th July, 2020