WARNING: Here comes a long one. You might want to leave this report for some moment when you have absolutely nothing else to do. ^^
Welcome to this hop over the humongous Río de la Plata (La Plata River), which flows between Argentina and Uruguay. I'll be departing from beautiful Carrasco airport, in Montevideo, on my way back home after my winter holidays. :'''(
This is leg 6 of 8 of my winter holidays trip. You can also read the reports for legs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8.
But before we embark, you are kindly invited to enjoy some great views of Uruguay in this…
Tourism Bonus - Ramblas, Art, and Glamour
A little country squeezed between two giant neighbors (Brazil and Argentina), Uruguay usually goes unnoticed for travellers. However, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph, "picturesque, progressive and culturally sophisticated" Uruguay has become "South America’s fastest growing tourist destination".
In my previous report we visited Montevideo's astonishing Old City. Now let's enjoy some other views of the city, and pay a visit to "glamorous" Punta del Este - with a stop in the city of Piriápolis - and Casapueblo, the fantastic house and atellier of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró.
> Las Ramblas (Montevideo's Waterfront)
My host invites me to go on a bike ride along the Ramblas, Montevideo's long, picturesque waterfront. We will bike some 10km, starting at Sarandí breakwater, towards the east, up to the large Montevideo sign, a popular tourist landmark.
View from the tip of Sarandí breakwater. People come fishing here.
We will bike along the Ramblas towards the east.
First important building as we leave the breakwater: Proamar building. It's where I'm staying!! It's on the corner of Ciudadela Street, at the edge of the Old City. Just like many other buildings in the Old City, it has the category of National Monument.
We leave the older boroughs behind as we bike east.
Punta Carretas. This peninsula stretches southwards, and it sort of marks a border between the east and west halves of the city. I'm startled at the state of neglect of this area, which should be one of the trendiest in the city.
There's a lighthouse here. We climb to the top for a fee of UYU 25 (less than one USD)
Punta Carretas and its lighthouse seen from a distance.
Older boroughs west of Punta carretas…
…and newer, more affluent areas to the east.
General Artigas Boulevard runs from north to south…
…down to Punta Carretas.
Punta Carretas is the southernmost point of Uruguay. No more Uruguay beyond this point! Looks quite neglected for such a relevant place.
…built around 1910 by Humberto Pittamiglio, who was an architect and the disciple of Francisco Piria, a mason who stood out for being an alchemist and the founder of Piriápolis, a city that we will be visiting in this bonus, too. This building is now a cultural center.
A little later I get my first sight of the Montevideo sign…
…which stands in the Kibón esplanade.
Bahía del Buceo (Diving Bay), a few meters beyond the esplanade, also has an interesting view of the city.
On the way back home we stop at this stall selling "tortas fritas" (fried cakes) which are also very popular in my country, but under the name "sopaipillas".
I never tried them with cream cheese and quince jam before, though!
But my host preferst to stop at this hamburguer stall. They have a huge variety of fillings! These ubiquitous stalls are a great option to eat in Uruguay.
I take a full day bus trip to Punta del Este, a resort city some 200km east of Montevideo. Our first stop is Piriáolis…
…which was founded by Francisco Piria, who, as I mentioned before, was a mason, and was very interested in alchemy.
This is the view from the top of San Antonio hill. The city has several hints of its founder's beliefs…
…such as buildings in the shape of an H, or 33-step stairs.
You can get to the top of San Antonio hill by car or using this chairlift. Unfortunately, it is too windy and cold today.
On the top of the hill is San Antonio chapel. Some people ask this "saint" for someone they can marry.
There's a hugely popular song that mentions this belief, though it's not a religious song. It was written by an Argentine, but it is hugely popular in my country, and it's part of the dance music repertoire at almost every Christmas or New Year's party. It tells about someone advicing a girl to ask San Antonio for a boyfriend. The chorus goes "That's why I advice you to go to mass (every Sunday, every Sunday), Ask San Antonio to send you a boyfriend (every Sunday, every Sunday).
Now that you're here, why don't you do some dancing?! You'll love this cheerful music style. Here's the song played by one of the most popular cumbia bands in Chile. Sing along!
Por eso te aconsejo que vayas a misa (todos los domingos, todos los domingos) Pedile a San Antonio que te mande un novio (todos los domingos, todos los domingos)
Views of the countryside…
…and the suburbs of Piriápolis…
…as we climb down the hill.
Back on the road to Punta del Este. This is where we were coming from.
These rolling slopes remind me a lot of some places near my home in Chile.
Some kilometers before Punta del Este we leave the main road again and head to Punta Ballena. We'll visit the home of Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. We can see Punta del Este from here, though it's partly hidden by an island.
And here we are!
The entrance. Carlos Páez built this house without a plan…
Páez says that he wanted to imitate the way ovenbirds build their nests.
Its laberynthic interior…
…hosts several exhibitions…
…including paintings and sculptures.
He was much of a cat lover…
…which automatically puts him on my list of favorite artists, though my untrained eye (and intelect) are not enough to fully understand his work.
Something tells me that his work was not meant to be understood, but simply admired. Just like cats!
Several cats roam freely among the visitors. This one in particular is looking for a warm place on this cold day.
He lets me pet him, but he lets out a grunt like saying "Gosh, another visitor. Just leave me alone!"
The sun was also among Páez's favorite themes.
One exhibition tells the story of Casapueblo…
…how it was designed…
…and how it grew year after year.
Carlos Páez had a pet goat!! I know they are as cute as cats.
One of Carlos Páez's children, also named Carlos, was one of the rugby players in flight 571 of the Uruguayan Air Force, which crashed in the Andes in 1972.
Páez kept looking for his son even after the rescue teams stopped searching for survivors. He knew that he and Carlos were looking at the same moon every night, so he felt it was the only link between the two of them. These are cutouts from newspapers announcing that survivors had been found 72 days after the accident, Paez´s son among them. He then wrote the book Between My Son And Me, The Moon.
Still some minutes before we continue our trip to Punta del Este. Let's go for a walk outside Casapueblo.
The house was built on cliffs…
…but some tracks let you get closer to the water…
…and see the house from a different angle.
We leave Punta Ballena and head for Punta del Este at last.
The tour guide won't stop repeating how "glamorous", chic and exclusive this city is, that some of the richest people in the world have summer houses there, and that it's a vacationing spot for Holliwood stars. I shrik in my seat. I hope they won't find out that I always fly economy! :(
> Punta del Este
Wherever you look, Punta del Este is linked to words like "exclusive", "glamour", "wealth" and "rich", and our tour guide is quite emphatic about it. She might be right. From the very beginning I can see glamorous apartment buildings and perfectly manicured gardens everywhere.
The guide tells us that this hotel is so exclusive and refined, that the only way we could ever see the inside of it would be cleaning it. Well, she doesn't use those words, but she makes sure we feel like that.
We are asked whether we want to go on the city tour at once or have lunch first. We are all a bit hungry by now, so we decide to have lunch. The guide says we will visit a certain restaurant, and she strongly suggests we try "brótola" a local fish. She is extremely enthusiastic about it, as if the pelagic creature had been brought by Poseidon himself to Punta del Este for our delight. She emphasizes that we are not forced to have lunch in that particular restaurant, though. Lunch is not included in the price of the tour.
We are brought to this place near the yatch club. I'm not telling you the name of the restaurant, but it's there. People from the restaurant are waiting for us at the bus door and hand each one of us a copy of menu. We are not forced, she said?
Anyway, I think I will follow the guide's suggestion and try the brótola. I sit at a table and check the menu. Yikes! No dishes under 600 UYU. The brótola is 660 UYU (23 USD) Quite expensive for my hamburguer-stall standards! The description reads: Grilled (brótola), with lemon sauce, sautéed arugula, cherry tomatoes, and sesame seeds, with quinoa and vegetables as a side dish. Let it be.
Let's have a look at the wine list, though I'm not ordering any. Chilean wines are more expensive than the rest. Mish!* Does it mean better quality? This stirs the tiny little bit of chauvinism inside of me. (Don't blame me. You should know that rampant chauvinism is tightly knitted into Chilean DNA)
* Chilean expression meaning "Wow! That's completely unexpected!" or "This really improves my opinion about it!" Said when you hear about something or somebody that turned out to be much better than expected. For example: "Did you hear about Miguel, the former janitor? He's got a PhD now." "Mish!"
So, the time has come to enjoy that brótola, the sautéed arugula, the quinoa, the vegetables… a dish that's a worthy representative of the overwhelming local glamour The waiter comes and brings me… THIS??!!
B… But this is nothing but fish and a some boiled carrot sticks and two or three boiled green beans!!! Where's the glamour in thisl!!
Faithful to my Chilean heritage, I don't raise my voice and throw the dish over the chef's head. Rather, I sit silently in a slow seethe….
…and write to mommy. "Mother, this 16,000 CLP dish of a fish called brótola can't be compared to your merluza." A deserved acknowlegment. In fact, I learn later that brótola and the humble Chilean merluza belong to the same fish family.
Thinking that I have misread the menu, I finish my disappointing meal and pay in silence. But I'm still hungry! I go out of the restaurant and ask a man working at this parking lot about some good place to eat a chivito, the traditional Uruguayan sandwich.
He points in that direction, and says there's is a chivitería just some meters away. If only I had kown!
I think I can see something there.
Aha! It's Marcos Chivitería. WhenI tell my host in Montevideo about it later, he immediately recognizes it. They have great sandwiches there.
I order a Chivito canadiense. No idea where it takes its name from, but Canadian chivitos are heavenly! I can feel the glamour coming back to me!! Look at that sandwich…
LOOK AT IT!!!
That chivito was a life savior. The tour continues after lunch (and after another Chilean in the tour also complains about the food at the restaurant) We go sightseeing along the beach…
…and around the most glamorous of the glamorous avenues of Punta del este.
Oh - my - gosh! Look at that!! Mr. Outsourcing Slayer is building his tower south of his beloved wall!!
"ULTRA exclusive becomes real" he proclaims. Suddenly I feel sick. Did I eat too much? Or is it the "ultra" pungent smell of sh*t coming from the outside?
A little later the bus parks somewhere near the beach…
…and we are free to go for a walk.
I visit these large fingers on the beach. They're called La Mano (The Hand), and they're the work of a Chilean artist.
I find lots of these sort of semi-translucid balloons scattered all over the beach.
The eggs of some sea creature! Turtles, perhaps? I want to take one home, but they shrink and wrinkle as they dry off, just like a piece of skin when you cut it off. Actually, they feel much like skin.
So I leave those egg-shells there and head back to the bus. It's time to go.
The sun is setting on the way back to Montevideo. I'm so sleepy after so much gamour… and that huge chivito. Too bad the time is coming to board my flight back to Chile.
Back to MVD
I have mixed feelings today. On one hand, I am on my way back home after some fantastic holidays. On the other, I will have the chance to see MVD in detail for the first time after some ten years!
You can take the bus to the airport at the Baltazar Brum bus station on the corner of Galicia and Rio Branco streets. I walk there. It's just some streets from my airbnb.
The price is 58 UYU (2 USD) Incredibly cheap! The trip takes some 40 minutes.
The bus stops at the cargo area first. This is the roundabout outside.
Then it takes the main road again…
…and continues to the airport.
There are some old aircraft by the road.
We come to a second roundabout…
…from where the terminal is visible.
Defunct PLUNA used to be Uruguay's flag carrier airline. After ir went belly up in 2012, some of its former workers started a new airline, Alas Uruguay. They struggled to survive, but they eventually went down, too, and guess where are their planes now.
In Chile! LAW airlines (Latin American Wings), the controversial airline I covered in this report, had offered some kind of agreement to refloat Alas Uruguay, but they ended up keeping their aircraft. I took this photo of those former Alas uruguay aircraft being painted with LAW livery at Santiago airport last January. That's a sad story.
All these old aircraft in the exhibition belong to the Museo Aeronáutico, next to the access to Carrasco airport.
Montevideo's Amazing Carrasco Airport
Carrasco is one of those easily accessible airports that I like so much. Even if the bus didn't come to the terminal's door, you could still walk from the main road.
Carrasco airport and its futuristic lines. It looks like something taken from The Jetsons, doesn't it??
E = Parking? It's because the Spanish word for parking is estacionamiento.
The bus drops you…
…at ground level…
…so this one will be…
…a strange tour, starting here, at the second floor, where the Aerolíneas Argentinas/Austral counter has not opened yet.
Good thing, because I have an urgent thing to do. Aahh… many hooks for your clothes! How I appreciate that!
My favorite amenity ever: toilet seat covers.
Another great thing: that metal cover hides a movement sensor. You only need to lean a little forward or sideways to trigger the automatic flush, a priceless feature when it comes to covering unpleasant sounds.
Everything is impeccable…
…and smells nicer than my own bathroom. Well, anything smells nicer than my bathroom.
Perfect timing! The counter has opened.
Woo - hoo! A proper boarding pass at last!
I always get a thermal paper print.
It’s around 10:50 a.m. an boarding time is at 11:25. I have just enough time for my flight-reporting duties. Let’s go for a walk around the second floor. A shop of the tico (Costa Rican) BrittShop chain (thanks, Jetsetpanda, for the information) just beside the counters.
Walking towards the other end I see a farmacia on the left, and more counters and two overly-tanned, skin-cancer-defiant, semi-naked people on the right inviting me to use a certain fragrance.
Looking back at Aerolíneas Argentinas counters.
I wonder if they have something for a broken heart there. Not that I need it. LOL.
Even the FIDS screens were designed specifically for this airport.
Amaszonas is a Bolivian airline. I’m impressed at how much they have expanded. They have subsidiaries Amaszonas Uruguay, Amaszonas Paraguay, etc. There’s no Amaszonas Chile, but they do have a city hopper linking some cities in the north of the country, thought their prices are very high. I don’t know what they do to keep their business profitable there.
Let’s turn around. Those are the escalators to the ground level on the right, and the access to security check on the left. But let’s climb the stairs underneath the leering couple first.
They take us here, to the third floor. View to the left…
…and to the right. Those glass panels…
…separate the observation deck from the rest of the floor. Observation deck to the left…
…and to the right.
Antel is the local telecommunications company. I used their services during my stay. Excellent.
I can bear witness to the fact that waste is classified and recycled or disposed of accordingly in Uruguay. You will see the same trash bins in Chile, but it’s only a scam.
At the far end of the third floor… woooow!!
…in honor of Cesáreo Berisso…
…the forefather of Uruguayan aviation.
Some of Berisso's…
He won a raid from Buenos Aires, on the Atlantic, to Mendoza, on a little plane like that!
Those must have been exciting times. What would Berisso say of the crowds queuing to board a plane these days? Well, not here, at least.
Let’s walk to the other end.
Not a big crowd here, either.
If you read my report about Copiapó airport, you will notice a big difference: natural light. Plenty of it.
On the ground floor, this a welcome message: “World, welcome to Uruguay.” And the “Hola!” sign that welcomes visitors.
Let’s go downstairs. The ground floor is a waiting area…
…with an information desk…
…tourist information, car rental…
…Antel, where you can buy a phone chip…
It’s time we go upstairs again.
Security check. This is going to be fast.
Immediately beyond the checkpoint, duty free.
This is shameful. Chile = wine, earthquakes, international pickpockets. Just in case, we also have two Nobel laureates.
The boarding room extends to both sides from the duty free area. To the left…
To the right, Victoria's Secret…
…a view of the area beside the terminal…
…access to VIP lounge (the dark spot on the right is the top of a head)…
…and my gate.
People are already waiting…
…and the staff are getting everything ready for boarding.
And here we go.
I feel lucky today. This lady walks slowly enough…
…for me to enjoy the view on both…
…sides of the ramp…
…without annoying anyone.
The ramp connects to the jetway at this sort of hall…
…equipped with wheelchairs, an elevator, stairs…
…and where I can take a nice shot of LV-CEV.
We keep going down the jetway now…
…with a fantastic view of the terminal. That access under that ramp is where I arrived last week!
On the other side, a LATAM aircraft has just arrived.
It was a long way down here!
We have to walk through the Cóndor cabin.
Cóndor cabin seat.
The best views I can get of the cabin. I won’t have time to leave my seat.
I know I won’t be using this this time. :(
Safety card both sides.
Inflight magazine. Alta is the feminine form of alto, "high."
Inside, “all you need to know”. I need to know why I am not getting my snack box if I was offered one.
Some airports. Very practical.
AR and AU’s fleet…
…and their routes.
Great seat pitch.
Aahh… Life is good.
Overhead panel. Looks a bit grimy, doesn’t it?
Cabin ready to depart.
The safety video plays in Spanish…
…and “replays” in English.
IFE main screen. I navigated the menus a little in my previous report. Doesn’t make much sense in a 20-minute flight.
To the runway.
We’ll take off towards the west.
And off we go.
Carrasco was a very pleasant surprise.
By far themost beautiful little airport I have seen.
It looked empty today, but I wonder if it won’t become too small in the short term. In the first semester of this year there were more tourists than inhabitants in Uruguay.
We climb above Roosevelt Park…
…and the neighborhood of Barra de Carrasco…
…and leave the city (and the country) flying above Playa Verde and Playa La Mulata, with the yatch club between them.
This is the route that we will follow across La Plata river. The river mouth is more than 200km wide!
The brown waters of the Río de la Plata…
…and those of the Antlantic meet and blend together.
This is a strange view. The clouds above the river look brown, too, as if reflecting the water beneath them, and sunrays fall among them forming countless beams of light. “Aurora platensis”? XDD
A solitary tanker seems to be on route to Montevideo.
And only minutes after takeoff we can see the coast of Argentina…
And did you know that it was called Eva Perón City between 1952 and 1955?
We continue flying west to reach the outskirts of the giant…
With almost 14 million inhabitants…
…it’s one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.
I don’t even know what I’m looking at.
I just know that these are the southern outskirts of the city…
…and that the city seems to stretch forever across the plains of the pampa.
Flying over the Matanza-Riachuelo river…
…and a housing project with a name as whimsical as its design: Barrio General de División Manuel Nicolás Savio Lugano I y II
Buenos Aires seems to have all the space in the world to grow and grow.
The intersection of Luis Dellepiane and General Paz avenues.
A minute later…
…we bank to the right…
…and I can see the edge of La Plata river on the other side.
I just shoot before something blocks the view.
I didn’t realize I photographed AEP until I was preparing this report!
We bank to the right again.
On my side, the waters of river Paraná reflecting the sunlight in the distance.
We are already…
… on final approach…
The very kind lady on the window seat across the aisle leans back and lets me take some shots of downtown Buenos Aires as we land.
Some technical details of this flight, according to flightaware.com.
Back at MVD
On my side… what?! A 737-200 under the trees?
It’s old LV-WGX, which used to belong to the defunct Argentine airline American Falcon. There’s another, smaller aircraft “stored” beside.
AEP is a small airport…
…but taxiing to our position takes quite long today.
We won’t be using a jetway this time…
…but will park in a remote position by AR’s LV-BZO, still featuring AR’s old livery…
…and LV-GIJ. Flyest is a Spanish airline that started flying this year in Argentina.
It’s a busy day at AEP…
…and the ground staff are frantic performing their coordinated ballet…
…among leaving and arriving aircraft.
A bit more to the left.
A bit more to the right.
Mission accomplished. He looks as cheerful as me at the end of the school day.
Some views of the seats…
…and the cabin before I leave.
The bus is waiting for us. Well done, AEP. Well done! XDD
A beautiful experience flying on my second Embraer 190. I hope it will be a longer flight next time.
Now, to the cage waiting room…
…to wait for my connection to Santiago. Those boarding gates on the right. What about sliding doors and air conditioning inside?
I follow this man upstairs…
…and arrive at a familiar spot. I came through the open door on the right when I arrived from Santiago the week before.
There’s a security checkpoint in that dark corner.
No one can tell that behind that cold door after the checkpoint…
…there’s a completely different world.
I paid a visit to the restrooms in preparation for my next flight, departing in a couple of hours.
MVD must be the only airport in the world where you can break a finger just by flushing the toilet.
Flight AR1286 is “en horario” (on time). Thank goodness! Let’s hope it will stay that way.
Congratulations for reading down to this point. You’re a very patient person!
Austral Líneas Aéreas
Montevideo - MVD
Buenos Aires - AEP
Austral Líneas Aéreas I still resent not being given my snack, when I had been offered one. Great airline in all other aspects.
MVD Charming, modern, clean, adorable little airport. I wish all airports were like this.
AEP Does the job, but it's collapsing with so many flights. I have been told that many wflights will be moved to EZE, though. Gate doors that open only when the shuttle bus has arrived would be a great improvement, considering Buenos Aires weather: freeazing in winter and scorching hot in summer.
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