Wednesday, April 23, 2008


was fun! We thought we might not be able to go, because of all the smoke. On Friday the smoke was so thick in Buenos Aires that there was no visibility at all and the port had to close down. All the highways were closed and the bus station closed too, so I was feeling really trapped! But at the last moment the smoke lifted a bit, they opened the port, and we caught our ferry over to Montevideo. We had an hour-long ferry ride to get across the river and then a two-and-a-half-hour bus ride to get to Montevideo.

People say that Montevideo is boring and quiet, and it was kinda true, but I liked it. In general I think the vibe of the city is much more relaxed and quiet than Buenos Aires, and at night (or on Sunday morning) it can be pretty spooky, like a ghost-town. The architecture is pretty similar to Buenos Aires, which I love. On Saturday morning we went to the Old City and there were some lively bustling touristy areas. There was a fun antiques-market in Plaza Matriz. We bought some old lino-prints from the seventies to add to our growing collection of cheap art. The Ciudad Viejo in Montevideo seemed a lot like the San Telmo neighborhood in Buenos Aires; that is, lots of beautiful old buildings and cobbled streets, and some intense touristy spots and other areas that are just quiet and old. When we returned to the Ciudad Viejo in the evening, we wandered off the main drag looking for a restaurant, and suddenly all the streets were SO dark and absolutely silent and deserted, it was totally spooky and we hurried back to the main plaza.

We rented bikes for the whole day on Saturday and rode all around town. That was my favorite thing about Montevideo. It cost about US$10 to get two bikes for eight hours, and the traffic in Montevideo is totally chill. There is a bike/walk path beside La Rambla, the road that follows the seashore all around the city, past piers and parks and fishing clubs. It was beautiful riding all along the shore and looking out to sea, going past people fishing off the piers or sitting on the wall drinking mate. We also rode around the streets, which are beautiful and quiet. The cars drive in single-file (unlike in Buenos Aires) and nobody ever tries to run you over. The city is a bit hilly, but not too much.

We stayed at Red Hostel Montevideo, which was really beautiful but terribly disorganized. It's a gorgeous big old stone building that's been nicely renovated, with a cute little woodstove in the middle and a gorgeous stained-glass skylight, and a nice terraza with a bar on the roof. Our first night there, they had screwed up our reservation and had given away the room we'd reserved, so they put us in a terrible little room with awful beds, but the second day we got to move to the room we'd reserved. Then they kept asking us to pay for our room, even after we'd already paid. So, I recommend the place because it's so beautiful but they were as disorganized as any hostel.

The food in Uruguay seems to be mostly the same as Argentine food, but they do have this special combination, Chivito, that's served at all the restaurants:

It's a big steak with ham, cheese, bacon, and a fried egg on top; sitting atop a mound of french fries, melted cheese, potato salad, lettuce, tomato, carrots, beets and green beans.

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sweet relief

these pics are from last week, the left hand one is in Buenos Aires during a relatively breathable moment on Friday afternoon and the right-hand one is in Montevideo on Saturday. the smoke is lots better now. that sucked. i guess the fires are still burning, so the wind could bring the smoke back this way again anytime, but i pray it doesn't.

i heard that last week the subways were closing down because the city was so smoky that the conductors couldn't see for all the smoke in the subway tunnels! que fuerte.

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Friday, April 18, 2008


........... i promised myself not to post any more boring whiny quality-of-life posts (see: internet disaster) for a while, but OH MY GOD. this is so so so so intense i can't not write about it. Buenos Aires is totally filled with foul, evil-smelling, thick smoke. It's been here for 3 days and it's really hard to live. I mean, it's stinging my eyes and hard to breathe, and it hurts my throat and it makes my head hurt and it makes me feel sick and it wakes me up at night when I can't sleep for the stench. It's like an evil thick thick milk fog in the streets outside, but it goes all the way up into the sky and it comes inside the houses and buildings. Last night we went to see a movie at the mall, and the mall was filled with smoke and inside the theater you could see the smoke, thick in the beam of the projector. I am praying that there is no smoke in Montevideo because I can't stand it any longer. Also, I don't know if we'll be able to get to Montevideo this afternoon because I think they've closed down most of the city's roads and transportation, and maybe the port, due to low visibility.
The story is that farmers in Entre Rios have been burning fields and pastures, and that the fires have spread out of control, and the wind is bringing all the smoke straight into the city. Fires have spread to islands in the river delta, now most of the fires are on islands, which are hard to reach and extinguish. Clarin says that only a "change in the weather" can put out those fires, and firefighters are now just fighting to contain the fires from spreading further. The thing is that last week we also had one day of intense, fierce smoke, and it barely hit the news - though the brief statements said it was also attributed to farmers burning land. At that point i was all freaking out already, like "why doesn't someone do something about this?" and the president and the mayor were totally silent and there was no mention of, say, putting out the fires, or prohibiting intentional burning of farmland. Last week they just ran a statement saying it was no big deal and the smoke's not toxic. NOW the smoke is back, and it's much worse, and the government's all "oh god, it's out of control, we're doing everything we can but we can't put the fires out! we'll never allow this to happen again!" So it makes me feel like they just ignored the problem until it became too big to control, and now it's too late! Not sure if that's really accurate, but everybody knows it makes you feel a tiny bit better if you can blame someone for your suffering. The paper says the smoke is not toxic because it's coming from organic materials, but I am skeptical about that, I'm pretty sure this is not good for living creatures.
Anyway... this sucks. Really really sucks. Can't breathe. Head hurts. I wish I could get out of this smoke, I wish I knew somewhere to go. I wish I could go up to Maine and breathe fresh air for the weekend. I hope this isn't giving me brain damage or something. I read that the smoke has reached Montevideo too, but I'm hoping maybe it's not as bad there. And hoping they will open the port in time for our ferry this afternoon! HELP! got to get out of here. "Buenos Aires," my ass!

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Montevideo here we come!

We're still here on tourist visas, which means we have to renew them every three months. We braved the bureaucratic maze of the Migraciones office in Buenos Aires to get ours renewed three months ago, but you can't do that twice in a row, so this time we really have to leave the country and come back in again! Usually we go across the river to Colonia, Uruguay for a day, which is lots of fun but after the fifth trip, it's getting a tiny bit boring. So we decided to go a bit further and spend the weekend in Montevideo, Uruguay! You take the same ferry across to Colonia, and then get on a bus up to Montevideo. We're expecting a chill, laid-back weekend of strolling, sitting in cafes playing cards, exploring and walking on the beach! In truth, most people in Buenos Aires really have nothing good to say about Montevideo, like "if you want to be in a city, stay in Buenos Aires! why bother going to Montevideo, it's small and boring!" but I'm sure it will be fun just to get out of town and see a new place. Also, I love beach cities so I think I'm going to enjoy it. Of course, I'll post pictures and stories when we get home!

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