Friday Fun with Jim Williamson (On a Monday)

punta289Hello, party people. My friend and yours, the amazing and great Jim Williamson, turned in his copy on Friday. Unfortunately, I had some trouble with technology so I’m only able to post it today. But let’s not be sad. Let’s instead be happy that we get to start our Monday with tales of Jim’s travels. It’s time for Part 2: Uruguay. Uruguay is about a 3- to 3 ½-hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires. You can fly to Uruguay much faster, but for our touring purposes, we needed a car. It really was like every scene from any 1940s spy movie—someone desperately trying to cross a border (minus the fedora, shoulder pads and red lips). The whole process involves lots of paperwork, customs, immigrations, etcetera. And all that paperwork better be in order or you aren’t going anywhere.

Our papers were technically in order, but not exactly in order. So that involved inspectors and more inspectors and supervisors of inspectors, which then involved an interpreter. (Our friend back in Buenos Aires happens to be an attorney and performed those duties via phone.) In a mere 48 hours, we had traveled some 7,000 miles by plane, train, auto, and ferry. But we weren’t there yet.

Let’s try to break down part of the travel portion of getting to our final destination for the weekend, the beautiful and booming coastal city of Punta del Este. It’s where the rich and famous come to play during the months of December and January. (This would explain why we were there in October.) Since I have just seen the film version of Maria Friedman’s award-winning production of Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s Merrily We Roll Along, I can’t get the opening tune out of my head. I’ve decided to use it here. You can sing our adventures along to the tune of “Merrily We Roll Along.” The scene begins after we exit the ferry in the city of Montevideo.

Merrily we roll along. Driving in the dark of night. Wishing for a toilet, clean white sheets, and a Dramamine.

Then we took a left, and then we took another left. Over bumps and turns. Lots of bumps and turns. All through the night.

Still looking at the countryside. Oh please, I hope he finds that gear or I will need a neck brace. Where is the road? Please find the road. Where the hell are we now?

How many more hours do we have to roll along? I’m not feeling so merrily. I have never been so very far in the back of a car. Quick! I think I need a hug. Oh wait! Just a bathroom, please.

Then we found the road. It was a very dark and foggy winding road. In the countryside, the pretty countryside, which we can’t even see.

The sign said, “Turn at the lagoon.” But where is heck is that lagoon? Wait, are those some lights? I think I see the lights. Yay! It’s the hotel.

But it was like the Golden Girls. All green and pink with brass highlights.

I think this all original. Yes, definitely original from 1982. What’s with that duvet? Oh please, can you take it away? Is that a stain? I think I see stain? Please tell that’s not a wallpaper border?

You better hold on tight. Cause Jimbo is about to blow. Better get some food and a drink or two, or Vesuvius will rise. As we merrily, I’m not so merrily rolling along.

That’s the end of the song, but here is the rest of the story. In the light of the next day, I could actually see past my time capsule of a room and repress my anger at the wallpaper borders. I made my way out to a large balcony and a most specular view. And now—finally—I was able to see why people love Uruguay. It is simply beautiful. I could have stayed on the balcony for days (minus that screaming kid next door), but we had to see the rest of the city.

We saw miles upon miles of beautiful beaches and soaring new condominiums. Can you say construction boom? We toured the must-see CasaPueblo, home of artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. It is super cool, and I am definitely going back for a longer stay. We toured the city from beaches and stores to art fairs and even a few furniture stores. I had to see what the local décor style was. Think contemporary.

That evening we had dinner plans at the Hotel Fasano Las Piedras, a spectacular resort outside of town. I initially thought we were staying there and I had spent many hours looking at their website prior to the trip. This explains my initial rage at our “art” hotel. But guess what was required to get to the hotel? More driving at night along foggy, hilly roads.

While driving, we thought we had somehow missed it, but we knew we had not passed the bridge the hotel clerk had told us to cross. Then we saw the bridge. It went up and then straight down just like a roller coaster. Three grown men screamed like small children as we went down that thing. We thought for sure that this was the end. It is the craziest bridge I have ever seen. Once you go over it the first time, you will want drive over it again and again. Apparently, that’s just what the local teens do.

Despite the fog, the resort was stunning. The meal by executive chef Juan Guizzo was delicious. It also ranks among one of the most expensive meals for three people I have ever enjoyed. During dinner, we meet the attractive couple next to us, Mario and Kelsey. It was Kelsey’s birthday, and Mario is the general manager of the Sofitel in Carrasco, just outside Montivedio.

They were very charming and invited us to tour the newly renovated historic building as they marked the 100th year of the building and the renovation of the newly opened hotel the next day. It was also National Heritage day, which meant historic buildings would be open free of charge to the public. This also meant very long lines to get into these building.  Fortunately, Mario gave us his card, so when we arrived, instead of having to wait in very long lines, we were ushered inside and given a private tour. Let me tell you, I love me some special treatment. The hotel really is lovely, and brunch was delicious. I will definitely go back to enjoy one of the spectacular suites with breathtaking ocean views

Then we traveled back to Montevideo to get back on the ferry. That trip back is a whole other story. We shall save for next week in our conclusion, Montevideo: Never on a Sunday!

Wishing you all lots of love!

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