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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Everything But Elephant Ears

Yesterday we went to Expo Prado, which is billed as a rural farm and products exposition. Didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable days we have had in a long time. But it didn't start out that way.

Heading into Montevideo in the morning, the car just wouldn't cooperate. Limping along on only 3 of the 4 cylinders, I got so mad that I considered turning the car around and forgetting the whole thing. Then I decided we could make it to Géant (the large store at the edge of Montevideo) and park it and take the bus to Tres Cruces and a cab from there. Then I decided to just sit with the car and sulk, and let Denise go alone. But I realized it would cost the same for a taxi for one person as for 2, so I finally decided to go with her, sulk and be uncommunicative the whole day. That would show my car!

We ended up taking the bus and asking directions (since we really didn't know where Prado was located). And we took 2 buses, saving the cab fare. The second bus, however, wound us through every barrio of the city, which actually proved to be very interesting and by the time we arrived, I couldn't help myself, I was enjoying the day, the pleasant weather and the chance to experience something new. I can only hold onto a good sulk for an hour or so. When we got off the bus, a nice young man offered to walk with us the 4 blocks and show us the way and we chatted with him.

We arrived at the entrance, paid a 100 peso ($5) general entry fee and went inside. You could pay more for multiple days, or one the the night's activities (there is a music venue) but we opted for just the general admission for our first time.

What we walked into was a full blown, rompin' stompin' county fair (or in this case a country fair). And we realized, that we had been missing our yearly trek to the Puyallup County Fair in Washington State. We used to go every year and loved it, but didn't realize how much we missed it until we entered the Prado. It was just like being "home", except nobody spoke English. But it was every bit like a county fair in the States.

We browsed through some of the vendors and Denise got engraved brass dog tags for Barney and Shila (something she had been wanting for many months). It is interesting that instead of an engraving machine, they had a set of hand punches and did a very fine job with even spacing and placement. Across the way, they sold paella and a drink for $150 pesos (about $7) and it was the most delicious paella I have ever eaten, filled with lots of sausage and seafood. The choice of coke, beer or white wine made this a bargain. With our appetites satisfied, we headed on into the "fairgrounds". Several radio stations were broadcasting directly from the site and Denise took a photo.

They had huge buildings for livestock and did judging just like you would expect, blue ribbons and all. The Prado is actually more centered on rural life, solutions to farming problems and issues than most county fairs. The booths, displays and vendors are really secondary to the mission. So you see a lot of farm equipment and farm related items for sale, as well as banking and finance for farmers and a strong presence of farm rights and labor organizations present.

We happened upon the horse judging and they were beautiful animals. The trainers all wore black suits and ties and it was fun to see them posing their horses and accepting the ribbons, as the judging was completed. Then we went off to look at some of the pavilions. They had an Indonesian Pavilion, Italian Pavilion, a Food Pavilion (my all time favorite) and a USA Pavilion. Outside the USA Pavilion, they had a small stage set up and they were just starting a small show with acoustic guitar and typical US songs. The singer started out with "Me and Bobby McGee". He had a low, gravelly voice. Denise thought he was Uruguayan, but I told her it was just his "bluesy" interpretation. However, after he launched into a few of the other favorites, it became evident that he was a local guy singing the hits and Denise was right. (good ear).

We had a donut and Starbucks coffee (just a regular drip, not the $5 latte), which apparently symbolized the United States of America. There was a guy in Spiderman costume and one in a Flintstone costume. Inside were a few displays, mostly embassy offices and some scholarship offers. All in all the pavilion didn't bring on a wave of homesickness, causing us to want to rush back. We were happy to leave and get back to the real show- the Prado.

We walked through the sheep and goats (they were separated, of course) and they had rabbits, chickens and pigs. Everything you would expect. They had cotton candy, balloon animals, and churros (they were delicious), as well as many fine looking restaurants. The method of cooking the meat around open fires was evident in most places. It looked so good. but since we had stuffed ourselves on the paella, we didn't try any of the restaurants. Next year will be different.

Eventually, as it was getting dark, we headed home. This time we asked directions for a bus that would take us back to Tres Cruces in a more direct route and was directed to the 183 Pocitos bus. Once again, a nice man going in that direction walked with us. He lived inland with his wife and they owned horses. He loved horses. He gave me his email so that he would sent me a photo of them. The people we had met during the day were so polite and helpful.

Arriving at Tres Cruces in short time (this bus did not visit every place in the city) and getting one back to Géant was easy. We started up the car, which unexplainably worked perfectly this time, and went back home. For anybody who loves a county fair, you can't beat the Prado. The only thing missing was "elephant ears", but other than that- they had it all.


ximeoli said...

Wally, I'm really glad you both had a fine day at the Prado Rural exhibition. Your "elephant ears" seem a lot like our "torta fritas" and I'm really surprised you didn't see them at Prado as they're typical Uruguayan fair food. You should definitely try them if you can. They're typically eaten on rainy days, too. Regards to you and Denise. Ximena

Wally said...

Ximena- you are right. I forgot. I've seen torta fritas, but I had to have a catchy title to the blog, so I probably forgot on purpose....

Anonymous said...

Hello both !!! I used to go when a was a child and teenager, I honestly miss it a lot , now living in Canada it's a bit comforting that you and Denise have gone , very interesting place , we ,ve read your blog and really enjoy it , keep posting , soon visiting and probably looking for permanent residence , Ana and Alberto

Wally said...

Ana y Alberto- good to hear from Uruguayos living in the far north. Glad that you are enjoying our experiences, here.