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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hi Ho Silver! And Away We Go!

Saturday morning we donned boots and vests and headed up to Punta del Este for an afternoon of horseback riding at Lapataia, a working dairy ranch, restaurant and tourist destination, near Punta Ballena. This past year, it was the scene of the production of "La Traviata"(posted in a previous blog entry), performed by world famous opera singer, Luz de Alba. This was the first time we saw the local.

We traveled to Punta Ballena and met up with new immigrants (sounds funny to be on the other side of the "immigrant" line) Shawn and Mari. We also met Mari's mom (who will now be living here in Uruguay) and her sister, niece and brother-in-law, who accompanied the Mom on her trip here. Their neighbor Lucas, a 16 year old Uruguayan boy, who speaks flawless English, accompanied us as a guide.

Lapataia is just a short drive from their house and as you first enter, you can see it is set up to host loads and loads of people. There is ample parking and many displays of antique farm equipment, various gardens (no doubt used by their kitchen) and a nice walk down the road for the stables, where we would rent horses for a little jaunt to the edge of their property.



The horses rented for 150 pesos ($7.50 US) for 1/2 hour. When I was younger, my grandfather owned a riding stables in Castro Valley, California and in my early years, I was quite a rider, until well into my 20's. I didn't realize until thinking about it later, that it has probably been a good 30 years since I've been on a horse. But you know what they say- "It's like riding a bike- you never forget how to fall off". Anyway, I was dressed for the occasion and we selected our horses. I was proud that at least I didn't need extra help to mount the horse and soon the group was on it's way.

We took the little road up past the amphitheater (where La Traviata had played), a little display of local animals, and finally down to the end of the road. Riding back, we alternated between a walk, a trot and the horses even got up to a decent gallup. The saddles don't have a pommel, so there is nothing to hold onto (if you are a novice), but they are provided with a nice soft lambskin on the seat.

On the way out, I was thinking that a short 30 minute ride is really not enough for a seasoned rider, like myself, to enjoy. On the way back in, I thought that while I might be a seasoned rider, my legs and rear end definitely were not. Thirty minutes was plenty long enough. On the way home, I barely had enough strength in my legs to shift gears (a short nap has remedied that).


We stopped into the restaurant and looked over the menu. They had buffet lunches (featuring pastas and salads) for 400-500 pesos ($20-25 US). We opted for a milanesa and fries (very nice), but even that was way overpriced and nothing on the menu was very special. Still, somebody has to pay for being able to walk around and enjoy the grounds. You don't pay entry fee and can enjoy most of the ranch, bringing a picnic, if you wish, at no cost.


It proved to be a lovely trip and well worth the effort. I think, however, that the need to ride horseback, which I have been wanting to satisfy since we got here, is not as strong as before. I'm pretty sure that 2010 is covered. Perhaps next year, we'll try another 30 minute ride, but I don't think any long distance equestrian trips are in our future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

La Noche de Nostalgia

Last night, (August 24th) was a country wide party, celebrating "La Noche de Nostalgia" or for you Spanish challenged, "The Night of Nostalgia". Yes, you read that right, "nostalgia" meaning: a longing for something past or far away. In this case the longing is for the fun times and music of the early rock and roll days. It is the same word used for both languages or they just didn't bother to translate the word into Spanish because the nightly fun starts with English, yes the oldies rock and roll music of English speaking/singing musicians.

We have been limping along trying to learn to speak Spanish while the whole country last night was belting out Elvis, Abba and the Beattles songs in English and they all seemed to know the lyrics! I was ashamed to just be humming some of the songs. I've never really been sure of some of the lines. Which reminds me of a dear friend of ours from England, David P. who once said to us that he loved the group the Bee Gees and that his favorite song was "Bald headed woman?" Huh? Yeah, he never knew why they named it that but he liked the song! Well, we had a laugh when we explained the title really was "More than a woman!" So, we weren't the only ones who sometimes just guessed at the murky phrases we couldn't really hear over our radios while driving in our cars!

After 2 years here in Uruguay, we are starting to finally get into the rhythm (Ha ha) of this country. When we first arrived (June), we were here only 2 months when this country wide event happened. We missed doing anything and only read about Montevideo (the Capital) and it's many street parties. We didn't feel bad because we couldn't picture ourselves partying with the masses. The next years' August rolled around and we learned that local neighborhoods also participate. You can read our 2009 blog on our attending the "Oldies Night" at our neighborhood restaurant. We even had to book in advance! It's similar to reserving space during New Years' Eve back in the states.

This year (2010) we are old pros, anticipating the date and planning ahead and this year we were included into one of the many home parties.

There was a full moon last night and we decided to walk to our friends house. It was so bright we had our shadows accompany us. Then we realized we should have brought flashlights as the road was quite pitted with large pot holes and was dark, still we arrived safely. The party started at 8 PM. We old timers only stayed till 1 o'clock in the morning! They closed the party early and it ended at 2 o'clock in the morning (so we were told) quite early for Uruguayos!


It started with Tragos (Drinks/cocktails) as any proper Nostalgia night. I only know "Papa" took care of us and we had special drinks.

Luisa, our hostess (wife of Papa) had many hand-made pizzas ready and waiting to be cooked. We saw our DJ for the night Adrian, who we've met before, using a computer driven DJ program with songs and videos. Someone else brought a sound system and speakers to insure a rocking time. Since the whole country does this, there are no neighbors complaining about the noise or loud music, how fun is that! I was caught by the camera flash but behind me you can see part of a music video playing. Abba's "Dancing Queen" pounding out the beat behind me. "Foot loose", Olivia Newton John and John Travolta from "Grease", The Beattles and even Peter Gabriel (I don't think of him as an oldie but?) all played. Our host and hostess' son-law loves,  "Just an Illusion" by Imagination so that played.


People sang in English, swayed to the music then chairs were pushed out of the way and everyone started dancing! Of course, props always help to bring out the silliness.

As the night wore on people seemed to get even more energetic, conga lines and even a very short number of limbo tries were attempted!


Finally the group did begin to sing well known (to them) classic dance songs in Spanish! Some enthusiasic titles were: "Me vuelvo loco por vos", "Panchango" "Un rubio en avion","Muesa una cancion aqui para cargaria", "Fe aviso, te anuncio" I went around asking everyone what was playing so that next year I can be even more prepared for La Noche de Nostalgia.

P.S., Thank you Papa and Luisa! We had a great time!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spring into Action!

Today is August 24th. Tonight, we will be attending an oldies theme "rock and roll" party, because if you  remember the country of Uruguay celebrates "La Noche de Nostalgia" So look forward to tomorrows blog on the post-party update.

We have both, just gotten over colds, first one gets it (usually Wally) then the other (Me) but we are fine now and enjoying our health along with the beautiful spring like weather. In fact although Spring is officially still a month away no one told all of the flowers that. I was first alerted to the change in weather by my Daffodils surprising me by their appearance. Then I looked up and saw spring was springing up all around me, so here are some flower photos to greet and cheer you as the real ones have done for me.
Realizing, that Spring is just about here, means we have to Spring into Action! (Yeah, a shameless tie in to my title) We have been saying, we want a vegetable garden out back for some time now but have been too focused on the house itself. Enough of that! We want to start really enjoying our property. We are going to finally get our vegetable garden in order and fill up our raised planters with soil.

Yes, we still have a lot of prep-work to do on our garden and we must rush to beat Spring's official date before our vegetable garden is in but I'm sure we will be ready to....... Nah, I won't say it again.

Instead, in keeping with the date, I'll just ask what's your favorite oldies song? because tonight, Wally and I will Spring into Dance!

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Eagle and John

I Love visitors! I appreciate them coming to visit because it forces me into high gear. First there is the mad scramble to do an extra "super duper" house cleaning job. I mean, you never know when a visitor might faint in your bathroom, and wake up staring at the under side of your sink! Of course you have to clean that back bolt!  I always feel like everyone will want the grand tour of my house and be scrutinizing everything like a state side restaurant health inspector. Still I am coming to the conclusion that guy visitors just don't really care or don't even see the difference in dirt and household wear and tear, whew! Now I do the extra bit of cleaning just for myself. The second benefit from visitors coming is we get to play tour guide and that forces us to visit places and view them thru new appreciative eyes. How many of you have lived your whole lives in a place and said Wow! I never knew that place existed, or I never got around to see that?

So it is with pleasure that I am finally and belatedly am sharing John's visit, last month. All the photos used in today's blog are his. That's John on the left standing with Wally. (Yeah we still have to finish our fireplace surround). John K. is from our old stomping grounds of Hollywood, California USA. John was wanting to check out Uruguay because of the ease in obtaining residency and acquiring property here. Many people are trying to keep a plan B in their back pocket just in case they want to retire to a place other than in the US. John came to visit in our winter so of course it rained for days! Next our "Krispy Kreme" was under repair so we thought we couldn't show him anything. Finally we had a dry day. John was good enough, to come to us by bus about an hours ride from MVD. I met him wandering down the lane and walked him first to our nearby beach.

Our "Krispy Kreme" finally had a little life in her so we said we could go on a short trip. Atlantida is about 5 Kms away but right before that city is the little suburb of Villa Argentina. It is famous for it's landmark El Ɓguila (The Eagle)

Built in 1945 for the Italian millionaire, Natalio Michelizza. It was first going to be built as a shrine to the Virgin Mary but it's Contractor, Juan Torres overbuilt it and seeing the possibilities of using it as a painting and reading spot with it's cliff views overlooking the playa, Mr. Michelizza decided to use it for his own pursuits. On a whim the top was built resembling an eagles head. It is covered in stone to look like feathers. Up a steep flight of stairs is a tiny room in the head. It has a small window on each side of the head representing eyes. The view from each tiny square window is lovely. The beak is a tiny outside balcony. Downstairs there are two little rooms with some paintings on the walls. It's open from 9am - 6pm. Entrance is free.

We next drove along the Rambla, a road that fronts the water and dunes, to Parque del Plata. It was Saturday so that town had its Feria (Farmers market) going on. Wally was excited to see a few extra stalls there beside our known ones from Salinas. The ferias go to different towns on different days so if we miss our Thursday one we can go to one on Friday or Saturday in the next few towns either up or below us depending on the day.
 Parque del Plata is not as polished a place as Atlantida but is a real community with day to day living going on. There is a nice beach town feel to it. We have a favorite (read bargain) restaurant with good food that we go to there. So when John said he would treat us to lunch we suggested it. It was right across from the feria.  As a side note, Uruguay doesn't have junk mail! Too expensive to waste paper. Instead, they have sound cars or in this case motorcycles with electric megaphones blasting messages at you. So here is a picture courtesy of John showing one of those sound bikes in front of the restaurant we ate in.
We had a great time with John and I believe he will be back for further exploratory trips. We hope to see him again. He was nice enough to bring me a state quarter that I was missing from the picture series. My Denver mint collection is complete. I'm still in need of a few Philadelphia minted state quarters (hint, hint). So any other visitors, especially from the East coast are welcome. In about another month, I'll need my house cleaned and sparkly again!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

BBQ

A few years ago I bought a used gas BBQ from a Canadian expat. I probably paid 3 times what I would have paid for it at a Stateside garage sale. It is probably lower quality than I ever would have bought (it is a Sears model). But, those complaints aside, it is a gas BBQ and it has worked for a couple of years. And the alternative is to buy a gas BBQ locally for as much as $1200 (that is US dollars, my friends). And the quality of that expensive BBQ is less than the one I have.

Just recently, however, the burners have begun to rust so badly, that I made arrangements to buy new ones, have them shipped to my sister and thence to my Uruguayan address. All in all, the $25 replacement burners cost $80 (the balance being shipping to my sisters and then $35 to ship the box here). Not bad, when you consider the alternative- not having a BBQ.

The way I received the box was interesting. Yesterday, a postal worker stopped by the house in the morning and told me I had a box at the post office. Later that day I went in, and the box was sitting right on the counter. It seems that there are just not that many shipments received in the Salinas post office. I signed the few papers, when home and installed the new burners and we are up and running for another couple of years.

Now I know that Uruguayan purists will argue that I need to learn how how to use my parrilla (the large brick BBQ I have off my patio). I will have to admit that when my neighbors fire up the parrilla and put meat on the grill- it smells heavenly. But, I lack the patience, at least for now. So despite paying $80 for a $25 dollar part, I am happy.