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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013, End Of The Year!

Well, it looks like, I managed to survive 2013! So I thought, I'd write a little end of the year wrap up post.

This last week of December has been HOT, HOT, HOT!!! Is it too intimate to say (?), that I sit here writing this post in my undies, scanties, skivvies, smalls or unmentionables (ropa interior) because even though it has "cooled down" to a tolerable 85 degrees today, I'm still remembering yesterday's roasting 95 degrees F. / 35 C; weather.

Especially, during hot days like these, I try and keep little trays, full of water, out for any thirsty birds or bees to have a drink or splash in. I even have a large shallow plastic dish (from the bottom of a flower pot) full of water for the resident frog to sit in at night.

Yesterday, in the wee hours of the night, the extreme hot weather broke with a thunder storm. It often does that here, when the hot weather reaches a certain point, but only a quick 20 minute rain/sprinkle was all we got last night. That means, my grass is now brown and crunchy. I'm not a morning person, so I never think about watering until maybe noon when it is then too hot to water. So I thought, I'd post some front yard garden photos to remind myself of how good looking it was, "before", this heat wave.

Throughout the year, I take hundreds of photos (or thousands) of ordinary, everyday types of stuff because I never know, what I might need to show and use in a post. Most are kind of junky but nonetheless, I thought I'd use a few of the photos for this wrap up post.

          Daylilly,                         Bird of Paradise,                   White Agapanthus
For you plant lovers and gardeners, I usually try and show you what types of plants grow here in Uruguay. Above, I have included some photos of my summer blooming plants that I keep in my front entry garden.
Let's face it, we blog readers, like to,"peek a little", into how other people live. So I thought you'd also like to see, one of my favorite places in my house. It may seem odd.

For some reason, I just love my hallway! It's wide enough to walk down it without feeling crowded. It leads to the private section of the house, our bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry room. I have put up pictures along its walls as a sort of art gallery. So that I don't knock them off in the middle of the night, I had Wally bolt them to the walls, kind of like they do in a bar.

I have the hallway painted a relaxing Cappuccino brown to help subdue us for sleep. We have two bathrooms. One bathroom is just for the ladies or Damas it's in pink and the second one is just for men or Caballeros, painted in blue. The men can finally leave the toilet seat up and I don't care!!!

Something that I do, from time to time, is try and take pictures of the sky, full moon and of the stars.

Since I don't have a professional camera with all of the F stops, etc... it is a bit of a "hit or miss" hobby.

The milky-way seems to go right pass over our house at night and the 2 most recognizable consolations that I see all of the time are; Orion's belt and the Southern Cross.  The 4th star, in the kite shaped formation of the Southern Cross, is very hard to see and take, as it is faint and winks out just when I snap it's photo.

Orion's Belt                                       The Southern Cross
My camera always picks up some difference in color between the stars as if some are hotter and others are cooler. Some are more red in color than the other bluer ones. Are the red ones dying? The consolation with Orion's belt, looks like a primitive drawing of a guy dancing on it's side. It has two stars spread out at the top like two arms outstretched and two stars, like feet are spread at the bottom The "belt" of 3 stars is wore stylishly at an angle across the body. There are always 2 faint stars that also show up like a metal worn on a shirt. That's my take at least, on the stars of Orion and his belt.

Of course, no end of the year post would do without photos of the gang. Nathan the Cat, Sheila and Barney.

Nathan's eyes match the color of my dinning room chairs. He has a white nose except when he gets some sun or toasty warm, then his ears and nose turn a bright pink! Sheila likes to sleep alone. She is my loyal companion and so is Nathan. Barney is just Barney (or Barney Baby Boy) odd but sweet. He always has some complaint and lets you know it. He's allergic and sensitive to everything. Poor guy!

I'm still working on my Spanish but on nice days I try and remember to bring my books outside.

I have a small vegetable garden in my back yard but that will be a blog post for January. I did have some raspberries finally appear on my vines this year, so yeah!!!

This winter we had a week of almost Arctic weather with a cold blast. I took in a lost dog that week. I keep a bowl of water and a dog house for guest or wandering dogs in front of my house. One little lost dog went in it to sleep but since it was soo cold, I eventually let her come inside our house to sleep. Nathan the cat, seemed to like her.

Then one week later, when the weather warmed up, I guess she heard her master calling, so she went outside running and joined the little old man. I called her Sally, from a Cyndi Lauper song, Sally's Pigeons.

This month, I left a message on Facebook with a Uruguay expat group, mentioning that someone had abandoned a pup. Probably gotten as a present, it ended up across the street from me. Because the weather is so extremely hot it took up residence under the drain pipe to stay cool. I brought it water and food, my neighbor took its picture to give to our local vet. I showed it the "guest" dog house and it started to sleep there. Being a puppy however, it moved around so much that my dogs starting barking at night. Finally, I took it into my backyard. Someone in Montevideo "may" take it but all of our cars are broken down, so the pup is in a holding pattern until transportation can be arranged.

It is a real sweetie and looks to be a BLACK, "Golden" Retriever. It is healthy, and was smelling good even before I gave it a bath. I am calling her Noche (Night) for the time being. Barney doesn't like her. Sheila is okay with her and the cat is okay until she comes close and wants to play. I hate that people don't put collars on their dogs with their cellular phone number on it so people can call. Also, dogs and cats should be neutered OR the pups and kittens given away responsibly. I got both of my dogs at the feria (farmers' market) from people carrying around the puppies. One tall and handsome Uruguayo was strolling around the feria years ago with 2 pups in his arms. You could see him across the crowd. He had tied a blue ribbon around one pup and a pink ribbon around the other to show their sex.

We got the Pink ribboned one and Sheila is now my constant companion. Barney was in a box at the feria and the lady took him out and made me hold him. He was actually an ugly pup but has since grown up into a dog quite handsome and with comic character. So if you can't afford to neuter your pet or don't want to. Please either guard them when "in heat" OR get good homes for each one of the resulting offspring.  Just don't abandon them in the street or field, Please!!! Even my boy cat is neutered.

This coming year I plan to go into Montevideo more and take lots of photos and notes on things to buy and do.

Like reminding people that in Montevideo they have lots of flower stands where you can buy and make up bouquets of flowers or just buy 1 or 2! I say this because each year, all I ever say to Wally, is that I would like some flowers for our wedding anniversary and he feigns like he doesn't know where to get any. There was a shop in Atlántida that sold some a while back. After a quick fight once, I showed him the shop and a few days later he got me some. However, I'm still waiting for some for our Anniversary. I'm not holding my breath however.

For any of you more romantic types, remember the flower stalls when visiting MVD.

I will also be eating in more restaurants this coming new year and reviewing them for people on a budget like us.

Oh well, my neighbors who are professional musicians have just started to play for a party of theirs and beautiful music is wafting across the airspace between our houses and into my delighted ears. So I will grab my "Gin and Tonic" with lime (my favorite hot weather drink) and I will close now. I leave you with the typical, end of the year, neighborhood fireworks display.

It's a good thing I don't have to leave the house for the music, my drink or the fireworks show, otherwise I would probably be arrested, I just don't feel like putting on any clothes. It's still too darn hot!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Teatro Solis!

I live outside of Montevideo, in one of the coastal communities about an hour away from it, so going into the capital city of Montevideo is somewhat of a treat for me.

Plaza Independencia with the Artigas mausoleum and palm trees on the left.
I mentioned in an earlier post that the Plaza Independencia was near the Theater/opera house, Teatro Solis. Well, believe it or not, after 5 years of living here I finally went inside this landmark theatre.

I went there to attend a Jazz festival. I like the old "Big Band" style of music, like the way Arthur Miller once conducted. The night that I went to the Teatro Solis, the Montevideo Symphony orchestra was performing. It was being lead by Maestro Panchito Nolé, one of the last exponents of the golden age of grand orchestras. His great passion for Big Band music and Jazz led to his forming his own band and having a successful career in radio and television in Uruguay and Argentina. He is a pianist as well as a conductor and music arranger. Surprisingly he even performed some music by Quincy Jones that night, a more modern well know composer. He likes all genres of music.

That night there was also performing, an Italian quartet sponsored by the Italian Embassy. Flavio Boltro played trumpet and Eric Legnini played piano. These two are well known international players. Eric Legnini was born in Belgium. He is the son of Italian immigrants and so has kept close ties to Italy. Flavio is into modern Jazz and has played in Paris. Franck Agulhon was on drums and Thomas Bramerie was on Bass. They played more alternative Jazz and not big band style. We had floor seats up close and center.

The Solis Theatre or Teatro Solis (in Spanish) was inaugurated on August 25th. 1856. It is the oldest theatre in Uruguay. It is government owned by Montevideo. In 1998 a large scale renovation took place and it wasn't reopened again until August of 2004.

There is a tradition that when there is a performance going on, a special light located on the top of the theatre glows red to signal that a show is on. You can especially see this better at night, of course, but just in case you have any doubts, just go around to the back of the building where the entire top half of the roof is lit up red.

When you first step inside there is a beautiful crystal chandelier to greet you. A modern exposition Gallery is up the stairs and a small drink café is off to one side on the bottom floor.

Next, after a quick trip to the ladies room, I stepped inside to an elegant old world scene, a grand room with 5 tiers of balcony seating was ringing the floor seating.

Red velvet and wooden appliques on a light yellow, antiqued wood paneling arose before my eyes. A grand old lady indeed. Sadly, because during that night there occurred a sudden soccer playoff between Brazil and Uruguay most of the paid for seats were left vacant. Soccer watching prevailed over a live music performance.

It ended up being a "bit" in my favor as my friends and I convinced the ushers to let us sit in one of the now empty balcony seats (probably against policy but we managed to do it). We choose the President's box to watch the second quartet group from Italy. The seats closest to the rail on all levels are very tight fitting with no leg or toe room (in my opinion). Our seats on the main floor were much more comfortable. At least, I didn't have to pay anything to learn that lesson!

It's important to look up, at the ceilings of any great land mark as they are often highly decorated. The round ceiling in the main auditorium had the names of famous Romantic era composers like Verdi and Meyerbeer, etc... painted on it. There was a beautiful fresco painting above the stage area as well.

As I left, I walked around on the black and while tiled walkway that curves around the building. I was glancing at the beginning of Old Town/Cuidad Viejo, the original part of Montevideo thinking about how glorious this structure was then as it is now.

You can tour this theatre for free on Wednesdays at 11AM, 12PM and 4PM. Or pay a modest $20 (I believe that is in pesos??) on Tuesdays through Sunday (same hours). Saturday hours for the tours are 11, 12, 13/ 1PM and 4PM. They add the extra one o'clock time slot on Saturdays. Also, for $50 and booked ahead of time, you can arrange a tour in English, Portuguese or French but that depends on who's available. You need to call ahead to coordinate those language tours. The phone numbers to call are 1950 3323 or call  1950 3325.

As summer officially starts this month (December) for us down in South America, I will try and explore Montevideo a little more and report back on what I find.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Mausoleum of General Artigas

General Artigas, June 19th 1764 - September 23rd 1850.
In downtown Montevideo lies the Plaza Independencia.

It is well worth seeing as it contains several sights of interest. The Teatro Solis, a beautiful theater/opera house sits diagonally across from it.

The finally finished (43 years) "new" presidential office building called the Executive Tower graces another side of it and so does the Palacio Salvo. 

The Palacio Salvo is a stunning example of a 1930's Italian Gothic and mixed styled classic building, once the tallest building in Latin America.

However, smack dab in the middle of this spacious palm tree lined space with its accompanying park benches is a grand equestrian statue of a horse and its rider, General José Gervasio Artigas.

General José Artigas is the Uruguayan equivalent to the USA's General George Washington.
He is a national hero down here and is often called the "Founding father" of Uruguayan Nationhood.

There are many books and articles that historians have written about him. I have linked his name to a wikipedia link for more information about his life and for your convenience. Briefly, He is said to be instrumental in founding the move for independence here in Uruguay, (the name of the plaza). He fought against the Royalists of his day and was concerned about equality for all. He fought for civil liberty and religious freedom and he wanted to have a Republican Constitution. As a military man, he fought in the calvary hence the equestrian statue.

What many people might not know is that underneath this landmark lies his tomb, holding an urn with his ashes. There are 2 different stair cases (1 on each side) that you can choose from, to take you down to his underground mausoleum. There is NO admission charged!

As you descend the granite lined walls and stairs, you can see how weighty a person General Artigas is in the minds and hearts of Uruguayans.  The use of granite is extensive! A lovely brown is used along your trip down. Then you come underground into his tomb and find yourself in a massive, dimly lit room/shrine to the man.

The darkness is at first intense as the floors are now covered in black granite. I had to bend down and look very closely at the first steps to greet me inside so as to be able to navigate them.

Inside this underground mausoleum, the impressive concrete walls are covered with some dates surrounding important political events in his career and the dates of his birth and death.

Two soldiers stand guard, at attention, flanking his urn. It is guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The guards are like the ones guarding Buckingham Palace in England in that they don't move, speak or look at you. This meant that I could take as many pictures as I wanted inside without being scolded. 

There are 3 massive black granite steps that lead you down closer to the urn holding his remains. I went closer and took a couple of pictures of it while the soldiers ignored me, keeping their eyes straight ahead, staying at attention.

It was interesting being so close to such an important link in the history of the Uruguayan people and their country. Of some note, a monument to General Artigas also stands in Washington, D.C. USA.

I took the other stair way back up to the plaza level and had a nice view of the Palacio Salvo greeting  me at the top of the stair. I had tried to visit this mausoleum years ago but it had been closed for renovations and his ashes removed. So I am glad that it is open to the public. It's well worth the visit.