After the overnight flight from Miami to Montevideo (MVD), we arrived at our hotel around 10:30am. We stayed at the Hyatt Centric, a new and trendy type hotel of the Hyatt brand, with this one in an ideal location along the Ramblas, directly across from street from the water and beachfront.
Prior to leaving, our good friend Ed (a retired Flight Attendant for American who used to fly this route regularly) gave us a couple tips that were helpful to understanding the geography of Montevideo. While the waterfront where we are staying is so large you would think it’s the ocean, it’s actually the large Santa Lucía River that flows into the nearby ocean. It makes more sense when you are looking at a map showing the shape of the country, as well as nearby Argentina which has a two hour ferry to Buenos Aires. Ed also told us we would love the country, people, food and wine and the relaxed atmosphere of MVD. Ed, you were so right – Montevideo is wonderful!
We checked in our hotel, and although we had reserved a standard suite, got upgraded to the Hyatt Executive Suite; a nice surprise and it was huge! We had a large and separate living room with a dining area, separate bedroom, and a huge master bath with jacuzzi, as well as a second guest bath. Best of all the room overlooked the Rambla Republica (horse-shoe shaped and scenic boulevard), water, and beach. We were directly across the street from the iconic Montevideo sign, which is a landmark for the city.
We would later visit the sign and beach area on the beautiful Saturday afternoon, but after getting settled in our room, it was time for a short ‘nap’. I laid my head down on the huge sofa, and I must have napped until nearly noon!
Steve (DOS) napped as well, but he showered and headed to bed. I really wasn’t planning on napping, but guess I (and he) were a bit tired from the 8 hour overnight flight.
After I got up and showered, we headed to Old Town MVD, via Uber. We had the first day free to ourselves, and would tour the next two days with Ryan. Ryan sent us a text with suggestions on what to do on our own the first day – very helpful! We took Uber to Old Town per Ryan’s suggestion, and had a nice chat with the young man driving us there. He spoke ‘broken English’ – his words, not ours, and liked communicating in English when he could to learn to speak better. I told him his English was a thousand times better than our limited Spanish, and he was happy to point sites out on the way to Old Town, which was a fifteen minute drive.
Once at Old Town, we walked around the busy indoor market for awhile, before finding a restaurant (one of many – barbecue is tops here) to have lunch. We stopped at the Maestranza Restaurant, and were glad to get the last table there.
We had a nice and leisurely lunch; with a steak cooked on the barbecue, which like the market had a slightly smokey smell from cooking. The steak and fries were delicious, and cooked the way we liked it, medium rare, we always say juicy to avoid confusion. While we don’t normally have wine for lunch, it was our first day and we were having steak, so we ordered a bottle of the local wine, ‘Don Pascual’. This was a Tannnat wine variety, which is the hearty red wine of Uruguay. Our first taste was not to impressive, but this was an inexpensive bottle of wine (they also had this in the menu airline-size bottles for reference.) Fortunately in the evening we would have some excellent, higher end Tannant wine, which would restore and elevate our taste buds to this fine wine.
After lunch we asked to have our photo taken with the waiter, which we normally like to do if we had great service. In addition to the tip, it’s our way of thanking him as well as remembered the nice meal we had. Here’s the selfie I took by the restaurant entrance.
After lunch, we walked around Old Town for an hour or so, browsing in some of the shops, and getting some exercise walking thru a park and admiring the local architecture.
We later took Uber back to our hotel. Again, we were pleasantly surprised how easy it was to use Uber, and were aided by the wireless hotspot DOS brought on the trip with him. (Otherwise we would have to use and find a public wifi spot to use Uber.)
Back at the hotel, we walked around a bit, across the street from the hotel, and the public park area leading to the beach. We stopped for a few photos by the giant Montevideo sign, which seemed to be the place to be on this beautiful Saturday.
It’s actually part of a park complex along the ocean-sized riverwalk, and many families and groups were out enjoying the beautiful Spring weather (the seasons are opposite from home in Florida where it is now Fall.) It was fun walking around here and people watching, with lots of people on bikes, jogging, and just relaxing on the beach or grass areas.
We then went back to the hotel and took another nap, still a bit tired from the overnight flight from Miami. We had a beautiful view from our room and enjoyed looking out the window at the Montevideo sign and beach beyond it throughout our stay.
For dinner, Ryan suggested we try a couple places. We again used Uber from our hotel for our night out, having been very satisfied with using it earlier. It’s actually easier than a cab as you type in the address or location and don’t have to fumble thru Spanish with a taxi driver.
Our first stop was a wine bar of sorts, while the second was for dinner, which was a new place just a few blocks walking distance from the wine bar. I had read different reviews of the wine bar, named Boca Negra Vinos y Tapas, and it had been described as everything from a neighborhood wine shop to a place you could have wine by the glass or with a corkage fee, the wine from the shop at the retail price you bought it for.
DOS and I were pleasantly surprised to see it was a casual wine bar/shop with wine dispensers offering many different wines. It reminded me of a wine bar we go to back home in trendy Winter Park, Florida, or even the wine bar at The Villages in Florida. While the place was small and simple with picnic-type tables and/or bar seats or benches, we had a wonderful time there! We got there around 7:30pm which is early for Montevideo standards, and there was only one other couple when we got there, although it was quite busy when we left around 8:45pm.
A friendly man (who spoke good English) explained the concept of the wine dispensers (you insert a card they give you, and then select either a one, three, or five ounce serving of wine.) There were three different sets of dispensers, each with 10 or so different bottles of wine, and each dispenser rack offered a different level of wine quality (with prices to match) from regular table wine, to premium, to iconic. It was fun trying an ounce of different wines at a time, and we stuck with the mostly high level, iconic wines as we waited on some appetizers we ordered.
We had a cheese platter of three cheeses (our choice), which was HUGE, complete with olives, nuts, crackers, and bread. We also had a couple mini-burger sliders. Since we were going out to eat after this, we din’t want to get to filled up, but it was sure tempting trying with the nice cheeses and different wines. As I said earlier in the post, we didn’t care for the cheap Tannat wine we had at lunch, but the full-bodied Tannat’s they had here were exceptional. Our liking for Tannat was restored!
On our way out, we took a selfie with the nice man that assisted us and the lady who served us the charcuterie platter and sliders.
After leaving the wine bar, we made our way on foot to the newly-opened Baco Restaurant which Ryan had recommended us to as well. We had a nice window-side table on the second level of the restaurant, offering us a nice view of the side-street, upscale residential neighborhood.
We ended up having two servers as the second one assisted us in English, due to our limited Spanish. Both servers were very pleasant, and we took a selfie with them on our way out.
We had a nice dinner with one of the Tannat wines we had sampled at the earlier wine bar. The heavy red wine went well with our delicious meals.
On our way out of the restaurant we admired the huge glass wine cases on the main level.
Once again, we used Uber to get back to our hotel.
I had a quick night cap brewski in the hotel lobby bar, while DOS kept me company before we both headed to bed.
It was a great first day in Montevideo. Tomorrow we will tour a family winery. Until then, Buenos Noches!