Part II of the “Our Big Bucket Cruise” blog series

A whip of wind and rain greets us as we leave the ship, docked in Montevideo. Our van driver and guide is waiting at the pier; we rush into the welcome protection of the van, not sure whether we want to brave the elements at all. How different we will be from the usual tourists Montevideo receives from Argentina: they come here in the summer in droves to head for the sandy beaches on Uruguay’s Atlantic coastline. World class resorts on Punta del Este lure the continent’s rich and famous. Across the wide, choppy waters of the Rio de la Plata, Buenos Aires’s shoreline is only a polluted, brackish backwater.

I did not know much about Uruguay before visiting this country. It is one of the smallest in South America, a tiny buffer between Argentina and Brazil, with just over 3 million people. Most of them are of Spanish or Italian origin. In the north, the rolling hills are similar to the Argentine pampas and the gaucho is celebrated like the cowboys in the old American West. But most of the people live in or near Montevideo, the capital. Uruguay is considered the “most European” of the South American countries.

We were scheduled for a wine tour in the hills overlooking the city, but with all the rain, the hill would be impassable and the vineyards would be flooded. We planned a city walking tour, but even that is cut short by the weather.  But we have a creative guide. He offers to treat us to four different kinds of frappe, (a liquor, like schnapps) in a downtown bar. They warm us up in a hurry! Soon, the miserable weather is forgotten.

During a break in the rain, I climb the steps to the parliament building, only to find it pouring again. No visitors are allowed inside. We do manage to stop at a few wonderful metal sculptures of oxcart trains, depicting the way the early immigrants traveled to “tame” their west.

Before ending the tour, we stop at a wine bar and enjoy a wine tasting there. Not bad! We purchase a few bottles of wine from Uruguay for our hotel room—a late harvest chardonnay-viognier for Günter and a Tannet red wine for me. By the time we return to the ms Veendam, we are wet inside and out!

I am left with an impression of Uruguayans as a strong, reliant people who are very proud of their country. During this rainy day, I have heard that they have the best beaches, the best food, the best meat, the best wine, the best health service, the best education (free, including public University), and the least corrupt government in all of South America.

Oh, and I cannot forget their pride in futbol (what Americans call soccer)!  The national team won the first World Cup in 1930 as hosts, defeating Argentina 4–2 in the final. In 1950 they won their second title, upsetting hosts Brazil 2–1 in the final match, with an attendance higher than any futbol match ever.