Last Tango in Montevideo! Primuseum, Mercado del Puerto, Wine and 'Football'
Updated: Nov 9, 2020
The summer of 2018 -- actually, much of 2018 -- saw Outdoors Rambler in full Road Warrior mode. One fun, and all too brief, stop came at the end of a four-day upland bird and waterfowl hunting trip to Uruguay. There, we hung out in the bustling capital city of Montevideo, on a frantic quest to eat delectable assorted grilled meats and drink an array of Tannat wines (the official grape of Uruguay). Oh, and figure out how to Uber...
Enjoy "La Cumperasita" and Photos at Primuseum and the Mercado
After a nearly 5-hour ride from the hunting lodge to Montevideo, we double-checked our reservations for a multi-course dinner at a wonderful place in the old part of the city. The Restaurant Primuseum is an intimate two-story restaurant that pays homage to owner Santiago Mazzoni’s father Aldo and his passion for collecting small Primus kerosene stoves used in homes to cook, heat and work. Some 3,000 antiques adorn the shelves and walls. The restaurant has a fixed six-course menu with unlimited Tannat wine, a tasty red that is Uruguay’s national wine. There’s also an entertaining live tango music concert with a small orchestra and a singer. One of the best things (since the wine is unlimited during dinner) is that a shuttle picks you up and drops you off at your hotel.
Uruguay and France were playing in the World Cup Soccer semi-finals on our departure day back to the United States. The hotel's breakfast buffet was nice and our flight was in early evening, giving us most of the day to hang around. It's good that we ate early because the soccer match had a mid-morning kickoff and -- l swear -- nothing moves in a South American city when the home team has a World Cup match. I recall a similar trip to Argentina a decade ago when that country's team was playing. After flying into Buenos Aires and catching an early morning cab to the domestic airport, it appeared this city with a couple million people was a ghost town. "Where is everybody?" I asked, a little worried. "Football match - World Cup," came the terse reply from the driver with an earplug in his ear, obviously listening to the game and irked that I interrupted the riveting play-by-play.
With all of Montevideo on lock-down for the match, the prudent thing to do seemed to also watch the game. I thought about finding a bar, but guessed anyplace would be packed, standing room only. The next best option was heading to the ballroom at our hotel, the Cala di Volpe “boutique” hotel, along the Rambla in the Punta Carretas neighborhood. There, we watched the match with the entire hotel staff. No rooms were getting cleaned and the desk clerk hung out in the doorway, occasionally glancing back to the front door, seemingly hoping no one showed up to check in or out. I rooted for the home team. Despite this potent mojo of going against my own ancestral DNA, France still won. I observed they were skilled method actors by the way they took exaggerated dives to the ground, writhing in feigned agony. I felt sorry for my Uruguay brethren, but it was time for lunch. Heading to the hotel desk, I spoke to the clerk in my best, limited Spanish. 'Lo Siento (I'm sorry)," I said, with appropriate solemnity. He answered back in perfect English - guessing, apparently, I wasn't from around there. "I don't give a rip. I'm from Chile. We never make it this far," he said. Then, I asked him if he could call me an Uber. "Uh, it doesn't work that way," he said. "Uber is an app on your phone. I can help you set it up."
He coached me through Uber's setup intricacies and before long I was registered -- registered as an Uber driver in Uruguay, that is! No. That's not what I wanted; I wanted to be a passenger. We worked it out and I was able to swiftly arrange rides. But, I still haven't figured out how to disconnect my registration as a driver. I do look forward to the weekly emails, in Spanish of course, telling me I didn't earn any money this week.
But, back to the food. With limited time before needing to head to the airport, I desperately needed to fill my already ample belly with one more heaping platter of incredible grilled meats from the parrilla. We headed to the Mercado del Puerto also in the "Ciudad Vieja," or the “Old City.” Particularly cool was listening to a group of vacationing Brazilians singing their national anthem and then cheering their own World Cup team in action in a neighboring restaurant.
Experiencing local culture, food, music and more is part of what makes traveling to hunt, fish or just enjoy the outdoors so much more rewarding...I brought home a few bottles of Tannat, recommended by the sommelier at one of the innovative supermarkets within walking distance of the hotel (imagine a supermarket with a sommelier!). Salud! And, to my new Uruguayan friends - thank you so much.
The 'tub' was a little small, and I learned this isn't a great tip: about $3 U.S.