What KT Did

Gone travelling
Living in: Quorn, United Kingdom
  • Day9

    Journey's End : New beginnings

    May 14 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Slightly giddy with the excitement last night, we went out on the town, back to the cathedral square for better pictures, then into a beautiful church that had been closed earlier - a wander, window-shopping, and to look for a restaurant. We chose a teeny-tiny place where there were just two tables out front. We got the table for one and three quarters that butted into the side of the building. It was even hotter at 7pm than it had been during the day, so we were more than happy with this, and the added bonus - we were able to catch up with our Israeli friends later - I spied them strolling by as we ate. We had chosen a gorgeous tapas menu without a dessert, deciding to have an ice cream for pudding, from round the corner (spotted on the way in).

    This morning we got up early to get to the certificate office for 8am. As we came down the hill, I said, "Aren't we disciplined to get here for ten to”. We rounded the bend to find that unfortunately there was already a substantial queue, of other people even sadder than us and, when we all filed in we realised that we were in the same place in the line as we had been the night before! Luckily this time though, we were out and done in under the hour, as the man on desk number two was pretty nifty with his form filling. We opted for ‘todos’ - the certificate of distance, the Compostela (religious document), the special tube holder, and a freebee ticket for church entry. This was all good because we could now do breakfast.

    Next stop the cathedral - smaller than anticipated inside, but not disappointing. I lit my candles to remember much missed family members - June, Horace, Emily and John. Certain of them would have loved to be here with us in this special place. And one extra candle for the living. We looked at the glitzy and painted bits on the columns and ceiling, then passed down into the crypt to see the casket of the remains of St James, plus a plaque to commemorate the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982. Officially, this is the end point of the Camino Way. We had arrived! Up the other side, and up the steps for the final ritual - to hug the statue of St James. I just put a friendly hand on his shoulder, leaving Chris to do the cuddling.

    As we emerged into the heat of the square, we heard the buzz of voices - a large crowd of school children and their teachers had completely filled the steps to the East of the plaza. The local Christian school was celebrating 300 years since the death of John the Baptist de la Salle, after whom their school was founded. There was singing, readings and pronouncements - it was all very cheerful. A very entertaining half hour was spent, sitting in the sunshine, watching the teacher/pupil relationship - a very familiar scene, wherever you are in the world. There was the teacher in unsuitable shoes (far to cool for school), and the throwback from Fame with red curly hair and matching round sunglasses. Miss High-heels was in charge of handouts, and Curly was on behaviour management. Young male PE LSA was looking after the boy with a broken arm - I hope it wasn’t his health and safety failing.

    All perfect timing for a quick coffee before the special ‘Pilgrims’ Mass’ at midday, in the St Francisco church, followed by lunch. By this time it was extremely hot, so we retired to the hotel to cool down, before returning to the square, where we were serenaded by a band at the town hall. A trip on the little white tour ‘train’ showed us all the sights of the city. Still seriously hot at 6pm, so we were ready to ‘go home’ again before dinner - same restaurant as last night, seafood themed. Cheers.

    El fin del Camino.
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  • Day8

    We'll just see how far we can get

    May 13 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We set off before 8.30am again - after the masses (by the time we went for breakfast, everybody was out of the dorm, and only a pair of French couples were still in the cafe next door), but early enough to try and eat up the km before lunch, and to give us enough time to stop and rest the foot.

    We took lunch, outside, at a ‘locals’ cafe, at the foot of the church steps in a tiny village. The man who had been selling beaded goods at the top of the hill, came down to the cafe to play with his baby grandson as we ate (tortilla Francesa in a floured bun with cheese, and zumo naranja). Everybody took a turn to hold and cackle at the baby, until grandad’s friend dropped him and he was swiftly returned to dad - the loud cooing was now mixed with the sound of screaming. Good food. Interior like the tardis. Nice toilets.

    We got going again - more woods - a mini waterfall bubbling through the greenery - we passed through smart villages, just before skirting the airport - Ryanair planes close enough to touch sailing over the trees. More countryside.

    The aim was to get as close to Santiago de compostela as possible - the whole stage was 20ish km - we had booked our next accommodation in the city, but planned to taxi the uncompleted part of the journey, then get a taxi back in the morning to complete the final stretch if necessary. But, we just kept walking, and walking, and walking. We got to a cool church at the top of a hill on the outskirts of SDC and stepped in for a few minutes. Just 5km to get down to the cathedral - we could do that (once round Quorn) - nothing to it! We had to give in however, when we saw the oasis - a lovely French style corner cafe with chairs out on the street - and we’d definitely been walking six km at least by then anyway. Just one more zumo naranja please. We (I) shuffled (painfully, Chris says) down the remains of the street, eventually arriving into the cathedral square at least 2 hours later. Hooray and hoorah. Can I take my shoes and socks and dressings off now? No, we’re going to get our certistificates! Big sigh! We queued for a bit - well Chris queued, and I sat on the edge of the fountain dipping my hands in the camellia-flowered water, getting my back wet, until a kind lady said there was a two hour wait, and there would be nobody there if we came back at eight in the morning. So I fetched Chris out of the queue and I hobbled after him to the hotel. I’ll tell you about the evening tomorrow, because Chris is sleepy. Night night.
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  • Day7

    A Scorcher

    May 12 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    Hot weather predicted, so we set off earlyish to avoid the heat - into the cool, bright chill of the morning. Hardly a soul down in the woods, or on the country lanes. Just the occasional dog barking “hello” or “get lost pilgrim”- the occasional scent of orange blossom - the cottage gardens with semi-detached vegetable patches blending into the fields - a vivid blue sky over the plantations of eucalyptus, clearing the senses.

    A cafe stop at a crossroads, for tea, coffee, and a couple of chunks of ring cake that tasted like madeleines gritted with sugar. WhatsApping. Sitting outside under the trees as the traffic passed.

    A brief stop at a passport stamp stall, in its own special shelter, the table decorated with spiritual books, and an incense burner under a clam shell. We took a photo for a German lady who had been walking the route since April, and she did the same for us, before parting ways into yet more eucalyptus - “auf weidersehn” and “buen Camino”.

    A little close-up with a beautiful white horse that was seducing passing pilgrims with its long eyelashes, and velvet grey muzzle, and we were almost done for the day, ’there’ being ‘Pedrouzo’ with its cockerel in a football scarf on a plinth, outside the town hall!

    Just perfectly timed to check in to our albergue, have a quick lie down and then head out for lunch in a restaurant looking out over the Galician valley below. Paella (surf and turf), and a small beer of course.
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  • Day6

    Blister

    May 11 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    ‘Our Way’ became ‘His Way’ today, because of the blister. The last five km yesterday were difficult to say the least - my feet hurt so much, hence the downbeat tone of my last blog. I decided not to walk today. Chris set out at 9am though, headed for Salceda. I hung around in the hotel until about 10am, clearing the room, and drinking tea in the bar. I then went across to the church - it had been half closed yesterday, with only the stamping table accessible. Quite a pleasant place to cry. The weather has been lovely today - warm and sunny, so I didn’t mind waiting at the bus stop, but it soon became clear that one wasn’t about to come any time soon. So, I went to the nearby bar which was festooned with football caps - the walls and ceiling were completely covered. No buses to Salceda from here, so they called me a taxi - I wasn’t offended.

    A half an hour journey and I had arrived at the Albergue Turistico Salceda in a pretty hamlet outside the main village. It has been created from a series of farm buildings and has a fish pond with ornamental fountain, and a plunge style swimming pool (only half filled). Chris was aiming to get here for about 1.30pm. Of course, I was very early, so I chatted on the terrace with an Israeli couple for the next hour or so, until our room was ready. We compared ailments - she had a gippy tummy and had had to halt her journey for a while too. The medico de perigrinos (pilgrims’ doctor) brought her a concoction of rice water, which he ladled into a plastic dish through a seive, straight from the saucepan - it looked like bath water! The medic in question turned out to be the owner, barman, and receptionist too - a very talented man. I decided not to ask him about my foot :/

    I was just giving my passport details when Chris arrived - record time of 3 hours and 26 mins - I hold him up, but it’s very boring without me ;) NB: I should just let you know that Chris believes his speediness was down to the Pilgrims’ Blessing he received in the church at Arzua, where all the walkers were called to the front at the end of the mass and sprinkled with holy water brought by the nun. It’s an alternative theory.

    Chris dumped his backpack and we walked down the lane to the village bar for lunch - I had a very interesting ham and peppers dish - not what I was expecting, but tasty all the same. We have been for another couple of walks down the other 2 lanes that lead from the hotel (in flip flops), because that’s what you do when you’re taking a break from walking.

    What we’ve learnt today:
    Just the one thing - Padel is a game of Mexican origin, very popular in South America and Spain - it’s a cross between squash and real tennis and is coming to the rest of Europe really soon. They don’t do it at Loughborough Uni yet (on good authority)
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  • Day5

    Crowds

    May 10 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Dumping our bags for shipping in the hall of our accommodation, we stepped down to the cafe in the street below again. Eggs and bacon this time, before striding out. Destination Boente, 20km away. A light rain.

    Lots of people, a lot of groups, with guides. We had started at a stage end, rather than our usual half way, or isolated ‘nearly there’ point, so everybody had walked out from the same place, at the same time - we shadowed them nearly all the way.

    We tramped up and down dale, through pretty wooded villages, past stone cottages and fields of Galician Blonds (velvety golden cows with curvy horns), and swathes of asphodelus flowers (I looked it up). We strolled in and out of churches, to see the decorated altars and to stamp our passports and locate the candles, until reaching Melide, and crossing the hump-back bridge for lunch - Spanish omelette in a cafe run by a man sporting a customised camino t-shirt, a heavy-rock beard, and musical taste to match. We also caught up with Richie Benaud (a man in a cream panama) and his party - really two Aussie couples that we had first met in ‘our cafe’ in Palas de Rei. After a quick conversation with a cat in a window box, we headed for the centre of town where we stocked up on provisions (fruit), and Chris got his essential Friday haircut.

    Not much to write home about until the stone bridge, over a ford in the stream that crossed our path. Just a couple of quiet photos, until the cyclists came through. First man carried his bike (sensible). Second man cycled successfully across (to cheers). Third man was whooped across and photographed in the process (by me), immediately before he tipped off and fell down into a small crevasse at the side - too embarrassed to admit injury, but safe to say, it was NASTY.

    Our planned 20km had mysteriously turned into twenty five, much to the disgust of my feet. A bit of a dull day for the blog.
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  • Day4

    A Cuckoo Chorus

    May 9 in Spain ⋅ 🌫 10 °C

    Last night we stayed at a place called Airexe (or Eirexe, if you want to be a true blue Galician) - originally, the county flag is thought to have consisted of the blue cross of St Andrew, because apparently he is one of their favourite saints. We arrived through soft rain, past fields of lambs and goats at 4.30 and were shown into our room (so warm and clean) to see our bags leaning against the wall - such an efficient service, and reassuring to know that my Spanish was ‘good enough’ too!

    There’s not much going down in up-town Eirexe - Chris investigated whilst I was writing my blog. There are the two guest houses, one of which we were staying in, and, across the road, a bar/restaurant that we discovered (when eating there later), also accommodates overnight revellers, sorry, travellers. A small community of chickens lives behind our hotel, directly outside our bedroom window. All of this activity is located within a 50 metre radius, just before you hit the fields at the edge of the village. There is also a church, surrounded by at least ten houses, in a side street a few metres back down the hill, but it was closed! The bar is run by a married couple - you could tell by the way they related to each other, particularly in the morning when we went there for breakfast - orange juice, tostadas, and tea. Dinner the previous evening was dropped rather than served, by senora, probably due to the weight of the portions. The melons and iberico ham (the anticipated light starter), consisted of a whole side of ham and half a large melon. Picture attached for proof. Oh, and vino tinto. Goes without saying really.

    We decided to have an easy day today, just walking for the morning, which took us to a decent sized town (Palas de Rei), at the official end of the second stage. We booked ahead last night, on the internet this time, so worry free on the arrangements front - we thought we could get the blister sorted and do some washing. It has also been quite cold today, and heavy rain was forecast.

    We set out just before nine into a deserted landscape, serenaded by cuckoos (I have never heard so many in my life as I have heard here). It helps to stay in remote places because you are always a few steps ahead or behind other walkers, allowing peaceful progress. This was the posh bit of the route - gorgeous houses alongside brooks, with superior, sculpted grain stores, and palatial carports full of logs, and friendly handbag-dogs with tufty ears and fluffy, frou-frou tails, rather than the usual scowling Alsatian. We stopped for hot chocolate and coffee after 8km, at a cafe filled with over-managed Americans and their guide. By 11.30 we had completed the final 2km of our walk, and arrived at the bar attached to our hotel exactly one minute before our bags. Timing. Following difficulties accessing check-in (we were early) leading to a wander to find a farmacia for blister plasters, we made contact with the receptionist who showed us to our private rooms a few streets away. Again, so comfortable and clean - getting back to basics makes you really appreciate the simple luxuries. Lunch was tortilla and torta in a bar around the corner, followed by a trip to our first open church where we lit our candles and got another stamp in our Camino passports.

    Today’s achievements:
    1. Thoughtful conversations had, during easy walking
    2. Washing all present and correct - neatly folded on the bedroom chair :)
    3. Dinner planned - in a bistro at the foot of our stairs, at the end of our street. Handy - not too far to meander home.
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  • Day3

    A Spot of Wind

    May 8 in Spain ⋅ 🌬 10 °C

    Things aren’t always easy...

    I woke in the early hours of this morning absolutely certain that I would not be able to carry my backpack any further - the old hips weren’t holding up. We had already considered the possibility of shipping the bags at each stage if needed, but preferred the freedom of being able to stop and stay, where and whenever we liked. I decided not to relay this to Chris until a more reasonable hour. Things always look better in the morning, I thought, hopefully. Worries that our hostel was too remote to arrange shipping, and lack of staff on reception, were soon relieved when we spotted bags with address labels out in the hall! A simple conversation with the breakfast lady secured the envelopes - a quick search through the guide book for a suitable albergue, a conversation in broken Spanish over the phone, and we were sorted. Crisis averted.

    Scrambled..

    Breakfast was a bit of a disappointment too - the ‘breast’ rolls from last night’s dinner (complete with decorative nipple tops), a few pots of yogurt, granola with choc bits, goat’s cheese shavings, and no tea!! I was saved by an offer of eggs revuelta, requested by my new hero, the Australian gentleman opposite. We chatted with the German computer engineer at our table, who told us he was trying to find his life’s purpose on the trail. Too late - I had already decided he was far too disciplined to be trying to find himself - he had pushed himself to complete 40km yesterday! German engineering is a wonderful thing. In contrast, English feet don’t take too kindly to just 25km a day, as I discovered to my cost.

    A promising start...

    We set out just after 9am, under darkening skies, into a wild and swirling wind. Chris had rescued the waitress the previous evening when she was being attacked by a combination of said wind and a very large parasol. I forgot to mention the wind yesterday, as it was only intermittent, and was restricted to exposed areas, but it was definitely of note, because it was the sort of wind that doesn’t appear to have a direction, coming at you from all sides - there is no escape.

    A road less travelled...

    Quite often on the Pilgrims Way, there is more than one choice of route. The descent into Portomarín is no exception - there are 3 options. The ‘right’ route is the shortest, but is quite steep in parts, running the risk of blisters. The left hand route is the longest, but the easiest and most pleasant. The middle route is the official measured (historic) route but contains a treacherous descent. Guess which one we took? - closely followed by an elderly German lady in full wet-weather gear, two sticks, and a 10kg backpack! It was a vertical dry bed of a cataract, complete with water smoothed stone, a la Center Parks, emerging onto a main road. But we all made it through without injury.

    Oh, and did I mention there’s a hurricane coming? It was on the news...

    It didn’t take long for the rain to start, with sunny spells and now a driving horizontal wind. We trudged nervously through a plantation of spindly, brittle-looking conifers, some of which appeared to have been caught in a brush fire - I saw a tall one felled ahead me. Even the crickets had stopped singing this morning (usually a very loud backing group for the birds).

    Standing stones...

    The fields here are hedged with slate - with slabs that look like rows of grave stones. In fact, on first sight, I thought they were the edge of a cemetery, but here the dead are interred in multi-storeys, as in other Southern European countries. Slate must be very plentiful, because it is everywhere - it adds texture to every house wall, it lies in piles at the entrance to farms, and is boxed in bundles for delivery to who knows where and for who knows what purpose, stacked in village squares.

    Greasy spoon...

    I had Caldo Galicia (a faintly chicken broth with onions and potatoes), and flan de cafe (an upside down coffee flavoured creme caramel with a Nice biscuit top/base). Chris had macoroni bolognaise, and the coffee cake. It did the trick after all that walking. Plus, I got tea - a proper sized mug, of proper tea.

    “I can’t stand all this excitement, I’m going for a wee”...

    There weren’t as many cafes in this section of ‘the walk’, consequently, even fewer toilets. Most frequent direction of the morning - “You keep walking whilst I just nip behind this bush. I’ll catch you up.” I managed to capture the greater spotted spouse emerging, nay, almost galloping from one such watering hole - look carefully.

    What we learnt today:
    1. Dogs walk ‘The Way’
    “Buen Camino perro”
    2. Megan & Harry’s baby is called Archie
    - prompting Chris’s comment about the trip to the toilet :/
    3. There’s a hurricane on the coast - we saw pictures of the waves.

    We watched the news today whilst sipping tea at our afternoon drinks stop, at Ventas de Naron. Oh, what a surprise, that means windy place!

    Full circle
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  • Day2

    Jesus didn't start in Sarria

    May 7 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    “Jesus didn’t start his Camino in Sarria”, says the graffiti on the route marker, but we did.

    I was going to begin this blog yesterday evening, a little intro before we did get started, but we were hungry, so had a ‘pilgrims’ all-inclusive’ dinner - inclusive of a bottle of wine, of the taste, and strength (in my opinion) of dry sherry. Chris just described it as rough. I read somewhere that it is ok to write drunk, as long as you edit sober, but I can’t do either. I agonise and refine as I go along.

    “An Aussie fella, a scouser, an Irish woman, and a lady in a walking hat who wouldn’t be pigeon-holed were eating in a bar.”

    The mixed group at the next table who I have just stereotyped into a 1970s joke certainly wouldn’t be doing any writing last night, given that they could barely speak coherently. They sure could sing though! Motown mainly. We watched them weaving their way home to their hotels when we followed them down the hill to the church at the end of our meal. Pious little pilgrims aren’t we?

    The people you meet.

    On our trip so far, we have already met up with a couple from Northamptonshire and their friend from Kent, and a South African woman from Gainsborough who’d exchanged her husband for her friend from Retford, and we’d not even begun walking at this point! We had a very interesting conversation about blisters and the location of toilets (the Camino is a very middle-aged occupation clearly). We concluded that we walked around all day without injury normally, so would not need the first aid supplies, and that the most convenient toilet was either this bush ‘aqui’, or that bush ‘alli’ if you wanted privacy. Cafes (with toilets) have in fact been fairly evenly spaced across the journey so far, so.. so far, “no hay problema.”

    Planning.

    I had a list before I came - not of things that I must not forget, but of who I should remember. Quite a lengthy list. Unfortunately, the tiny chapels and churches that we have seen along the way have all been locked up - it’s disappointing, but it’s saved us a fortune in candles - I think we may be in danger of setting light to the cathedral in Santiago when we finally get there...ooh la la, it wasn’t us honest!

    Walking on solid ground.

    I recently received a thank you card, signed by all, from a group that I have been working with. One member simply wrote, “May you walk on solid ground.” I thought this was really lovely - It made me think of a particular time of loss, when it felt like the earth was shifting so much that I could no longer find a safe foothold. Although I have long since regained that connection, it just seemed quite relevant to our Camino journey. The first stage is quite hilly, and the paths are scattered with stones and coursed alongside shallow rocky streams (or babbling brooks, as Chris likes to call them). However, these tricky paths are edged with ancient trees, and meadows of emerald green filled with wild flowers - flowers that by any other name would be garden and hothouse - wild lupins, (purple and yellow), bee orchids, honeysuckle, med-blue gentian, monster foxgloves, broom, extra large dog violets, and a naturalistic, planted, heathland garden - multi-coloured. Another interesting feature along the way is the grain store or horreo . Here they are raised on stilts or pillars, and made of red bricks or wood panels, with steps up. We had been a bit concerned that the area might be susceptible to flash flooding (given the weather forecast later in the week), but no, apparently it’s just to keep the rats out.

    Locals.

    This area is very rural - the route is filled with people working the land, and the dogs who assist them. Every house, however small, has its own vegetable plot, and its own Alsatian. There was also one very loud and lonely donkey. He stopped braying when I spoke to him kindly, and stroked his nose :(

    Stopping over.

    We are now in Mercadoiro in a very nice alberge. Our bedroom looks rather like a wine cellar - we have taken this as a warning. Tomorrow we are aiming for Ligonde, via Portomarin. Or failing that, Alto de Hospital.

    Things learnt today.

    1. It doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll always find a Geordie.
    2. Sit your back pack belt on your waist to avoid straining your Monk Muscle (across the shoulders). Who knew? The Dutchman at our mid-morning coffee stop knew.
    A revelation!
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  • Day82

    Uruguay by the Sea

    October 31, 2017 in Uruguay ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Leaving Argentina

    After our trip to the Parana frontiers, we nipped into town and had lunch with Robert De Niro, before returning to the hotel to finish packing. As we were not catching the bus to our next destination until 5.45pm, we had extended our check-out until 2pm. So, after stowing our bags at reception, we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the pool with the Wifi. The journey to Concordia took all night, with no blankets, pillows, or food, until nearly midnight when we stopped at a terminal to pick them up, along with a large number of other passengers, and the hostess. We should have learnt from experience and been more prepared (we had brought fruit and a couple of biscuits this time, and had had a large, late lunch), but it was too little. We had thought it couldn't happen again!

    When we reached Concordia, around seven the next morning, we had planned to catch the bus into Uruguay, but enquiries revealed that we had missed it by just 5 minutes - the next one wasn't until late afternoon. So we decided to take a taxi to the ferry instead, and cross the border via the river. However, the driver told us that the service no longer ran. We had no means of checking this out, so rather than risk being stranded, we let him take us over the border to Salto, to the bus station. We had planned on spending some time here in any case, before our next bus left, if things had gone to plan, but this gave us even longer for our visit. Second mistake. As this had all happened so fast, we had not thought to get any Uruguayan money, so again we had to search out a Cambio before we could eat breakfast - the station facilities were not open so early on in the morning.

    After refuelling, we caught the bus into Salto Central, and wiled away the morning, strolling along the river and exploring the plazas and sidestreets. I lost my photos of the central square (accidental deletion), so you'll have to take my word that it was a very pleasant and well kept town, by South American standards. You could walk the pavements without falling down a large hole (actual event in Cusco), of which more later. We had empanadas from a coffee booth outside the cathedral, and a drink in a cafe in the main shopping area, before Chris posed for a photo with Suarez - luckily just a statue. Chris didn't fancy being bitten on his arm, which already has various injuries, both surgical and volleyball related. Apparently Suarez was born in Salto. On the way back to the station, we waved to 'Steptoe', an old man on a rag and bone cart before heading onward - an uneventful six hour bus ride to our penultimate destination of the trip...

    Montevideo

    Six days in an apartment with a sea view, to stroll along the prom, to rest and recuperate before our flight back. No more long bus journeys. No need to go out to eat if we didn't want to. Enough time to just look at one thing a day, catch up with my blog, or just do nothing for a bit if the fancy took us. We did go out to eat on the first night, but we soon discovered Bradleys by the Sea (opposite our hotel), which had all the staples, fresh food, and a deli counter - things that we could take 'home' and chop up, or just warm in the microwave, saving valuable lying down time.

    The promenade in question was a 10 km long ramblas, along a perfect crescent shaped bay, edged with apartments and hotels, so we weren't short of space to roam. There were palm trees every few feet, presently being pruned for Spring, and large grassy areas for recreation. Our first day in the city was beautifully warm and, as we walked east along the sea, the locals were certainly taking advantage of the sunshine, and were recreating fully. There were lots of ladies walking fast (rather than jogging), mostly in full lycra fitness gear and baseball caps. De rigueur for the older man was 'shirtless', to better display the pre-exercise abs above their shorts. The poodles wore those plastic, Hollywood sun visors that faded starlets wear, or the ladies that Jon Voight picked up in Midnight Cowboy. Chris had done his running earlier - he couldn't have competed with the mid-morning Montevideons.

    We walked over a sandy, sea-grass area, past the massive ant trails, to a concrete jetty that jutted into the sea. This was where the dogs exercised - standing on rocks as the waves came in, waiting for their owners to throw their rubber rings, so that they could swim. Chris tried a paddle on our last day, and assures me that it was warm, which explains why they were so keen. The beach birds were unusual here. There were some seagulls and cormorants, but also lots of pigeons and doves, and a heron, and a kingfisher; this is where the River Plate merges with the South Atlantic, and obviously the birds as well. The results of this can also be seen in the colour of the water, which is clay earth brown, more like the Amazon than the clear blue sea, but with contrasting pure white horses, whipped up by the gusty winds. One day, on first glance I thought the tide was out, because the water looked more like mud flats than ocean, gilded peach by the early sun. On our second day, it was still bright, but very breezy, and the sea was peppered with sails, spinnakers taut to bursting. Large grey ships lined the horizon. On day three, we walked westward down the ramblas, as far as the Naval Museum, to watch the video about the Graf Spee, the German battle ship that was crippled by the British in WW2, subject of the classic film, 'Battle of the River Plate' that Chris is so interested in. On the Thursday, we found our way to the port to buy our ferry tickets to Buenos Aires. Last leg. After we had sidestepped security (the Southern Lapwing that fiercely guards the port building), Chris asked for a photo in front of the big ships in the dock. It was only after posting it, alongside a wartime picture of the port, taken from a documentary about the Graf Spee, that he realised he had been standing in exactly the same place, in front of the same building.

    We explored the old town, with its large stone gate, preserved in a concrete surround, and the many plazas, all containing huge statues, often with multiple figures and fountains. Then there was the trendy, arty area with its Parisian style market - the local crafts and Montmartre style paintings, with tango too. On the Sunday, when all the main shops were closed, art spaces sprang up, filled with junk sculpture. Poky little book shops opened their doors, selling anything from 1950s fashion hardbacks, to Lawrence Durrell and local artwork. On our second day, we discovered the place they created tango, or rather the music that had made it more acceptable and respectable, and popularised it enough to allow a variety of people to dance it. Prior to this, it had only been performed by men, who danced with each other (as a type of fighting apparently), and 'low class women'. I think the guide may have meant prostitutes. The music was 'La Cumpasita', which I'm sure that almost nobody has heard of, but that everybody who hears it will instantly recognise as the classic piece of tango music that it is. It has even been on Strictly. On the rainy day (and I do mean torrential) we visited the National Theatre (Teatro de Solis) for a tour - we were treated to several mini dramas, by a young couple with just a rose and a suitcase as props. We were then entertained by a German on the tour, who asked multiple questions, "...and when were the chandelier blue prints destroyed? How did that happen?" They were bombed by the Luftwaffe in a glass factory in Birmingham in WW2! He obviously wasn't listening properly when the guide explained this in detail earlier. "The crystal came from France, but nobody will ever ever ever be able to recreate the scintillating, dazzling, decorative lights if they are ever damaged", said the guide. The day before we left, we visited the Museum of the Carnival. It is a big thing in Montevideo, the rhythms and costumes influenced by the different cultures allowed access through the port. We were not even aware that the city had one - perhaps overshadowed by Rio? However, here it is different - performed on outdoor stages, and in mini tableaux, rather than in processions as in the Brazilian versions.

    Leaving Uruguay
    This morning we caught that ferry we booked, which turned out to be a very fast catamaran. We had counted on it taking four hours to get us to Buenos Aires, but we got here in two and a half, and arrived just after lunch at a relaxed and quirky hotel - lots of terracotta-tiled, stepped levels, with copious potted plants, and mini terraces overlooking the internal courtyard reception and the roof tops of hip Palermo Soho. We have come full circle in South America. We visited this area on our city bus tour on our first stay in Buenos Aires, when we stopped here for lunch in a pavement cafe. This time we spent the afternoon exploring further, and picking a restaurant for this evening. We went for a different one in the end but were not disappointed. Final flight tomorrow afternoon. Hasta luego. Until the next time.

    Post Script:
    We shared our hotel room with quite a number of large mosquitos. As the Dalai Lama said, "If you think you're too small to make a difference, spend the night with a mosquito."
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