Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Montevideo III: Che Lagarto

The Che Lagarto hostel is very well-located on Plaza Independencia in the heard of Ciudad Vieja, with a creperie on one side and a great coffeehouse on the other. Likely because of its location and indoor bar with pool table, it was livelier than the Red Hostel had been.

After a quick jaunt to Colonia, Cath returned to Montevideo and caught up with me at the hostel. More hyjinxs ensued.

First, Cath and I went to the Museo de la Casa de Gobierno. I had read that among the showcase of artifacts of Uruguay’s most prominent politicians was the “embalmed” dog of President Venancio Flores. I didn’t learn much about Flores, though I gathered, correctly, from the painting above the dog that the President had been assassinated.

“No pictures, please,” three separate docents had requested when we entered the museum. I fretted about that because the documentation of this peculiar pet display was the sole reason I went to the museum. When we found it, I swiftly and discretely snapped two shots quite literally from the hip. I was pleased to see after we left that, albeit fuzzily, I captured Cath, the creepy dog and part of the painting in my hasty attempt.

Afterwards, we decided to go to Itendencia Municipal, also indicated in my guidebook for its’ top floor lookout with panoramic views of the city. The book said it was in Plaza de Cagancha, just a short walk from Plaza Independencia, where we were. The directions weren’t very specific but, no matter, we figured. Just go to that park and look for the tallest building, right? No.

We wandered awhile, casing the buildings in the vicinity for contenders.

I told Cath to look sneaky for this shot, to illustrate all our sketchy-looking meandering in the area. Now that I see the photo full size, though, it looks more like she’s trying to steal the motorcycle than gain unauthorized entry to scope out the building behind her.

That wasn’t the right place anyway. Since the book had proven erroneous a couple times at this point, we headed back to Plaza Independencia, following the logic that maybe they had also misprinted the name of the building. Nada.

We gave up on the (legal) photo-op eventually and went for dinner.

We had our first meal at Los Leños that night. It was leisurely and decadent, and the service was far superior to our second meal there. Yep, we returned a couple days later craving a repeat, although drawing from my experience I should have known better. (“You can’t go home again,” as they say.) The second visit, the waiter we had painstakingly won over previously was finishing his shift so we were transferred to another. He was an odd, emotionless fellow: when I made a ridiculous face to get him to lighten up a bit he, without making eye contact, plainly exclaimed, “No!”—and walked away. Ha ha ha! Alright then.

Then it happened…the gratuitous “boob swipe.” When he delivered our entrees, he maneuvered in such a way that—despite having ample space to set the plate down like a normal person, and me edging still further away from the table all the while—he brushed my tender chest with his hand. I quickly shot a look at Cath that revealed my simultaneous appall and amusement. He tried to land her dish too, as it were. Seconds later, the two of us were crying with laughter.

The weirdness of that experience pretty much encapsulates the majority of our interactions with the locals. But Cath and I laughed our way through all of them.

We had helpers too, in the form of Leandro and Carlos (who, somehow, was dubbed “Charlie”). They were our roommates at Che Lagarto—young and spirited, clever and sarcastic—who were just great fun to be around. We drank together. We talked Traveler’s Shop; covering politics, history, philosophy, relationships, music, language, places we’ve been and places we’ll go, and dreams.

"Charlie" and Leandro

The morning that Leandro, Charlie, and I were leaving, I woke Leandro up for breakfast. As the groggy wore off, he rubbed his eyes and said, “I don’t want to go.”

I know, Leandro. I know.

That is why I hostel.