I just got back from spending the Christmas holiday in Paysandú with my flatmate, Emilia’s family. Paysandú is a city about 5 hours (by Bus) northwest of Montevideo on the banks of the Rio Uruguay.
To start off, the bus system in Uruguay puts the Greyhound or Megabus/National Express (UK system) to shame. Buses have been my only mode of transportation around Uruguay and to Buenos Aires. The system is extremely organized; buses leave on the dot and arrive when they are actually scheduled to arrive. I do recall my first and last trip on Greyhound down to Durham, NC. What would normally be a 4-5 hour trip turned into a 12 hour ordeal with a 6 hr. layover in Richmond. I try to block out that memory. I digress, the intercity or country (if you travel to cities in Argentina and Brazil from Uruguay) bus system is reliable, affordable and very well kept; with each city having its own central bus terminal. Tres Cruces, the major terminal here in Montevideo also has a shopping centre. Ok I will stop raving about the bus system here.
We arrived in Paysandú late Saturday afternoon and spent the rest of the day getting to know the little ones (Simón and Juan) and chilling out in what used to be Emilia’s grandfather’s farm. It was such a spacious estate. So peaceful. The hacienda (farm) is located about 10 km outside the city. Although most of the land now isn’t really worked, Ana (Emi’s mom) has an impressive garden with various fruits and veggies. Sunday a bunch of people came by for an asado (bbq). Early evening we relocated to Paysandú proper to visit the rest of the fam. Monday more chilling and eating took place, plus an interesting trip to a tambo (dairy farm) that belongs to Emi’s dad.
Holiday festivities here are pretty much on par with those in Canada/US -lots and lots of food. The weather is definitely a big difference. This time of year has always been synonymous with snow and cold weather. It was a bit odd to think of summer and holidays simultaneously. I guess people here probably can’t fathom the holiday season with winter weather. Oh another interesting variation, the days leading up to Xmas day people stock up on fireworks. Around midnight of the 25th the neighbourhoods lit up as each household got out to the street and lit up their fireworks. Tuesday was followed by yet another gathering with more food. After which we caught the bus back to Montevideo. All in all it was a wonderful several days filled with food and more food. It was rather depressing coming back to Montevideo and realizing that work awaited the next day.
On a very random tangent, on the ride up to Paysandú, seeing all those cows for some reason made me think of an odd commercial paid for by the California Dairy industry. Not sure if anyone actually remembers it. The one stating that good cheese comes from happy cows and happy cows come from California. I have no idea why that came to mind. Nonetheless, it got me comparing cows in California and cows here in Uruguay. I have concluded that cows in Uruguay are far happier as they produce the best dairy and have the best meat in the world; figures that Uruguay and Argentina are known for their beef.