Monday, December 25, 2006

Feliz Navidad

Before I tell my Christmas-in-Uruguay story, I must point out how cool
it is that while all you folks were suffering through the shortest day
of the year, I was having the longest day of the year thanks to my
southern hemisphere-ness. That´s right, December 21st and June 21st
were both longest days for me (rendering the superlative moot) which
means I watched the sun set at 9:30 pm roughly down in Uruguay.

Punta del Este is pretty but a tad touristy and very expensive
compared to Buenos Aires. We did stay at a gorgeous hotel for the
first two nights, and got in a good beach day. But the best was
Christmas eve dinner.

We had made reservations the prior nights and been the only people in
the restaurants where we had reserved. This is apparently because
while Punta is THE destination for wealthy South Americans and
tourists from abroad in the summer, the true season doesn`t begin
until the day after Christmas. This was evident not just from the
empty restaurants, but the vacant nightclubs and the many stores which
were scrambling to finish new signs, new doors, new windows, etc. in
time for the tourist crush. Given this observation, we didn´t bother
making a reservation for Christmas eve, thinking it would be like
another night. Instead, we found ourselves like Mary and Joseph,
wandering around town finding that the few restaurants which were open
had no room. We did find two places which would take us for fixed
price menus, but one was way more food than we wanted, and the other
was $100 US for a three course meal where the entree was spaghetti.

Finally, we stumbled upon a cute little seafood place with a far more
reasonable fixed price menu and a piano player who loved the beatles.
We ended up singing the night away with him and the mandolin player
who joined and the locals dining around us. The special menu did
include a bottle of wine for every person more or less, so everyone
was having a great time. At quarter to midnight, the waitress put a
champagne glass in front of each of us and the entire restaurant full
of people (I should mention how cozy this place was-- there were
probably about 25 people total in this little room) was treated to
champagne. They counted down just like we do for new years, and then
everyone toasted and hugged and said Feliz Navidad! at exactly
midnight. Then we could see fireworks going off over the water way in
the distance, with two simultaneous shows competing (in my mind, I
could hear Marji saying ``It´s the finale!``). The couple next to us
were so far gone at this point that the wife dropped her champagne
glass before she could even toast it.

It was truly one of the most memorable Christmas eves I´ve ever had,
and it was quite a turnaround for three girls who thought they would
be eating potato chips for dinner.

Sadly, I guess I´m missing Marji`s famous beef tenderloin tonight.


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