Wanderlust and Baby AirBnB Awards 2016

AirBnB has been absolutely pivotal in making our trip affordable and practically possible. All but one of our 18 different accommodations so far have been booked through the site. 

Not only are hotels (and indeed often hostels) far more expensive but without the kitchen facilities available in our AirBnB properties feeding Amber and ourselves would be impractical / impossible. 

AirBnB has also give us the chance to meet local people and experience neighbourhoods and properties that would otherwise have eluded us. That is not to say it’s all been plain sailing. Putting your stay in the hands of a random punter instead of the professional services industry can lead to problems, some more serious than others. In this post we’ll look back on our accommodation for 2016 and pick out the best and worst that AirBnB has offered.

Award: Biggest property

Winner: Luna Azul, Punta Ballena, Uruguay

For our second week in Uruguay we stayed at this vast 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom detached holiday home (only affordable as we stayed here way out of season). It even had its own name. In a predictable reaction to its size and the quietness of the neighbourhood overall we decided it was haunted. At least we didn’t feel quite so alone if we imagined a ghost making use of the third bedroom.

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Amber helps give a sense of perspective in front of Luna Azul (ghost can be seen in top left window)

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Who could have beef with Uruguay?

On Saturday 1st we boarded the high speed ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires and thereby drew to a close a wonderful, varied and relaxing couple of weeks in Uruguay. From the Puerto Mercado to Cabo Polonio we felt that despite only being in the country for a couple of weeks we achieved a lot.

As with our Brazil entry we wanted to wrap up our time here with a quick post highlighting some general observations around the country and what we got up to.

Shhhhhh

Uruguay is quiet. If / when sheep attain a collective consciousness then make a hasty exit because they outnumber humans 3 to 1. It is ranked 198 out of 244 countries in terms of population density with half that population living in Montevideo. Even in Montevideo itself the old town was eerily quiet particularly at the weekend – maybe, like us, everyone was in the Puerto Mercado gorging themselves on beef and wine. On the road we were often the only car. (I will confess that with a mile of straight empty road ahead of me I may of at times gone a little over the speed limit, no mean feat bearing in mind our rental car was a rattly little Suzuki that audibly groaned when it saw how much luggage we were carrying.)

Given our advancing years and inability to go out in the evening we appreciated Uruguay’s laidback, quiet style. There was something innately relaxing about being somewhere with so few people. The fact we traveled out of season helped as by all accounts the coastline swells with Argentinians and Brazilians come the summer months (December to February). This was no better reflected than in Cabo Polonio which felt like an extrapolation of the country’s serenity and peacefulness.

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The bustling central square in Cabo Polonio

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Cabo Polonio

On Wednesday we went on an adventure. We left our house at the crack of dawn and drove over 200 miles. We walked through shrub and woodland, over sand dunes, and across a misty and deserted beach. We reached a remote and isolated village without roads, electricity or running water. We saw a herd of sea lions. And it was one of the best days of our trip so far.

Our destination was Cabo Polonio. Located on the east coast of Uruguay, the village sits on a small peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. With a year round population of 95 (according to a 2011 census) it is less a village, more a collection of huts and houses, a grocery store and as a result of increased popularity a handful of hostels.

The cape is named after the Spanish sailing ship ‘Polonio’ shipwrecked there in 1735. Following the wreck, it became a settlement for sailors and fishermen, and due to its particular geography, rocky shores and fierce seas, it was the site of many more sea disasters. Legend has it that it was renowned among sailors and pirates across the world who believed the cape was cursed, that death would come to those who ventured there, and when in the vicinity of the cape compasses would spin with no direction causing ships to crash into the rocks of the shoreline.

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Map of the geography of Cabo Polonio showing its complete isolation and unique lay of the land. Picture taken in the visitors’ centre at the entrance of the national park

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Beef, beef, beef. Montevideo’s Puerto Mercado

Rather than do a blog on Food in Uruguay, (similar to our previous one from Brazil) this time we’re honing in on one particular location that we think encapsulates what food is all about here – the Puerto Mercado or Port Market, situated (unsurprisingly) close to the port on the north side of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja (old town).

One of the recurring images I would think about before we came on this trip was the three of us in Argentina gorging ourselves on high quality, cheap steak and red wine. And it was only as I began to look a little closer at Uruguay that it became apparent we would have the chance to be doing exactly that a little earlier than expected. Uruguay loves beef. Uruguay loves meat. In a country where close to half the population of 3 million live in Montevideo there are vast swathes of sparsely populated interior plains where cows (and cowboys) are the only living things you’ll come across. Indeed it is the only country that keeps tracks of 100% of its cattle, cattle that outnumber humans by three to one. With that in mind it’s no surprise that beef (and meat more generally) is big here.

Our limited research (a quick read of Lonely Planet South America) told us that THE place to eat beef alongside the locals is in the Puerto Mercado, particularly at the weekend. So last Saturday, the day after we arrived in Montevideo, we took that advice and headed down there.

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Outside the Puerto Mercado entrance with its distinctive “British” railway arches

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Barra da Lagoa and our plans for the next few weeks

As well as numbers I also love a good plan and this trip gives us plenty of opportunities to scour maps, AirBnB and flight / bus schedules in order to arrange the next phases of our trip.

With 2 weeks in Rio behind us (see Claire’s blog here) we want to lay out what we have planned over the next few weeks as well as quickly comment on the week just gone.

26th August – 2nd September: Barra da Lagoa

This week we have been in the fishing village of Barra da Lagoa (not quite as small as it sounds with the plethora of hostels, surf schools and restaurants around but that said it is still very quiet and relaxed) near Florianopolis. This is a tranquil, serene and beautiful place that sits at the southerly point of a seemingly endless beach on the east side of Isla Santa Catarina. Our days here are simple – playing on the beach with Amber, drinking Brahma beer, keeping our costs down and trying (sometimes succeeding) to make meals that Amber will eat (more on this to come but it’s been emotional to say the least).

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Barra da Lagoa

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