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The 12th meeting of the Conference of the Contracting Parties, Punta del Este, Uruguay
Once every three years, the Contracting Parties or member States to the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands gather to renew old friendships, cast hostile glances round the hall, and freeze the budget for another triennium.
You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We've been doing these two-week torture galas for so long they almost seem routine, but we're retired now and shouldn't be doing this anymore! This time, as in Bucharest 2012, Kristin is coming along to help as a volunteer with the Ramsar registration and logistics teams, and I'm helping out as a consultant on Documentation and/or Rapporteuring.
First, a few days in Montevideo
The Buenos Aires airport (Ezeiza), on our way to Montevideo (about 2 minutes' flight time). The official travel agent screwed up our itinerary and, when our Lufthansa was late without sensible explanation, to rebook we had to leave Transit and enter the airport proper (i.e., enter Argentina) and therefore pay the US$160 'Reciprocity Fee' each (NOT a visa, merely a punishment fee on USA, Canada, UK, and Australian citizens in response to our rude treatment of Argentinian citizens), then the AirFrance penalties to rebook for the next day, and a night in a cookie-cutter Holiday Inn. (Happily, with some pressure from Ramsar, the travel agent reimbursed our out of pocket US$ 760 and repaired our return flight bookings.)
The somewhat garish Hotel Cala di Volpe in Montevideo, 29 May 2015, along the Rambla Mahatma Gandhi, the beautiful coastal esplanade and park that runs (under different names) all around the city
A corner room at the Cala di Volpe, 3rd floor, with a good view out . . .
. . . on the Rambla Mahatma Gandhi, looking out to sea. Oh sorry: it looks like the ocean, but technically, and hydrographically speaking, that's the Río de la Plata. It just looks like the ocean, with a view that extends to Africa, but never mind.
A photogenic red rowing boat that sits out there moving with the tides
A lighthouse and other stuff out on the Punta Carretas; we're out for a long walk along the shore.
The coastal question has to do, not with being obviously on the ocean or not, but with where the river's freshwater outflow is overcome by the salty seawater, so apparently in this case, 10 miles out to sea, we'd still be on the riverbank.
The red rowing boat mysteriously moving around
Hotels along the Rambla Mahatma Gandhi (each a little world unto itself)
-- Walk naturally, don't look around; and for God's sake, don't take any photos!
The Playa Ramírez beaches and breakwaters along the Rambla Presidente Wilson
The obligatory equestrian statue of Garibaldi. Sorry, of Bolivar.
In the Disco Supermercado, a cornucopia of healthful fruits and vegetables
But we're just here for the beer and wine section, for schlepping an hour or two back to the room.
-- Walk casually, look straight ahead. Don't look furtive or foreign.
"Washington slept here." Not really, but his benevolent presence lingers anyway.
The palatial HQ of Mercosur, the successful South American customs union and trading bloc
Along the Rambla Presidente Wilson, in the tiny park of the Plaza Marosa di Giorgio (a local poet, 1932-2004), we found this fabulous statue, but there was no plaque, no one could tell us anything about it, and it cannot be seen on the most recent GoogleMaps/GoogleEarth imagery.
I associate it with some of the many bronze monuments around town that seem to date from the 1960s and '70s, but Kristin believes that it's much older, likely true.
Their farseeing vision out at their New Horizons pretty much focuses on the port area.
A satisfactory long walk, and it ought to be Happy Hour (in the plastic bag) by now.
The next morning, our red rowboat is still there, or there again. We've changed rooms and now have the corner view from the 8th floor, much better.
Punta Carretas (and the red rowboat)
The Punta Carretas Mall (or, in Spanish, the "Shopping"), which is also our local bus stop for journeying downtown
The central Plaza Independencia, and the equestrian monument to Garibaldi. Sorry, that's Artigas, the anti-monarchical "father of Uruguayan nationhood" (1764-1850).
The Palacio Salvo, on the Plaza Independencia, built in 1928 and then the tallest building in South America
A very strange building -- like the payload capsule is about the separate from the boosters.
Across the Plaza Independencia, at the top of the pedestrian streets down through the old city or Ciudad Vieja.
The nearby Teatro Solis, presently featuring a compilation performance called War: las mujeres de Shakespeare
Into the old city
-- Who's the indigenous person with the funny hat?
The Sarandí high street looking back at the Independence Plaza
Street markets all the way along, mostly selling Mate tea gourds and accessories
Markets in the Plaza Constitución
A fountain celebrating cute little half human/half goat fauns. For some reason.
Adjacent to the Plaza Constitución, that is the Catedral Metropolitana de Montevideo, begun in 1790 and consecrated in 1804, a few decades before the country won its independence from Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil and British interference. Uruguay now ranks number one (or nearly so) in Latin America in nearly all social and political indicators, a lot to be proud of.
A careful eye to the possibilities
The nave of the cathedral, far simpler and more elegant than expected
The tomb of Mariano Soler, the first archbishop of Montevideo (1897), and his strange entourage; known as a tireless opponent of Darwinism.
A beautiful dome at the crossing
Doubtless another heart-wrenching story
Across Sarandí street from the cathedral, half a block down from the McDonald's
-- "I ❤ my neighborhood" (please ignore the barbed wire)
A streetcorner physical fitness regime (in Plaza Zabala)
Available to buy. Available to rent. Anything! Take it, free!
Montevideo street scenes
Restaurant! Wifi! Food, too, if required.
We're on Perez Castellano street, heading towards the port.
Inexplicable street art
Teeny pizzas -- breakfasts -- cafeteria -- fast food! With a piratical theme.
City bike rental racks
The restaurant El Palenque on the left, the 'Comando General de la Armada' looming ahead
El Palenque, where we had a fine lunch in the upper rooms, amongst hundreds or thousands of other happy lunchers all along the city block, outdoors, indoors, and indoors on the top floor
A passing parade, and a wardrobe malfunction
The port authority building, in effect
A buyer! A renter! Anybody!
The next morning
The mystery of the red rowing boat. Somebody's rowing it in at dawn each morning. But why?
Next stop, Punta del Este, and (despite our doubts) Ramsar COP12; 31 May 2015.
and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 June 2015.