Day trip to Atlantida: Blueberry picking and El Aguila

I have a love-hate relationship with having family or friends coming to visit. I love having familiar faces around, someone other than Carlos and my parents to talk to, and getting a bunch of goodies from the States. I hate having to come up with ways to keep them entertained.

I went through something similar when my aunt came to visit in September. Even though it was the beginning of Spring when she came, the weather was less than welcoming and we found ourselves spending a lot of time at home rather than enjoying all Uruguay has to offer.

This month my mother-in-law and her boyfriend came to spend a few weeks with us and it’s been rather challenging coming up with things to do. I’m still on the prednisone which, somedays, renders me useless. And other days, Paloma just doesn’t want to be bothered with long car rides. But Saturday I was adamant that we were going to get out of the house and do something.

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Road to Atlantida. I just love the view.

Did you know that Uruguay is one of the worlds largest blueberry producers? Well, now you know. Anyway, I’m part of an expat page on Facebook that advertises things to do around the country. The past few years we’ve seen advertisements for blueberry picking in both Atlantida and Piriapolis. Carlos and I have always wanted to go but never found a chance considering our first year here I was 9 months pregnant and last year Paloma was still too small to enjoy it.

 

So we headed out at around 9:30am and got to Atlantida at around 10:20am. It wasn’t a bad car ride but I did get lost a few times. By the time we found the place PJ was ready to get out of the car and run around. The farm is really lovely. Not only do they grow blueberries, but they also grow and sell their own organic produce separate from the picking.

I’m so glad I brought PJs rain boots because it would have been brutal to clean her up afterwards. She had a field day! She threw herself in the dirt, played with the fallen berries, picked berries off branches, tried to get through each tree into another aisle, and overall just had a blast running up and down the aisle from me to her dad.

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We were only there for about half an hour but ended up picking about 3 kilos of blueberries! And let me just tell you they are DELICIOUS! We froze about 2/3 of our pickings to be able to have some year round. But what we didn’t is almost gone.

After we got PJ cleaned up we headed to El Aguila on the beach. It’s a local landmark that was built in the mid 1940s. I don’t think it ever served an actual purpose but it’s a pretty cool building to see if you’re in the area. It’s built off a cliff so you get pretty awesome ‘sea’ views. I wish the cliff were roped off for child safety reasons but it is what it is. I was not thrilled to be chasing my two year old away from the edge, that’s for sure.

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El Aguila

We then headed to my FAVORITE bakery in all of Uruguay–La Baipa. When we lived in Atlantida before PJ was born, I used to come there at least twice a week. Their lemon merengue pie is worth every penny and empty calorie. Most people I know head to La Baipa on their way east to Punta del Este or even to Rocha. It’s a definite must go to place in Uruguay. Their selection is different than most bakeries where your options are the same four bizcochos. They have tiny bite size tiramisus, apple tarts, and lovely cream puffs. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Our stay in Atlantida was less than four hours but we had a lovely day. For those of you in Uruguay that would like more information on blueberry picking please don’t hesitate to ask!

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Going green: Camino Verde

Oh Uruguay! When it rains, it pours. We are on hour 13 of nonstop rain. Parts of the country are completely flooded, it’s cold and the idea of going outside is unappealing.

It’s been like this on and off for the past few weeks but this past weekend we were blessed with a break from the wet weather. Our not-so-wet weekend just so happened to coincide with the Camino Verde fair in Montevideo. What’s that? Well, there’s two different parts to Camino Verde. The organization itself serves as a platform to connect merchants and consumers interested in environment friendly products. They also promote healthy living through affordable cooking classes, events for children, and a blog full of clean eating/living information. For my Spanish speaking and reading friends you can find more information here.

The organization puts on fairs every so often to easily connect buyers and sellers. We hadn’t had the opportunity to attend one of the fairs before so I was really excited when Carlos agreed to go. It was a muggy day but overall no rain was to be expected. We packed the car and Paloma with us and headed for Montevideo.

La Molienda food stand. Very friendly and very delicious! Photo courtesy of Camino Verde Facebook page.
La Molienda food stand. Very friendly and very delicious! Photo courtesy of Camino Verde Facebook page.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when we arrived but was very pleased to be greeted by lots of green. As you can imagine the majority of the stands were dedicated to food: organic fruits and vegetables, vegan baked goods, chocolates, organic condiments, and amazing food stands. They also had stands dedicated to urban farming like vertical planters, repurposing furniture for planting and stands dedicated to composting.

PJ devouring a blueberry and pumpkin seed muffin.
PJ devouring a blueberry and pumpkin seed muffin.

We only stayed for about an hour but it was definitely worth the trip. I bought some organic coconut oil–normally very difficult to find outside of Montevideo–and some goat cheese. I’ve already had a lot of fun experimenting with the coconut oil. My favorite so far has been putting a teaspoon of coconut oil along with two or three drops of lavender oil in PJs bath water. She comes out silky smooth and smells so good afterwards.

I wish I would’ve taken pictures but I forgot when I stained my favorite jeans with synthetic paint. We sat down to eat on some chairs they had in the dining area and I guess whoever put them out didn’t realize they were still tacky and when I got up the paint was stuck to my thighs. It. was. awful.

Overall we had a nice afternoon as a family and got to learn more about organic and eco-friendly options here in Uruguay. I’m really excited to see how fast the movement is growing here. Can’t wait for us to start farming!

Flyer for event. Photo courtesy of Camino Verde Facebook page.
Flyer for event. Photo courtesy of Camino Verde Facebook page.

Lady date in MVD pt. 2: Fusimi Sushi

Before my sister left for Italy we went on a little lady date. A day full of pampering and stuffing our faces with delicious sushi and chinese food.

In my first post I talked about our time at Me Spa and I’ll be glad to note that we have since gone back for manicure and pedicure and again, AMAZING! Seriously everyone should go there. 

Now to talk about our time at Fusimi Buffet in Punta Carretas. I had heard about Fusimi from a fellow expats blog called Ask Annette. I had never attempted to eat Asian food here for two reasons. a) Lack of fresh fish at the supermarket and b) Hadn’t found an inexpensive enough place. Sounds pretty ridiculous I know but I might as well be honest. 

Like many restaurants in Montevideo, Fusimi does NOT have a website or state their hours on their Facebook page. Being a buffet, and my being American, I would have thought it would be open from noon until at least midnight but alas like most things in Uruguay they take a siesta from 3:30pm to 8:00pm. My sister and I thought we would be safe arriving at around 6:30pm but they didn’t reopen for dinner for another hour and a half. Luckily the buffet is around the corner from the Punta Carretas shopping mall. 

Off to the mall we went, window shopping and debating getting snacks from small vendors in the mall. Actually I will say one thing I LOVE about Uruguay is the McDonald’s soft serve stands they have inside the mall. Independent little soft serve stands, I mean seriously it’s amazing. Anyway, we decided to get some coffee from the McCafe downstairs and wait for Carlos to get out of work to join us. 

After some very amusing people watching, Carlos showed up and off we went back to Fusimi. It’s a relatively small place with not as large of a selection as a buffet in the States but after being away from the States for so long and used to smaller portion sizes I was appreciative of the small selection. 

The staff is trilingual from what we could tell, however I wouldn’t be surprised if they spoke more languages. Fluent in English, Spanish, and Mandarin (at least I think it was Mandarin. Now I feel like a jerk for not having asked). The waitress noticed us speaking in English and addressed us in English. Not necessary but we appreciated it. There were several other diners present but not enough to feel uncomfortable or overpacked. 

Being pros at the buffet game my sister and I quickly placed our purses on our chair backs and grabbed our plates heading straight for the buffet. Piling up the delicious looking sushi, kung pao chicken and fried rice I was set. I wish I had my phone to take pictures of the food but you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it was everything I could have hoped for and more. The sushi was delicious and welcomingly lacked an overabundance of cream cheese—Uruguayans LOVE Philadelphia and at most sushi places you’ll rarely see a roll that isn’t stuffed with some—and had a mouthful of fresh fish. The fried rice and chicken dishes were delicious and comparable to the stuff I normally ate in Miami. 

Carlos had three or four plates full of food while Vanessa and I could barely finish two. Our server was surprised we didn’t want dessert but seriously who could have more space in their stomachs after everything we ate? I was disappointed it took us this long to find a place like this but glad we gave it a chance. The prices are decent in comparison to other sushi restaurants in town: $390 pesos for lunch and $490 for dinner. They also have a takeout option where you pay $390 per kilogram and sushi is $20 per piece. Not bad in my opinion considering restaurants will charge you $300 for an eight piece roll. 

I will most definitely be returning to Fusimi in the near future, but I don’t know if I’ll be bringing PJ with me. She’s still too young to eat a lot of the food there except maybe for the rice. My aunt is visiting us from Miami mid-September and this will be a nice change of pace when she’s tired of parrilladas and churrasco. 

Fusimi Buffet. Solano Garcia 2468 esq. Jose Ellauri. Hours: Sunday through Thursday 12:00pm-3:30pm and 8:00pm-12:00am. Friday and Saturday 12:00pm-3:30pm and 8:00pm-12:30am. They are closed on Tuesdays. 

Until next time…

The past few weeks have been busy with flight preparations and tying up loose ends. Closing bank accounts, cell phone transfers and avoiding our feelings at all costs. It wasn’t until our last day together that it even hit me she wouldn’t be there the next. For the first time in my life I don’t know when I’ll see my sister again. Continue reading Until next time…

The five things I didn’t think I’d miss…

1. Gallon milk

At this point I just miss milk that comes in a jug. And that’s that I don’t even drink milk. But having a 17 month old and a husband who is obsessed with milk in his coffee have made me miss it so much. In Uruguay, as I’m sure it is in other parts of the world, milk comes in a bag. Sure, they have pitchers for you to place the bags of milk in but seriously it’s just such a pain in the butt. You gotta worry about accidental spills and if something icky touches the bag while it’s waiting to be opened. It might just be me but seriously I hate it.

2. The Home Depot

As I’ve mentioned before, we’re currently remodeling our house in Uruguay. Our contractor does all the work but asks us to go buy the materials. No problem, right? Wrong. The way construction supply stores, also known as “barracas,” work in Uruguay is that you take a number to be attended. When your number is called you go up to the person attending and tell them what you need. Here is my problem. You are not allowed to view the product you are ordering. If you don’t know the different brands they have they’ll just give you whatever you want. You might get the most expensive thing or the cheapest thing depending on who the sale person is. Obviously I’m not a contractor or a construction worker. I don’t know what I’m asking for but if I have a list and it is in Spanish and you salesperson are working in a construction supply store SHOULD know what it is that I’m asking for. Don’t give me a blank stare when I say, “Hello, this is an itemized list of what I need. Thank you.” I miss being able to just walk along those aisles, staring blankly at a bunch of stuff I don’t understand wishing that someone would help me but in the end being on my own. Because honestly if all you do is stare blankly at me and are unsure on how to answer my questions then I’d rather shop on my own than deal with your sub-par customer service. My failure in picking the right thing pisses me off a lot less than having to deal with your crappy service and haphazard disinterest in dealing with an “extranjero.”

3. Shopping

I miss shopping without depending on someone for help. I’m not talking about the normal greeters when you go into a store. I’m talking about everything you want to look at is kept behind a counter and you need to interact with people to see what you came for. What if I don’t exactly know what I want to look at? What if I just want to window shop? Are you going to take the time to show me every item behind the counter? I don’t think so. (For more complaints about shopping and dealing with crappy customer service I refer to read #2 again.)

4. Mail

This is probably the most ridiculous thing on the list but seriously I miss going to the mail box and seeing a huge stack of junk mail waiting for me. I miss Saturday mornings at home drinking coffee and perusing through the weeks advertisements and magazines. It could be that we haven’t lived here long enough to really receive mail but from looking at my neighbors I’m guessing that mail in Uruguay is strictly reserved to packages and bills. Magazines are something you just buy at the newsstand and even then Uruguayan magazines aren’t the same as American ones (obviously when your population is coming in at nearly 4 million you don’t have the capital as one would when trying to reach let’s say ~100 million).

5. Driving automatic

When I first learned how to drive a stick shift I was SO EXCITED! It was one of the things on my bucket list and it took me about five months to accomplish it (I took driving lessons once every two weeks so it took me awhile). However, after about a year of driving I can honestly say nothing annoys me more than driving stick shift. I hate how sore my legs get after driving in the city. I hate constantly using both feet to stop and go, stop and go, stop and go. What I would give to just be able to put the car in drive and not have to worry about anything else except not hitting anyone or anything.