Punta del Este is Uruguay’s most glamorous, upscale beach resort town, but Uruguayans rarely go there. To get to Punta, most people fly from Miami to Montevideo, then drive for two or more hours. The “more” is a result of the road work currently taking place as you get closer to your destination. If the speed limit signs say 30 MPH, you’d better go 25, or risk getting ticketed by the overzealous traffic cops.Unfair? Maybe, but wealthy Punta patrons must have paved roads, and someone has to pay for them.
So, many hours after leaving Miami, you arrive in Punta del Este, distinguished by a long necklace of big glass buildings. Holy highrise, Batman, we’re back in Ft. Lauderdale! As you can tell by my snarky comments, I am not a fan of Punta del Este. It’s the quaint casitas of Atlantida and the mystical mansions of Piriapolis that put a smile on my face. Yesterday, however, I had good reason to be in Punta.
A Meeting of Memoir Writers
My friend and fellow expat Susan Joyce, will soon publish her memoir, titled “The Lullaby Illusion.” Set in different locations throughout the world, it tells the story of her marriage, unbeknownst to her, to a spy. Part of the book takes place in Cyprus, during the Cyprus War. Susan is a prolific writer, but not much of a social media diva. I’ve been trying to change that.
I showed Susan the Facebook book and personal pages of Cherie Magnus, author of “The Church of Tango.” Cherie tells the story of her survival of the death of her husband and her own struggles with breast cancer. She celebrated her survival by moving to Paris, then Mexico, then Argentina. Cherie now lives in Buenos Aires, where she teaches tango.
In Search of the Conrad Hilton, Punta del Este
After reading Cherie’s pages, Susan declared that “she must meet this amazing woman.” Opportunity then presented itself. Cherie was visiting a friend, who had rented a vacation home in Punta del Este. We arranged to meet in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel, because that would be an easily recognizable building – or so we thought. The Conrad is a big glass highrise. So what else is new?
We finally found the hotel, headed to the ladies’ room, and noticed that some of the toilets did not flush. “Oh well,” says I. “At least there’s some indication that we’re actually in South America.” A series of giggles erupted from the different stalls. Elsewhere in Uruguay, few would understand my remarks. In Punta, the average visitor or expat is from the US, UK or Australia.
Lunch at Mia Bistro & Sushi Bar Punta del Este
The three of us drove to Mia Bistro & Sushi Bar, a restaurant that enjoys a beachfront location on Brava Beach. Unlike other Punta establishments, Mia Bistro is housed in a small shack, which evokes images of New England seafood restaurants.
Specializing in “fusion cuisine,” Mia Bistro presents a diverse menu of dishes inspired by Guatemala, El Salvador, Macedonia and Japan. I ordered the Aphrodisiac Salad , consisting of lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, quinoa, mango and enormous fresh shrimp. It was by far, one of the best salads I have ever had. At 490 pesos, almost $25, it darn well should have been.
In lieu of butter, a scrumptious salmon spread accompanied the bread. Mia Bistro blends the simplicity of a small beach restaurant with the elegance of an upscale establishment. Outdoor dining is available. The ambiance is conducive to deep conversation.
Having both grown up in California and lived in Mexico, Europe and South America, Susan and Cherie were definitely simpatico. The subject eventually got around to the distinguishing qualities of an interesting memoir. We all agreed that the travel element was the deciding . ingredient. A significant event that takes place in one location is interesting. Take the same event on the road, and it becomes intriguing. “Of course,” said Cherie, if it’s a memoir, you have to have lead an interesting life. Fiction writers have the luxury of placing their characters in exotic settings, often under difficult circumstances. Memoir writers have been there, done that and lived to tell the tale.
So where are you going on your next vacation?