Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Plaza Matriz

The city of Montevideo includes a number of plazas that serve as focal points for community gatherings, concerts, markets and cafes.  These inviting public spaces offer places to sit and take in the energetic activity of the urban environment from an unhurried, relaxed vantage point.

Plaza Matriz, a prime spot for antique hunting and plein air dining located in the heart of Ciudad Vieja, is one of the nicest squares, with tree-lined pathways and an ornate central fountain.  The square is flanked by historic buildings including the Cabildo, the original seat of the Colonial government.   We spent a very hot summer afternoon browsing through the antique dealers' stalls while listening to a string quartet play works by  Handel, Bach and Mozart on the plaza.






My treasure hunt yielded an embroidered evening bag with a porcelain clasp painted with a romantic scene from Fragonard.  The purse is in excellent condition and the tag inside reads "Made in France."  I also bought a photograph from the man who specializes in vintage books, old prints and works on paper.  I imagine the  sitter in this portrait attending a summer concert at Teatro Solis, elegantly dressed in her frilly white gown and carrying a certain floral evening bag.   

Montevideo studio portrait circa 1907



La Corte facade
For lunch we stopped at La Corte, a trendy restaurant housed in the former Club Uruguay established in 1888.  This is where the business crowd chooses to dine, and the place is always packed at midday - inside on all three levels and outside on the plaza, too.  We managed to get a table upstairs in the loft overlooking the main floor with its exposed stone wall and Cutcsa truck decor.   The executive menu is the best deal in town, an all-inclusive entree, dessert and drink selection offered for 198 pesos (just under $10 U.S.).  Choices include pasta, beef or fish dishes served with salad or potatoes, accompanied by a glass of wine or mineral water, followed by coconut tart, ice cream or fruit cocktail for dessert.  The service is fast and courteous, delivered by a well-trained team of attractive young women who know the names of the regular customers and don't hesitate to kiss them on arrival and departure.  The  atmosphere reminds us of Earl's Tin Palace in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  
















The placemat at La Corte shows an artist's rendering of the exterior of the Club Uruguay building, the facade of Iglesia Matriz, (a cathedral dating from 1804) and the edge of the park on the plaza. 


And this is how it looked as we left the restaurant and made our way down Peatonal Sarandi.






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