Updated on June 13, 2010
El Viejo y el Mar, Punta del Diablo, Uruguay
It was a cold rainy evening in June and I was sitting in a cozy living room lit only by the glow from a fire and candle light. Well worn books lined the shelves and an older man named Ernesto was tuning an aged guitar. A few locals who were sitting around the fireplace struck up a vocal conversation about the European Cup that was currently in progress. Between my poor Spanish and the local accent I know I missed many important points, but the passion was apparent.
Like most homes in Punta del Diablo the walls provided only partial protection from the wind blowing outside. The fire burning in its recessed hearth was the only heat source and its light made reading the many cards and thank you letters decorating the walls and ceiling possible. Fishing nets hung in the rafters while fish painted on the wall flickered in the firelight.
Ernesto left for a period of time and returned with an enormous pan of rice and stuffed squid. We were seated in Ernesto’s home and restaurant, El Viejo y el Mar. Ernesto’s has become something of a local icon. The restaurant appears to have stood here on the shore of the South Atlantic forever. Ernesto serves up some of the finest seafood I have eaten in Uruguay.
After the meal a round of singing broke out accompanied by a still out of tune guitar. The songs seemed to be old favorites to the Uruguayos who all jumped in to sing along the guitarist. While we as travelers may never be able to be a part of authentic times like this it is truly an experience to witness something so real. It is usually impossible for us to get a view of real everyday life while we travel. But real every day life along with an incredible meal is what you will find at Ernesto’s home, El Viejo y el Mar.