Red Wine, Lamb Chops, and a Walk Through an Old Town

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

“A self-reflective walk through time
thoughts meander with the digestion of wine.”

Heather Markel, June 2019.


I’m walking down a random street in the Old Town of Montevideo on a Sunday afternoon. The streets are fairly vacant, storm clouds swell in the sky, there are some vagabond-looking people in the street that may possibly mean it’s not a good idea for me to walk alone. My body, however, is full of 2/3 of a bottle of red Uraguaian wine so I feel invincible and if they want my bag, life will go on. I’m focused on the amazing architecture and colors which removes my focus from whether the people between them might mug me.

Enjoying wine and lamb with a new friend from Brazil.

Earlier in the day I took a tour of the city. They didn’t have an English tour so I took the Spanish one. Can you believe the guide, from Uruguay, apologized to me for not speaking English? I’m of the mindset that I should apologize if I don’t speak the local language, so find the apology unecessary though very endearing. I meet a mother and daughter from Buenos Aires and we bond over tales of Argentina, and another single woman, Gabriella, from Sao Paolo, Brazil. She got divorced a month ago and is still recovering. She’s appreciative of a single woman friend, and asks me to join her for lunch. That’s where I have the red wine – Gabriella has a special coupon for her meal and it comes with a glass of wine, so that leaves me drinking most of the bottle, not that I mind. I accompany it with a delicious French rack of grilled lamb chops. An elderly couple is seated next to us and something about their energy attracts me so I start talking to them. After Gabriella leaves for her flight back to Brazil I stay for a coffee with them and learn they have been together for 20 years. They’re from Uruguay, elsewhere than Montevideo, where they live now. They are impressed with my Spanish. 🙂

“Ah, the power of red wine….”

For another adventure, I got my hair highlighted in Buenos Aires. Though the hairdresser spoke English really well, I made the mistake of presuming we both thought of highlights as random small streaks of lighter hair color. I end up with a totally new hair color. I’m not sure I like it. I realize that in the past I would have cried, freaked out and run to another hair salon to get it fixed. Now I see it as one more bump in the road. And, it might not even be a bump. In a couple of weeks I might like it. And, if I don’t, I can worry about it then.

Old Town, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Photograph by Heather Markel. Copyright 2019

As I walk down these streets in the old town of Montevideo, Uruguay I see street names like “Buenos Aires” and “Guarani” reminding me of all the places I’ve gone since February in South America. My camera has also stopped working well – not sure if it’s user error, the camera itself, or the lenses. Sadly, I think it’s the camera. So, I’m walking down the street without being able to take photos apart from with my iPhone. I feel as if my creativity is stifled, and, at the same time I feel more aware of my surroundings because I’m simply taking them in, rather than trying to capture them from every interesting angle I can create.
And so as these self relections cross polinate my brain I realize that most of these things don’t even matter. Travel has altered my thinking and my anxiety. My hair can be re-colored, or I can have fun with it. Perhaps my camera has stopped working for a reason. I am loving the photography but what if I’m supposed to take a break from it? Or maybe I’m supposed to meet someone important when I go to the repair shop. The more travel experiences I have, the more I see that every thing happens for a reason. The sucky part is when I don’t understand the reason and get caught up in the self-pity of the emotional reactions. But, eventually, things become clear and what seemed to suck suddenly seems like a huge gift to help me on my life journey.
I’m naturally drawn to an artesenal shop where everything is hand made and high quality, and money goes to the people that made them. I meet Norman who makes bombillas, the metal straws we use to drink yerba mate. I learn that Argentina doesn’t understand yerba mate, and drink it all wrong. (I must admit that I am liking the yerba mate in Uruguay more than in Argentina…) I get a lesson in the proper drinking of yerba mate and then Norman asks me if I’m on vacation and how I speak such good Spanish. I explain that I quit my job because I’m divorced, have no kids, and had to believe there was more to my life than just 20 more years in a cubicle. Norman wholeheartedly applauds my thinking. The more I do what I’m doing the more I do, too. I am getting not just to travel the world, but to know it – to see how differently people live and feel in different places. I would never have gotten that enrichment from annual vacations.
I also notice how important my energy is to my experience. I’ve been a bit down the past couple of months but recently have been making a come-back. As I feel more uplifted, I’m back to meeting wonderful people with ease, I’m just happy, and I feel more alive and aligned to my life. I’m attracting great people, opportunities and experiences just by showing up and smiling. That, at the end of the day, is who I am; naturally curious, happy, self-reflective, funny, and at ease with diverse people from across the globe. 
And so this long walk fueled by new friendship, red wine and lamb chops has allowed me to put my journey, so far, into more perspective, see, once again, how much I have grown and learned from it, and that I look forward to still more.
PS for those of you that are wondering where I had my meal – it was delicious, and if you’re ever in Montevideo, Uruguay, I highly recommend El Palenque.
PPS for those of you fretting, the camera issue turned out to be user error. So, perhaps I was just not supposed to whip my camera out in that quiet neighborhood. All photos in this post were taken with my iPhone…not bad, eh?

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