Monday, March 14, 2011

36 Hours in Uruguay

Plaza di Armas - Colonia del Sacramento

Our alarm goes off at 5:30 AM and Mike and I grudgingly roll out of bed…whose idea was it to take a ferry to Uruguay at 7:45 the day after Fat Tuesday.  At that moment, I was definitely blaming Mike, but to be fair, it was a great idea.  The day before he had realized that our travel plans wouldn’t get us to Uruguay (and our only opportunity to hit up a beach) until April which is like October in the US…hardly the best time for hanging out at the beach.  After checking the weather around noon on Tuesday and realizing the next 2 days were going perfect beach weather, we booked ferry tickets to Colonia del Sacramento.

After a one hour ferry ride, we reached Colonia.  Colonia is a charming, sleepy town.  It was originally a Portuguese, then Spanish settlement, and is the oldest town in Uruguay.  It sits across the Rio de la Plata (where the Uruguay River and the ParanĂ¡ River flow into the Atlantic) from Buenos Aires so it is a popular destination to escape to craziness of Buenos Aires. 

Here are a few of the highlights of our trip:

Dog Beach - where I learned that Mike is very attractive to dogs 
We couldn’t check into our hostel until 1 pm so we headed down to a tiny beach about 2 blocks away to hang out for a few hours.  There were several dogs walking around the beach when we arrived and they took an immediate liking to Mike.  One managed, among other things, to lay on Mike’s towel, drip water on him, and even lick his head (I think the pictures below say it all).  When we finally left to go eat, the dogs followed us right onto the main street of town.  We kept trying to lose our uninvited entourage, but they were not to be dissuaded.  We tried hiding in a bank for a few minutes, but they just curled up on the pavement until we returned.  Finally we lost them through some advanced maneuvering.  Later while sitting in a restaurant, the one most in love with Mike walked by and paused right outside the open restaurant window (they had been looking for us).  Luckily Mike had just run to the restroom so I think it fooled him.  Otherwise, I’m sure he would have walked right into the open restaurant door!

Mike's mistake: Petting a wet dog while he drips on your towel
The consequences of Mike's mistake (notice the 3 dogs sleeping around Mike in picture on right)

BarrĂ­o Historico
This is the historic part of Colonia that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.  Small, winding, cobblestone streets are lined with beautiful little Portuguese styled homes.  Some of the buildings, as well as the tiled street signs, reminded of us of our trip to Macau (another Portuguese colony).  We walked around for a while, took way too many pictures, then stopped for some ice cream.  Finally about 10:30, we went out for some dinner.  We dined outdoors by candlelight at a place called El Drugstore (I have no idea where they came up with this name).  We have some really good Uruguayan wine (who knew they had good wine?) to wrap up a wonderful day. 

Playa Fernando
The best beach near Colonia is about 2km outside of the city so we rented some bikes and headed out there.  About 15 minutes into our ride, on a small side street, Mike’s chain came off his bike.  A woman rushed out of her house with some tools and proceeded to take over trying to fix it for us.  The people were so kind and friendly!  We finally made it to the beach, which was amazing.  There were less than 20 people on the entire beach (which was huge) and the water was pretty warm.  One thing we discovered pretty quickly…this wasn’t actually the ocean!  The water wasn’t salty at all.  We aren’t totally sure why not as we are definitely in water that hits the ocean.  Our hypothesis (and all you scientists reading our blog feel free to leave us a comment with the correct answer) is that the water coming out of the rivers is pushing out into the ocean and the waters haven’t blended at that point, but honestly we have no idea.  Anyway, it was the highlight of our trip to Uruguay and definitely worth the scramble to get out here before the weather turned cold.

Biking to the beach through the Uruguayan countryside

At Playa Fernando...we saw people drinking mate on the beach (see center photo)