Hola y Chau Uruguay

Having exhausted most of the things we wanted to see and do in Buenos Aires we had purchased tickets for a ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay for today.  Colonia, as it’s known, is the oldest city in Uruguay and was founded by the Portuguese directly across the river from Spain’s Buenos Aires. This didn’t sit too well with the Spanish who conquered it less than a year later.  It then traded back and forth between Spain and Portugal nine times over the next hundred years.  All of this trading back and forth left the old town center an adorable mish-mash of Spanish and Portuguese colonial buildings, all vibrantly painted and perfect for a day trip from Buenos Aires (it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site for those playing UNESCO Bingo at home).

The downside of this plan was that we needed to wake up at 5.45 in the morning to get across town, clear customs, and make our 8.00 am ferry. Why a country that does everything so late felt the need to have such an early ferry we will never understand and we certainly did not enjoy it.

After a shower to wake up, and a taxi ride to the ferry we left Argentina and officially entered Uruguay, which at this point was a holding room while you wait to board the boat. The boat left on time (again, unusual for Argentina) and Lynn and I spent the hour long ride trying and failing to get a little more sleep, and snacking on an overpriced soggy sandwich from the cantina. Despite being an hour long, Colonia is only 30 miles east of Buenos Aires and believe it or not, we took the fast ferry.  There is an option to take the three hour ferry as well, which goes as fast (or slow) as some people can run.

Buenos Aires as the ferry departs. Pardon the shot through the gross window.
Buenos Aires as the ferry departs. Pardon the shot through the gross window.
We are arrived and Lynn is very sleepy.
We are arrived and Lynn is very sleepy.
Bienvenidos a Colonia!
Bienvenidos a Colonia!

Our ride had come with a complementary walking tour of the downtown area and we joined a large group of people gathered around an older woman who would be giving the tour in both English and Spanish. The group kept growing until we finally left the ferry terminal with about fifty people in tow. This was a large group indeed. We made our way along a quiet road while Maria gave us a history of the town in, alternatingly, English and Spanish. A stray dog joined our pack early on and entertained the crowd by rolling in the grass or peeing on bushes.

The tour wove through the downtown and it was indeed quite charming, just as you imagine South American colonial towns look.  Maria did a fantastically mediocre job guiding us through it and interrupted herself twice to answer phone calls, once while inside a church. After the tour ended, Lynn and I were both starving and nothing was really open yet so we “settled” for ice cream. We were both quite proud that we did the entire thing in Spanish, even as the server made jokes in Spanish to us (we didn’t understand them, but we would politely laugh enough that she kept telling them).

The dog has joined our group and is just as interested in learning about Colonia.
The dog has joined our group and is just as interested in learning about Colonia.
The old gate to the city and the wooden drawbridge. These are recreations based on original plans of the city.
The old gate to the city and the wooden drawbridge. These are recreations based on original plans of the city.
A lighthouse was built in the middle of these old monastery ruins in the 1800s. It is still active today. The lighthouse, not the monastery.
A lighthouse was built in the middle of these old monastery ruins in the 1800s. It is still active today. The lighthouse, not the monastery.
One of the oldest streets in old town.
One of the oldest streets in old town.
The Basilica of the Holy Sacrament.
The Basilica of the Holy Sacrament.
On the outside wall of the church you can see the different building styles of the Portuguese (stone) and Spanish (brick).
On the outside wall of the church you can see the different building styles of the Portuguese (stone) and Spanish (brick).
The old governors house had been torn down and turned into a public square before being excavated recently.
The old governor’s house had been torn down and turned into a public square before being excavated recently.

From here we wandered around town for a little bit before having a brief time scare.  Both of our phones had automatically adjusted to be an hour later, which would have significantly cut short our time in town, but we were both unconvinced that Colonia was in a seperate time zone from Argentina. We missed a golden opportunity to use every elementary school Spanish student’s favorite phrase “Que hora es?” and instead just googled the time and confirmed that our phones were wrong. If we later need to know where the library is though, or whether a product is prefered by discreet women everywhere, we decided we would forgo google.

Satisfied that we had plenty of time, we looped the town, taking lots of pictures, before finding a restaurant for lunch. We had specifically chosen a place on the water that served chivitas, the national dish of Uruguay and proclaimed by Anthony Bourdain to be the best sandwich on Earth. It was okay. I still believe the best was a spicy cuban sandwich from the corner store on 16th street in Atlanta (sadly the old man who made them passed away and you can no longer get them) and Lynn voted a homemade reuben. It was a decent sandwich though and the views from our patio table of the rusty colored Rio de la Plata were quite phenomenal.

There were old cars all over town that seemed to be mostly for decoration. This one had a dinner table setup inside of it.
There were old cars all over town that seemed to be mostly for decoration. This one had a dinner table setup inside of it.
Another car, this time serving as a potter.
Another car, this time serving as a potter.
Look at the guy on the right. Almost every local in town had a cup with a metal straw and a thermos of hot water for drinking mate, a local bitter tea. It was quite funny watching them all walk around with such large drinking setups.
Look at the guy on the right. Almost every local in town had a cup with a metal straw and a thermos of hot water for drinking mate, a local bitter tea. It was quite funny watching them all walk around with such large drinking setups.
A nice colorful house with some Bougainvillas out front. Very typical of the buildings around the old town.
A nice colorful house with some Bougainvillas out front. Very typical of the buildings around the old town.
This one with a very handsome paint job caught our eye.
This one with a very handsome paint job caught our eye.
Lynn hanging out waiting for lunch. Our restaurant was in an old watch tower.
Lynn hanging out waiting for lunch. Our restaurant was in an old watch tower.
The chivito. It's filet mignon, mozzarella, tomatoes, lettuce, ham, a fried egg, and mayonnaise.
The chivito. It’s filet mignon, mozzarella, tomatoes, lettuce, ham, a fried egg, and mayonnaise.

After taking an eternity to pay our bill, we went for a walk up the beach promenade to the old Bull Fighting Arena. The arena was opened in 1910 and only hosted eight bull fights before the “sport” was outlawed in Uruguay in 1912.  The arena now is a fenced off, crumbling ruin of its former self. It did make for some interesting viewing though and we both enjoyed the walk there through a part of Uruguay where people actually live.

It was getting a bit toasty so Lynn rolled up her dress and held it with hair elastics. New fashion trend? We think so!
It was getting a bit toasty so Lynn rolled up her dress and held it with hair elastics. New fashion trend? We think so!
It wasn't all brightly colored, well preserved buildings.
It wasn’t all brightly colored, well preserved buildings.
The old bull fighting arena.
The old bull fighting arena.
Some of the local restaurants around the bull arena. Not quite as fancy, but I'm sure very tasty.
Some of the local restaurants around the bull arena. Not quite as fancy, but I’m sure very tasty.

By now it was time to make our way back to the ferry terminal.  We stopped for a brief dip in the river along the way to cool off and made it to the there with just enough time to clear customs again and make it back into Argentina before boarding our ferry. We both immediately passed out and slept almost the whole ride back.

With the polarizing filter on the camera you can really see the color of the water.
With the polarizing filter on the camera you can really see the color of the water.
Here we are after our quick dip.
Here we are after our quick dip.

Back in Buenos Aires it was rush hour and we elected to walk to the Subte rather than ride a taxi through traffic.  We had a pleasant walk up through Puerto Maderas and stopped for a snack of Halloween Cheetos (they were on sale) and a large water before riding the Subte home.

Back at our Airbnb, we had big plans for our last night in the city…laundry! There was only one laundry machine in the apartment building we are staying in but luckily they have a schedule so each unit gets a 3 hour window twice a week.  Fortunately for us, tonight was ours.  We grabbed our clothes and headed up stairs only to find that we had been snaked. I briefly considered throwing their stuff on the ground but thought better of it and we headed back down stairs grumbling.

By this time it was getting on towards 9.00 pm and our American bellies couldn’t wait any longer for dinner.  We basically eat with the Early Bird Special folks it seems.  Lynn found us a cheaper restaurant since we had been splurging the past few nights and we headed to Mi Bario Hamburguesas. After a humbling experience in how far we still have to go in our Spanish skills we managed to order two okay burgers and some cold fries. Lynn did have a very delicious lemonade, but it wasn’t enough to save Mi Bario for us. We walked home and packed up our things, dodging the drippings from AC window units the whole way.

Some pretty okay hamburguesas.
Some pretty okay hamburguesas.

Daily Walking Miles : 14.3 miles

Fun Facts:

  • Lynn and I have been using Duolingo to supplement our immersion and learn Spanish. It’s already working quite well and we are getting better at reading signs and ads that we pass.
  • The Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) is a gigantic estuary formed by the convergence of the Uruguay and Parana rivers. It’s 220 kilometers wide at its mouth, making it the widest river in the world.  So wide in fact that some geographers consider it a gulf.
  • You can tell Portuguese and Spanish buildings apart by their roofs and construction materials. The Portuguese used stone to build with and slanted clay tile roofs while the Spanish constructed with brick and made flat top roofs.

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