Our short excursion to Uruguay over the weekend was so spontaneous that we had very little information, except half a page in our travel guide. What a great surprise when we discovered that the city’s “Barrio Viejo” is one of the most charming places we have been in Latin America so far! Truly colonial as its name suggests with abundant vegetation and a Mediterranean flair …
The tranquil and shady cobblestone streets underline the romantic ambiance. One of them, The Streets of Sighs, exhibits two houses dating back to the time when the Portuguese ruled this part of the New World. All streets are lined by gigantic plane trees. These function like an air-conditioning and provide so much shades that you can stroll around the city even in the afternoon, when the sun is burning down!
There are not many sights: a few museums and a light house to climb, which provides a great view over town. But what we definitely enjoyed most was walking the streets and absorbing this romantic atmosphere. Besides its quaint ambiance, Colonia is also known for its incredible sunsets, which are best watched from the promenade on the city’s most southern tip.
Unexpectedly, it turned out to be the most perfect place to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our first meeting in Vienna on January 10th, 1998! So we dined and wined in style at the “Pulperia de los Faroles” overlooking one of the many squares of this town, lit by the golden glow of old lanterns.
But this is only one of many excellent restaurants in this village. We were so enchanted by Colonia that we stayed another day, walking the small streets and enjoying a second night of more great food and local wine tasting. This time, at the rather elegant Mesón de la Plaza, where we were informed that Colonia has one of the most important and best wine productions in the country! These wines equal Argentinean wines in quality and price.
Of course, there is a Casino in Colonia, like in every not matter how small town in Argentina. We shortly thought about spending a little time and money there, but were so busy checking out restaurants that we forgot about it.
If you have thought of Argentina being a Mate crazy nation, you have seen nothing yet! In Uruguay, literally everybody carries a thermo and Mate gourd along, sucking the Yerba herbs through a straw called “Brombilla”. This straw, which comes in many styles and fashion, has a filter at its bottom end to keep out the leaves. Whatever the age, the location and the occasion, even people sitting in café and bars would have their Mate gear with them.
Although Colonia mainly lives off tourists, most of them Argentineans, you do not see the in-your-face tourism you see in many places in Argentina. Honestly, if there had been fewer tourists, we would have felt lonely! It was easy to find accommodation even in the midst of the summer holiday mid January and it definitely was not overrun by “Portenos”, the very people from Buenos Aires, like the Lonely Planet said.