Sunday, July 17, 2011

Colonia del Sacramento - Uruguay

It was pretty damn cold in Uruguay and even though it was getting late when we arrived, we still had to shop around to find a place to sleep which wasn’t so bad when the town felt small and safe.  We found a place that was in a great location with rooms surrounding a courtyard that were roomy (the rooms were roomy…) but cold as a result.  I’m almost tired of saying it but the price was right and the bags weren’t getting any lighter so we took it in full knowledge that it would become a fridge later. 

We went out to find some food, taking the lonely planet recommendation of a restaurant called Parrilla La Amistad known for its meat dishes and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  We opted to share a parrilla (or a South American BBQ) having been christened at Orpy’s along with a bottle of our first Uruguayan Merlot to wash it down.  A couple of locals were sitting at the bar and all said hello when we went in as did Mario the proprietor, chef, waiter, barman and pot washer.  The greeting wasn’t especially warm but it was sincere.  These were proud folk who weren’t in the business of offering rapturous welcomes nor did Mario pour the wine for us after he opened it but it was great value and we felt happy and secure.  When the food arrived it was a medley of chorizo, morcilla (South American black pudding), ribs and chicken served on a hot plate with red hot charcoal in a sealed pan underneath.  It was delicious and was finished a lot quicker than it should have been! We even saved the bones for the dogs that slept outside the bank opposite our hostel and they went down a treat for a second time.  

In the courtyard of the Hostel Colonia

Enjoying the parrilla at Parrilla la Amistad
The poochies outside the bank enjoying the leftovers
The following day provided an opportunity to explore the town.  It was cold but the sun was shining as we embarked on our adventures around the sleepy cobbled streets of Colonia del Sacramento.  The town was small and therefore possible to negotiate in a day even at a leisurely pace.   Originally a Portuguese colony, the town sits on the south western point of Uruguay a stone's throw from Buenos Aires over the Rio de La Plata but a world away from the big city hustle and bustle.  The historic sights of the Barrio are closely linked; we began by following the fortified wall until it was broken up by a castle-like entrance with drawbridge that lead you down to the riverfront.  There are beautiful streets all around this area, all of which are lined with houses and the odd tastefully done tourist shop.   There were quite a few South American holiday makers here too, most I assume from Argentina and they were walking around drinking their maté through their silver straws (or bombillas) with their thermos flasks tucked firmly under their arms.  We climbed up a beautifully positioned lighthouse to enjoy the panoramic views of the town.  The stairs were steep and hard to negotiate with people trying to go up and down at the same time although it would have been harder for those with only one hand free whilst the other was busy supporting their precious drink of maté. 
Kate hiding in the shadows on one of the cobbled streets

A beautiful old road in Colonia del Sacramento

The view of the town from the lighthouse

From here we headed to Puerto Viejo, famed for its shady past as a smuggler’s gateway.  There are plenty of restaurants around this area that are relatively pricey but not by European standards.  We sat down and had a great view from the upstairs table where we were sat slurping on the cheapest item on the menu, soup that was actually more like a stock.   Following this we ventured to the far side of the port for a few photos before we headed to a craft market that sold all sorts of tacky but fun gifts and clothes.  Kate bought some new gloves as the old ones were falling apart.   We bought some coke and dulce de leche (a delicious caramel like spread) along with some bread and pate to have at the hostel for lunch before going back to the riverfront to watch a beautiful sunset joined by some friendly neighbourhood dogs. 

The harbour at Puerto Viejo

Kate enjoying dulce de leche

That evening we were drawn back to Mario and his parrilla.  It is unusual for us to eat at the same place twice but the value for money was so good and Mario was such a cool guy that we felt compelled to.  Our next stop was Montevideo and we had heard extremely mixed reports from travellers who had already been there.  We hadn’t originally planned on visiting the Uruguayan capital but we needed to get to Iguazu Falls and didn’t want to head back on ourselves to Buenos Aires in order to do so.  We therefore headed to Montevideo where we would soak up the city before taking a bus to Porto Allegre in Brazil to break up the journey whilst getting a small taste of what Brazil has to offer.

Sunset at the river

Local poochie who came to watch the sunset with us

What's the maté? 

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