Sunday, January 24, 2010

Uruguay, Day 6

Well, I don’t have a great deal to share today. I traveled from Montevideo to Colonia by bus this morning, which was a three-hour trip, and checked into a small hotel in Colonia’s Old Quarter, the Barrio Historico.

Since I skipped breakfast this morning, I decided to make my first stop in Colonia for lunch. It was hard to pick a restaurant, however, since there were so many charming options along the tree-lined streets. I walked eastward to the end of Avenida General Flores and chose a place between the yacht harbor and Bastion de Santa Rita. The restaurant was called El Torreón, and from its several outside areas customers could get a nice view of the Rio de la Plata.

After last night’s meal, which was great, I wasn’t in the mood for red meat, so I went with an item that, if I remember correctly, was called pescados miniatures. Basically, I got pieces of white fish in a light breading with various herbs.

The dish really didn’t taste like anything, though the lemon wedges helped a bit. I also had a salad, which was pretty standard, and some bread that I thought was complimentary but actually cost me 40 pesos (~$2). I have the feeling that beef would have been a better choice – beef seems always to be, at the very least, a good choice in Uruguay. But the location and ambience made up for my so-so meal, and if I had a chance to come back here again I would.

El Torreon is located at the end of General Flores by the Plate River. Tel: (052) 31524. Email: Hours: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.

By the time I finished lunch it was after one o’clock, and the heat felt as if it had climbed precipitously since my arrival in Colonia. In fact, I think it reached 93 degrees (34 C) today. But I decided to walk around the Barrio Historico anyway and see what it had to offer. Since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, there’s quite a lot worth seeing.

The area itself is rather small – it’s easily walked in only a few hours, even with a little shopping thrown in. Much of it is also shaded by trees, though along the water you’re directly under the sun.

The homes here are quite beautiful and well-kept, and the occasional bunch of bougainvillea bursts forth in bright pinks from the fronts of houses. Also, the streets are mostly cobbled, which lends the area an even stronger feeling of agedness.

Restaurants are everywhere, and it seems that they all have outdoor seating, with some offering live music on the weekends when Colonia gets especially crowded with weekend retreaters from Argentina and Montevideo. There’s also a lighthouse in the barrio, which dates back to the 19th century. (Colonia was founded in 1680, which makes the lighthouse, in relative terms, just a baby. Well, not quite…)

I gave it a climb for 15 pesos, but upon stepping out onto the very small viewing platform I got a bit of vertigo and kept my time there short. There was a guard sitting on the stairs leading to a higher viewing platform, but I didn’t need him to tell me it was off-limits.

I wandered around the barrio until I was good and sweaty, then decided to walk another fifteen minutes back to the bus station to buy my ferry ticket to Buenos Aires. That was an easy trip, though my clothes were getting progressively damper by then. Looking at my map I saw that I was only ten or fifteen minutes away from a crafts market called Feria Artesanal, on Daniel Folsaba Street, and went there with the intention of buying a maté gourd and pipe.

However, the prices surprised me a little, and I couldn’t find one that really appealed to me, so I decided to skip it. I mean, how often am I going to drink maté when I’m back home, anyway? Maybe I’ll find a cheap one in Buenos Aires…

On my way back I couldn’t help but stop off at Confiteria la Pasiva, on Avenida General Flores 444, and order a half-liter bottle of cold water and coffee with chocolate ice cream and whipped cream on top. It was a nice break from the heat, though my order was mostly just whipped cream in the end.

I worked during the afternoon, thanks to the wi-fi I have in my hotel room, but in the evening I ventured back out for dinner. I didn’t go far, but settled on a restaurant a half-block from my hotel called Mercosur.

I chose a seat indoors, in part because it was still very warm out, and in part because some drunk guy kept approaching me for money and got progressively surlier when I said no. The staff at Mercosur were super-nice, and my waitress helped me figure out what a Milanesa el pan was: a giant piece of beef that has been dipped in beaten eggs and then quickly fried in oil, and served in a bun with lettuce and tomato. I also ordered some fries with that, and a half-liter chopp, which is draft beer.

I found the sandwich strange. It was quite dry, and the egg-coating seemed to accentuate this. I would have preferred a juicy hamburger or steak, but I’m glad I tried it. It was something new and different. The chopp, of course, was delectable. Overall the food was very affordable: 225 pesos (~$11.50) for the entire meal.

Mercosur is at Avenida General Flores 252. Tel: 24200. Hours: 8 a.m. - 2 a.m.

I wandered around Colonia after dinner, which is the best time to take in the old, colorful Barrio Historico. Everything deepens in color as the sun goes down, and what had appeared pink during the day was now almost reddish, what had appeared peach was now orange, and what had been lavender was now purple. The same thing could be said about the green of the surrounding trees.

After that, it was time to come home and type this entry…

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  1. Loved this, thanks for the daily updates. I feel like I'm getting a much better sense of Uruguay than from other blogs I read. Colonia is lovely!

  2. Olivia: I wish I could spend more time on these posts in order to give a broader context of what I'm seeing and doing, but since I'm blogging every evening I just don't have the time. These are basically just "notes" of my trip, unfortunately. Still, I'm glad to hear you feel like you're getting a decent sense of Uruguay from my blog. :) And yes, Colonia really is a special place. Thanks, as always, for your nice comment!

  3. I enjoy this blog. Just now stumbled on it, vaguely planning a very, very low-budget trip next winter. Like the pictures. Would like more specifics about prices for stuff, though, and an appreciation for the relative amicability of the people from place to place.

  4. Hi Senorsr: Thanks for dropping by my blog and checking things out. I think a very, very low-budget trip to S.A. is fairly easy to do. However, I found Chile expensive, especially for food; Peru more expensive than I would have thought, especially for accommodations; Uruguay fairly inexpensive in general, though Colonia was pricey. Ecuador was relatively inexpensive for both food and travel. As for the amicability of local people, I'm sure that if you speak Spanish well enough to engage with them you'll get a pretty good response. I did have the occasional problem, though, as my blog documents. If you need specific recommendations, feel free to email me! Good luck!

  5. I think you hit the nail on the head with your response about amicability,
    people all over the world always appreciate the extra effort when you at least try to speak their language, and don't come across as a conquistador
    who expects them to know english (or insert other conqueror tongues).

    this is not just for spanish,
    even the french really appreciate when you try your hardest in french

  6. Anonymous: That’s definitely true. It’s a shame that I’ve forgotten all the Spanish I learned in high school and early in college. Just being able to engage with people in a foreign tongue is very rewarding. One of my best experiences in Valparaiso, Chile, was actually in a café where I met an older Japanese couple and spoke with them for half an hour in Japanese. Had I been able to have this sort of experience using Spanish in South America, I’d probably still be there now! :) I had a good time in my travels, but I’m sure I would have had a really amazing time had I been better with the language. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.