Sunday, August 12, 2012

An afternoon in Colonia, Uruguay

Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it "San Diego"...
During another trip to Buenos Aires during Easter Week, my friends and I decided that we should make the hop over to Uruguay and see what we were missing in Colonia del Sacramento.

Turns out, not a WHOLE lot. But it was still worth a visit.

We took the Buquebus over, and made a few mistakes that I hope someone else can learn from. One being that one does not simply arrive, buy a ticket, and get on the boat within a half hour. You need to buy tickets online in advance (if you can - the website was not working when we were trying to buy them online the day before), which you can do here: http://www.buquebus.com/BQBWebV2/web/ListadoDayTours. If you don't, you must go into the terminal in Puerto Madero and find the Buquebus Turismo (travel) agency. You also can't book a ticket for any departure within a half hour or so. So, either show up way earlier than you intend to leave, or buy them in advance online or at the terminal.
Look at me, I'm a bullring.

You'll need to go through immigration and pre-clear it and customs in Argentina, so be aware.

The second mistake we made was that we booked the city tour sightseeing bus that takes you on a tour of Colonia. It's a) too long, b) not in English as promised, c) boring and d) time poorly spent. The only things we saw that were of note were the bullring and the old town.  You can actually get to the bullring by taxi or by renting a golf cart in town, and I recommend doing it that way if you really must see it. It was cool, but I'm not sure it was worth the hour or so it took to get there and back on the tour bus, when we could have spent that hour or so walking around and shopping or eating.

Pretty streets in the old town.
And the old town is where you get dropped off from the bus that you get from the ferry terminal. So, don't waste your money and time on the "tour bus" and just walk the old town for the day. We wished we had more time to spend there, and unfortunately, the bus tour was so long that we didn't have much time to explore the best part of the city.

Just a tort waiting to happen.
 The city's cobblestone streets are lined with trees and cafes, of laid-back Uruguayans drinking mate and wine and watching passersby stroll along the boulevards in search of often-overpriced "authentic" tchotchkes to gather dust in their curio cabinets for years to come.

Gates of the old town. If there's anything I like,  it's a good smattering of plaques.
We, however, were on another mission. We were starving. And when you're not in Mendoza, you eat seafood. As much seafood as humanly possible.


Lighthouse = on the water = seafood.
As we entered the gates of the old city walls, we were immediately transported. I have no other words for the place but "cute" and "awwww".  You just feel the history, but it's still quaint and a happy place. There are a ton of little restaurants serving mainly the same things, but the people are happy and there's a vibrance to the place that I just can't describe. It almost felt like home, in a weird way.

Through all of my foodie research (including scouring TripAdvisor frantically on my iPhone while walking through said picturesque streets), we decided to try to eat at a pizza place called La Bodeguita. It looked adorable. And delicious. And we arrived 5 minutes past lunch time!!!

Total bummer.

We ended up eating at a plaza cafe called La Pulperia de Los Faroles. We had fried calamari, several pitchers of sangria and the "seafood pots", which was like a paella. My friend got adventurous and tried these vegetarian spinach fritters, which were actually REALLY tasty. It wasn't our first choice of a place to go, and the staff was less than attentive, but the setting was wonderful. A few groups of Candombe drummers performed nearby and we relaxed under the Uruguayan sun, spending some much-needed downtime enjoying the sights and sounds.

We had to head back to the bus terminal, after our short day of exploration and relaxation. The line was enormous (as you have to go through customs & immigration again, if I remember correctly - before you board the boat). We were all exhausted.

If I ever go back to Colonia, I will make sure that I have more than a few hours to see the old town and really get to enjoy it. There's not much there; there are a few museums, and from what I understand, great gastronomy and nightlife. However, I'd like to go back again and see for myself. This time, I'll do it right.

Adorable little streets full of restaurants.



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