Colonia - Our last Unesco World Heritage Site

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Viajero B & B

Flag of Uruguay  ,
Thursday, November 27, 2008

We leave Montevideo on yet another cramped and sweaty bus for the UNESCO World Heritage City of Colonia del Sacremento which is just across the River Plate from Buenos Aires.  This is a beautiful town with a lot of well preserved colonial architecture mostly of Portuguese origin.  It has been colonised at various times by the Portuguese, British and Spanish and, most recently by the many Buenos Aires residents who descend upon the town every weekend, treating it almost like a suburb of BA (it is only an hour away by the fast ferry).

We arrive at the bus station cum ferry terminal and haul our bags along the seafront to Viajero B&B our home for the next few days. This is a new B&B /hostel and is part of a Uruguayan chain.  It is really nice and certainly one of the nicer places we have stayed at in South America.

The first thing we notice is how remarkably quiet this place is.  It is midweek so there are no tourists around although later we see a few on a day trip from BA. We are the only people staying in the hostel and as such we get chatting to the guy on reception who tells us that he usually works in the Viajero hostel  just around the corner he says he prefers working here as the backpackers in the hostel are so needy and a constant pain - always needing another blanket, instructions on how to turn on the kettle, cooker etc. etc. Having listened in on a few conversations in many hostels around the world over the past year, I know exactly  what he means - if only their mothers knew!

Being on the circuit for day trippers from BA and, I suppose the cruise ships, the prices in the shops are a bit high but the quality of goods not so much so, rather than shopping for Xmas presents as we had expected, we spend the next few days just wandering around, soaking up the laid back atmosphere and visiting the many museums. Colonia is also famous for its sunsets over the River Plate and on a couple of evenings we wander down to the yacht club just to watch the sun go down aahhh.

On our final day we rent a golf cart to explore a little further afield.  Not exactly cool but cheap and effective.  We head out along the coast road towards Sheraton resort and golf club and the beaches as we get to the Sheraton we get out and have a look at some of the houses that are for sale as part of the complex.  These are really amazing places with some spectacular designs and by European standards, quite cheap.  Anyway these not what we are looking for so we move on to a beach side bar for a beer. One of the odd things about the "beaches" around Colonia is that the water is brown rather than blue and is fresh water rather than salt as we are effectively in the estuary of the River Plate.  The first time we appreciated this was when we noticed a dog drinking the "sea water".  Nevertheless, the water is apparently very clean and perfectly OK for swimming as evidenced by the loads of kids happily splashing about.

It is late afternoon and as we sit with our beers listening for the umpteenth time to Dire Straits on the PA (why does everywhere in South America play music from the 80s??), the beach begins to fill up with the locals playing football soon the whole beach is covered with lots of different matches.  What a great life these guys have -  a few hours work in th morning, stop for lunch and a beer, then a siesta, get up another couple of hours work and then off to the beach for a game of football, a beer or two and then eventually dinner about 11.00pm.

Anyway, some of these guys are displaying a lot more talent for the game than others but it is easy to see why Uruguay is considered the most football crazy nation in the world.  Until we came here, I didn't realise that Uruguay staged and won the very first world cup and is one of only two nations to have one it twice. Then again there is no reason that I should have known this as I am bored rigid by anything at all to do to do with football and I mention this for the benefit of my father in law who is not!

All in all we have really enjoyed our brief time in Uruguay. The people are really friendly, the pace of life  is relaxed (even by South American standards) and the food is excellent.  Definitely a place to which we should like to return.  I suspect Buenos Aires will be a lot different...

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