Aventuras en Uruguay (Adventures in Uruguay)

Trip Start Aug 01, 2009
Trip End Nov 30, 2009

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Monday, September 21, 2009

I've officially decided that the very best thing about studying abroad is having the opportunity to travel around where you're staying.  Because even though Cordoba might not be the cleanest nicest city in the entire universe, it does happen to be close to some pretty amazing locations - Uruguay for example.  I took off a few days of school and traveled with three other girls to Montevideo and Punta del Este, two absolutely gorgeous cities in Uruguay.

The trip started off with a 16 hour bus ride, which isn't actually as bad as it sounds because you get to sit in these really comfortable recliner like chairs on a bus with two different levels.  They feed you alfajores (the cake-like equivalent of a candy bar)  and play 80s soft rock from the United States and really bad thriller/action movies.  When we got to Uruguay we checked into our hostel.  Once again, not the most glamorous part of the experience, but you definitely meet some interesting people.  In our first hostel we met Nacho, an absolutely adorable guy who works there as well as Mark.  Mark is in his late twenties and moved to South America to teach.  He started off in Chile, quit that job, worked on a few farms in Northern Argentina, went to Montevideo (the capital of Uruguay) to get his camera fixed, and still hasn't left 3 months later.  He has absolutely no plans to return to the United States in the near future. Sometimes I wish I could really do something like that, but I think I would feel really aimless and end up driving myself crazy.  Needless to say, they were quite the characters.   The great thing about hostels is they're cheap.  The horrible thing...you usually get what you pay for.  I was one of the last ones to get into the shower on that first day and ended up taking an ice cold shower.  Which wouldn't have been bad, if it hadn't been sixty degrees out...All in all, however, totally worth it for the experience.

Anyways, our first day in Uruguay we hopped another bus for about two hours to Punta del Este, which is this really touristy city located on a little tiny strip of land located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de Plata (think the equivalent of Door County, Wisconsin).  It is one of the most spectacularly beautiful stretches of beaches I have ever seen.  It isn't very crowded and the sunsets and sunrises are absolutely incredible.  Although,come to think of it, the reason why it probably wasn't very crowded was because we went in the middle of winter...oh well.  Doesn't make it any less beautiful.  We essentially spent the entire day walking around the entire peninsula.  I waded into the ocean despite the cold weather (and horrified looks from my traveling companions) and was glad in the end that I did. 

Other highlights in Punta del Este (or Point of the East in Spanish) are a really old lighthouse and this incredible blue church to see.  If I'm being honest though, I think I could have spent the entire day sitting by the water just watching the waves crash onto the rocks.  Is there anything more theraputic than listening to the water and watching the sun make it sparkle?  I personally do not believe that there is.  Another highlight was lunch.  I think the key to picking good restaurants is looking for the people who look like they're from there and watching where they go. We ended up having lunch on this gorgeous little outside patio overlooking the water.  It's where the surfers go to eat.  I'm not really into red meat, fish or prawns, but I did have some absolutely fantastic pumpkin/squash ravioli that were enough to fill me up, but light enough to still feel like I could move. 

We made sure that we scheduled our bus trip back late enough so that we could stay in Punta del Este and watch the sunset over the water.  I honestly mean it when I say that sunset was magical.  We didn't make it all the way to the end because we got so cold, which ended up being for the best.  When we absolutely could not stand being cold and were all slightly damp from sitting in the sand we went to this little cafe nearby and had dulce de leche brownie marshmallow cake and coffee.  I personally slept like a baby all the way back to Montevideo.

We spent the following day in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay.  It's not exactly a very touristy city, but the buildings are pretty beautiful and there are some great parks for relaxing.  Be careful with your belongings, and make sure to keep moving.  A friend of mine had her camera stolen there.  If I had to make a suggestion, I would say skip Montevideo (or spend an afternoon there at the most) and spend your time in Punta del Este or maybe one of the old cities close by. 

Whatever you do though, do not skip over Uruguay entirely.  It is definitely worth seeing, especially for the relaxed traveler who just wants some good food, a beautiful strech of beach and a sunset.
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