Lifestyles of the rich, famous, and ordinary

Trip Start Sep 07, 2005
Trip End Aug 18, 2006

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Flag of Uruguay  ,
Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not being part of the jet set by any means, we thought it best to make a day trip of our next destination: Punte del Este. Punte del Este is the largest and most famous resort area on the Uruguayian Riveria and is a favorite destination for glamorous South Americans intent on sunbathing, yachting, golfing and gambling. Because the area fills to capacity in the days after Christmas and prices skyrocket accordingly, we decided to take a quick peek around before the holiday and then make a beeline to Buenos Aires.

We pulled in, as usual, to the local bus station and quickly got our bearings, which wasn't difficult, since Punte del Este is really just a small penninsula a mile or so long and a couple of blocks wide. But because it is surrounded by the Rio de la Plata on one side and the Atlantic on the other, it offers an astonishing choice of beaches. On the Atlantic, the water is take your breath away cold, volcanic rocks dot the shoreline, creating little pools in which tides run in and out, and the sand is nothing more than shards of purple and white shells ground up into sharp little bits. On the river, the water is warmer, albeit browner, and the beaches are fluffy white and run the entire length of Punte del Este and another 30 or so miles besides, curving around to follow the river's contours. This was clearly the favored browning spot of the locals. We wandered both beaches, digging our feet into the sand, admiring various canines along the way, and soaking up some sun.

Before arriving, we had heard all types of stories about beautiful people wandering white beaches in designer duds and then retiring to spacious mansions with a yacht parked out back. What we found, we suppose, was something somewhat different. While there were high end clothing stores offering Gucci, Prada and Ralph Lauren togs, and a number of swanky villas, there was an equal number of ordinary looking people and mundane looking buildings. Our expectations far overshot reality, which busted the myth of exclusivity, untouchability, social impregnability. As Americans, perhaps we relish the toppling of an icon - especially a societal one - and, we must admit, we felt a particular satisfaction in discovering that this enclave of glamour wasn't really all that glamourous but rather pedestrian enough even for the likes of us.
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