Saturday, September 8, 2007

Colonia, Uruguay

Colonia is another UNESCO designated World Heritage Site, across the water from Buenos Aires and 2 ½ hours by bus from Montevideo. It’s the sort of place where Thrifty rents golf carts as well as cars.

But you don’t need a car, you can walk almost everywhere. The town consists of two parts; an old historic area, and a newer area with streets lined with wonderful old plane trees.

We stayed in a typical small charming 18th century posada in the centre of the historic area, with rooms located around a central courtyard, and stone walls in the bathroom.

In many ways, Colonia reminded us of Parati in Brazil. Both have become tourist destinations, with numerous restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops and small hotels. However, although Colonia is on the ocean, its streets are not flooded at high tide like those of Parati.

Many of the buildings have a rough stone exterior, which when combined with the rough stone streets, creates a very interesting effect.

Other buildings are covered in stucco that over the centuries has faded and been painted and re-painted. The result is a very beautiful effect.

The town has a variety of restaurants. Some offer tables and chairs set up in the middle of the pedestrian only roads. However my favourite had seating in an old car parked in front. Now there’s an idea for an enterprising restaurateur like Peter Horwood; a drive-in restaurant for people who don’t own cars.

Before dinner, we wandered into a small art gallery with some very good paintings and interesting sculptures. We subsequently learned the gallery was owned by a husband and wife and he had created the sculptures. A very passionate man, he gave us a brief lecture on Uruguayan art…in Spanish, while his wife tried to translate. When he learned I was an architect, he brought out a small sculpture he had made of an architect with a very rotund belly, that they both thought suited me well. They couldn’t understand why we didn’t buy it right away, but we were concerned whether we could make room for it in our luggage. However, just before leaving the town, we decided to go back and buy it. They were literally overjoyed to see us since they feared we had left without the piece. We were so glad we had gone back. Now we just have to figure out how to get it home.

I dwell on this story since I think it describes the Uruguayans we met during our brief stay. They were very proud of their small country, which lives in the shadow of Argentina. They were passionate about the arts, and had a creative edge. This was exemplified by a restaurant where we ate one evening. It was not a barbq house. It was a sophisticated place in a renovated castle that would not have been out of place in a major European city. There’s much more to Uruguay than cattle and beef. It’s well worth a visit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How can you eat guinea pig you swine!!