Uruguay

We visited Uruguay while in Buenos Aires, and bought the boat tickets online. It was a bit confusing as we knew there were two boats – one which takes an hour and one which takes three hours – but the timetable and prices didn’t seem to correspond. Our Spanish was only almost good enough. Managed it eventually. We paid the equivalent of £75 each for day return tickets.

Walked to the boat terminal through a freezing cold city. I wish I’d packed my big coat. We went through passport control and immigration, then sat in a large waiting room for an hour. I now have extra stamps in my passport. At one window the Argentinian official gave the exit stamp, then you shuffle along to the next window, where an Uruguayan official gives you an entry stamp. Kinda cool.

The ferry was clean and comfortable. I needed to use the loo on board and was expecting the usual stinky boat toilet, but it was spotless, very clean. The gang plank in Uruguay was a bit of a challenge for some of the elderly passengers, so Husband did his gentleman bit and helped a few old ladies (while I stood ready with my camera in case they fell in the water. No, not really!)

We walked straight out the ferry terminal, turned right at the first cross roads, walked about ten minutes and arrived in the old town. Very easy, despite Husband telling me that none of the road names matched his map. (There were signs showing the way, we didn’t need a map.)

The old town was brilliant, it felt like being in the Caribbean (but a lot colder. May is Winter.) There was water lapping on the shore, lots of greenery, cobbled streets, old buildings. Perfect.

We sat in a street cafe in Colonia and drank cappuccinos sprinkled with cinnamon. Music from the shop next door, dappled sunlight through the trees, vintage cars driving past. Double perfect.

There were also lots of stray dogs. Not so perfect. But they seemed mostly well fed and healthy, so we avoided them in case they were rabid, but they weren’t threatening.

The vintage cars seem to mainly advertise the buildings they are parked outside. There were lots of them. Colonia is a world heritage site, so I’m not sure what was ‘real’ and what was for tourists. It was nice though, and very peaceful.

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There was an old church, with white-washed stone walls, icons and echoes. Outside was a square with ruins, noisy birds in the palm trees, sunshine and the ever constant sound of waves lapping. Everywhere smells of wood charcoal.

We ate lunch in a little Bistro facing the water. There were signs up saying you should book ahead, I think it gets very busy here at weekends and in the summer. It was very clean and the food was nice:

Charco, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. (info@charcohotel.com)

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The prices here are all in Uruguayan Pesos, Argentinian Pesos and US dollars. Or you can pay with credit cards. I wasn’t sure if the language was Spanish or Portuguese (it’s Spanish) but as both sound exactly the same when I speak them, it didn’t make too much difference. Most people spoke at least a little English, some were fluent.

The girl who served us in the cafe was completely fluent in English, she could calculate prices in three different currencies, she was well presented and clearly intelligent. Plus, the cleanliness of the country is much better than England. It was the same when we went to Brazil; I expected small rural cafes and public toilets to have slightly dodgy hygiene, but they were always scrupulously clean. Public toilets in England are usually disgusting. I think travel is good for me, it challenges my preconceived ideas. The world is smaller than I think, lots of countries do things better than we do.

We strolled some more. I loved being near the coast. Lots of green plant and seed pods had washed ashore, so we argued for a while as to if it was sea weed or not. (Someone has since replied to my blog and apparently it was branches and leaves washed up from rivers due to heavy rains.)

Looked in a couple of gift shops and I bought a cushion cover for my collection. It’s made of cow hide, which seemed very appropriate as they raise a lot of cows in Uruguay, on the plains that join Argentina.

Got the ferry back to Argentina. A really lovely day, one of the nicest trips we’ve had.

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