Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
Our last stop in Uruguay, Colonia del Sacramento, is listed by UNESCO as the most complete illustration of colonial architecture in South America. Founded in 1680 by Portuguese settlers from Brazil, it was an important base for smuggling British goods across the Rio del Plata estuary into Buenos Aires. (Sos will stop the history talk now!) As its an easy day trip from Buenos Aires by ferry, I was expecting an over-touristy town but I was pleasantly surprised by its subtle touristy feel and lack of other tourists! (We are learning that going to these types of places in the off season is definitely worth doing). The “old Lisbon” style architecture reminded me of Paraty in Brazil with its uneven `trip-fest` cobbles and pastel coloured little houses, but the more we wandered around soaking up the atmosphere, the more it felt like we really had stepped back in time. The streets seemed to have been relatively untouched since the 18th century. The inevitable crafty shops were few and cleverly blended in to leave an perfect open air museum. The only reminder of the modern world was the skyscrapers of Buenos Aires just visible from the old port across the Rio del Plata. We attempted to be cultured (which never works every time we try..) and go into a couple of museums. After the 70th “Indigenous spear head” and assorted animals in glass cases (seems to be the done thing in many museums here) we got a bit bored only to discover when leaving that they had a full 18m blue whale skeleton in the garden. Of course it wasn’t mentioned in the museum, neither was it accessible by any means except peering through the garden gates! The Uruguayans, much as I love them, can be an odd bunch at times… Our next discovery was a cafe which doubled as an oven museum… hmmm. In a pretty street of 17C cottages and blossom covered walls we sipped our coffees and listened to a guitar playing tango outside. It suddenly felt like a classically South American moment. Little did any of the patrons know that inside the owner had one of the worlds few (I suspect..)private “Ovens from history” collections! The old town has a few very funky little restaurants and at night the old street lamps gave the place a real eerie glow. In complete contrast we were staying in a jaded 1970`s mega-hotel in the new town as a special treat to ease our aching backs! (We have yet to find a hostel with a real mattress on the bed – god how old do I sound!!)It was extremely ugly but 2 nights in a comfy bed with a TV were the only important requirements. We left on the ultra cool and modern “Buquebus” ferry to Buenos Aires which came at the extortionate price of US35 for 1 hour! ( I know I know… its only 17 quid but a 15 hour bus trip normally costs about 10 quid!) and so to the big BA….