Retro times in Colonia, Uruguay: a perfect day trip from Buenos Aires

April 8, 2011 4 comments

I like Buenos Aires, but I did not remember how busy, dusty and noisy it is. It must be that 10 years ago when I first visited, I did not have children. I liked going out til late in the night, and you don’t see things the same way at 20 than at 30 (ok, 28 and 38). People go out for diner at 10pm here, not so feasible with little ones! Or maybe it’s just an urban allergy that I have developed after all those empty lands that we have been through in Patagonia.

So it was a pleasant breath of fresh air to cross the Rio de la Plata and go visit the colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. Its historic part (dates back to 1680) is a Unesco World Heritage site.

I think this photo epitomizes Colonia: retro, colourful houses, bougainvilleas everywhere, paved roads, relaxed cafes. Only the view on Rio de la Plata is missing from the photo. And my Marcelito is not normally part of the decor.

How to get there / Where to stay:

Colonia del Sacramento is a smooth boat trip from downtown Buenos Aires, making for an easy day trip. Prefer the express buquebus 1h ride, and know that it’s best to book the tickets a few days in advance for a good fare. I think it’d be sweet to spend the night there in one of the many posadas as many places open only at night. El Capullo seemed particularly inviting. Posada del Angel is another recommended address.

Things to do with the chicos in Colonia:

Walk around and get lost (not for long as it’s tiny!) in the cobbled stone streets. Go up the faro aka lighthouse (children under 12 can’t). Rent a buggy (pricey! but it’s like everything else in Colonia, beware) and drive around to the beach. Eat ice cream al dulce de leche. Enjoy tea time with cake al dulce de leche. Eat pure dulce de leche and watch the children go crazy from the sugar overload!!

Have a long lunch in the courtyard of La Florida, the chef Carlos Bidanchon is a slow-food adherent and a great character himself. Or El Rincon for a simple parilla in a beautiful location right on the river. And for tea-time, the best-kept secret of Colonia is Lentas Maravillas on Santa Rita, 61. Loved it.

So we’ve crossed the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Colonia, and have therefore crossed a border this time by boat. Something that Marcelo found particularly fun…

We marveled at the architecture in Colonia, a mix of colonial colourful houses, and here and there some modernist constructions, such as this cafe (above, right) with a cactus garden overlooking the river…

More on Uruguay soon as we’re discovering this rather unvisited tiny little country in South America, squeezed between Argentina and Brazil…

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