5th-8th March 2013
We arrive in the beautiful town of Colonia in Uruguay, mid-morning, on a Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires. It takes about 90 minutes to cross the Rio de la Plata – claimed to be the widest river in the world – it’s 200km wide at its mouth, though considered more an estuary by some. The crossing isn’t cheap and ideally we’d come for longer but we’re really running our of time now in South America! Our original 5-6 month plan is already stretched to 9! We justify the short trip because we can draw out a stash of US dollars that we’ll exchange back in Buenos Aires for the dollar blue rate – now over 50% more than the official bank rate. Incredible isn’t it?!!
We walk along the waterfront road of this lovely Unesco World heritage site to where we’re booked for the night, Hostel el Viajero, the kids being troopers with their packs in the heat. El Viajero has super friendly staff who work hard to get a room ready for us to have an early check in and give us heaps of information…
We head straight out to explore around the beautiful, quiet, cobbled town. It has a fantastic atmosphere, flowers trailing over stone walls, old cars parked on the street, it’s like a movie set and I’m already regretting we only planned for 24 hours here. We eat posh nosh at a nearby restaurant run by a lovely friendly couple who play music and chat with the kids. Check out Zoe’s dancing routine inspired by the cool latin music and curtain that she spent most of the time plaiting.
And check out what happened next when Ben decided to have a go!
After lunch we explore the old fort then head for ice cream where you can buy it in tubs up to a litre. The kids devour a 250ml tub and then start joining in the street performance of a friendly clown – he loves them and they love getting involved.
At the old lighthouse I comfort Lara about the fact under 8s aren’t allowed while Martin, Ben and Zoe start the climb and as we sit and wait for them, we meet Liz and Erwin and their 3 super kids! Another gap year family, from the UK too, based in Bolivia for 9 months and travelling around awhile too. We end up spending an unexpected and very fun afternoon together, coffee at Cafe Fredo on the plaza while the kids share a tub of ice cream and play!
It’s late when we get back and Lara falls asleep instantly so we get a pizza delivered and an early night!
Next day we check out and meet our new friends to explore some more together and play and enjoy ice cream around the old fort… By one o clock we have to run and get our bags and traipse up the road to catch the bus to Montevideo. We say another goodbye, exchange emails and dash off, hoping to hook up again in MV or BA. It’s a lovely bus ride that reminds us of a journey through northern France! Flat, green, smart, straight dual carriageway and low bridges, very few towns or houses.
We arrive in Montevideo about 4pm and get a super friendly taxi driver to take us to the Hotel Sur. We head down to the prom and walk along in the intense evening sun to a fair(but its closed) and lovely park then head to the most wonderful and unusual
dinner at ‘Tandory’ which we all love, the kids especially impressed with iPad menus!
Next day after an hour or two blogging while the kids watch King Kong on TV, we head off to explore the city centre, old town and port, rummage in shops, pick up some pressies for Ben, stop for coffee, ice cream, watch a superb spray paint artist, hang out in parks and finally a quick dinner in a lovely little restaurant near the hotel and stumble back to fall into bed!
The hotel Sur is an apart-hotel but we’ve taken a tiny room for four which has a pull out lower bunk and Lara is delighted to have a little blanket bed inside, like a den.
And the next day it’s already time to head back to Argentina. After a last bank visit (we’re drawing out another stash of US dollars to use back in Argentina) we take the cab to the bus station which returns us to Colonia for the ferry across the river to Buenos Aires. We’ve been trying to book somewhere special for Ben’s birthday but kept drawing a blank so we arrive without anywhere to stay and take a cab to a couple of different places before we find a simple apartment nice and central in the area we know, and we start to get ready to celebrate our eldest child’s first decade and first double digit birthday!
We are hugely impressed by Uruguay. with a population of just 3.3 million, all the people we’ve met are smart, proud and very friendly and the country is beautiful. Another time we’d definitely explore more of it! And we had the added bonus of making friends with another gap year family who we’ve enjoyed staying in touch with too.