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The fast boat to Colonia

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

Rachel & I considering hiring the golf cart!

After spending a month on a cargo ship sailing at maximum speed of 18 knots ph, the 50 minute journey from Buenos Aires to the world heritage site of Colonia in Uruguay was a speedy ride! The hydrofoil can take hundreds of passengers and literally flies across the water. The boat has two first class sections, two floors, two duty free shops, two buffet restaurants and two hundred children travelling with their parents and god knows for what reason going across to a world heritage city full of historical sites. Thankfully, once I left the boat, I never saw them again. This is a miracle given the tiny size of Colonia.

Colonia del Sacremento, to call it by it’s full name, is the oldest town in Uruguay and was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century. Later with the Spanish invasion, the town managed to resist the Spaniards who settled in Buenos Aires across the Rio de la Plata. The historic centre is a handful of cobbled streets with a couple of dozen things to see.

My breakfast!

Amongst my favourite sights were the Street of Sighs (cobbled street with a drain running down the middle); the Tile Museum (with mediterranean tiles from 1850-1900); and the Textile Industrial Plant. But I lie. Even though these were listed as important places to visit, we found El Drugstore – a resto-bar recommended in the Time Out guide. A guitarist sat outside playing guitar versions of all sorts of English songs and a table for four under the shadow of a huge sycamore eyed us beguilingly.

Before we could say ‘una botella de vino blanco de la casa por favor’, we were sat down.

Rachel and I with a friendly local policeman!

But not before we had walked around a little and though not entering any of the museums – as inviting as the one which was a converted soap factory sounded – looked at the pretty little streets. Though this is obviously a very old (for this part of the world) town, it somehow seems fabricated – factories and houses converted into dozens of little museums; little stands, all looking the same with their handiwork/craft items for sale; absence of any beggars, homeless people or carteneros.

Rachel found new friends

Don’t misunderstand me – it was all very pleasant, but also quite contrived. When we left the historic town in search of a bank, we entered the new part of the town which did seem a world apart and had the normal signs of a town. We sat down and had some breakfast at a cafe cum parrilla. The menu had us in stitches for a few minutes. Everything was in Spanish, Portuguese and English. One of the items listed was ‘Two round sweet biscuits stuck together with jam’. We ordered light dishes. My hotdog was twice as long as the roll it came in but the fresh orange juice made it worthwhile to stop here for a rest.

Heading back into the historic town, we made a detour to walk by the river – the entire historic quarter is on a headland – which means the river in never too far. Rio de la Plata is a silty river and always looks like a chocolate milkshake. But this didn’t stop Rachel undoing her sandals and heading into the water with a dog which seemed to be following us around all morning. She fell in love with him and christened him Señor.

Platters at El Drugstore

 

Señor walked us back all the way to the historic town centre and then broke Rachel’s heart by following another group of tourists away from us. This is when we came by El Drugstore and drank no less than four bottles of wine, litres of water and several large platters of food including shellfish, fresh tomatoes with basil, pate, cheese, grilled aubergines and many more.

Later in the afternoon, we headed back towards the ferry terminal taking in a couple of listed important sights including an old gate. We bumped into hundreds of tourists divided by groups wearing hats, or carrying bags to identify themselves to a particular group. We counted our blessings for not booking with a tour and headed straight for the boat back.

All in all, the historic town of Colonia feels like an open air museum/model village catering to the large groups of tourists on a mission to get as many historic sights ticked off on their fantastical lists.

Categories: Food, Uruguay Tags: , , ,
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