On Monday, we took a “luxury” bus out to Colonia del Sacremento, about 2 and a half hours from Montevideo. We’ve gotten around the city almost entirely on foot and bus. The buses have been a cheap and reliable mode of transportation for the most part. Some of the buses, which you pay a little more for have padded seats and are more spacious. The less costly buses are generally more crowded and have plastic seats. You might be more comfortable standing unless you have a padded butt that can absorb the bumps. As the buses fill with people, they push to the back where everyone has to eventually exit which means if you are standing, people who need to get off will have to squeeze by you and there’s simply no place for you to go when you are being squeezed but into the people who are seated as you try to make yourself less present. But what annoys me more than anything is the fact that when you get onto the bus and pay, you get a ticket or some sort of receipt. I can’t fathom why the ticket is needed once you have paid and are on the bus. As far as I can tell, you can’t use it to transfer to another bus. The conductors don’t stop and inspect the tickets. I can’t imagine that people keep these receipts for tax purposes, but they might. What do I know? When it comes to the ways of the Uruguayans, perhaps very little.
The charming resort town of Colonia del Sacremento reminds me a little of Cape Code in the wintertime. It feels as off the beaten path as Isla de Chiloe in Chile. And even though it is wintertime here, the place still had a number of tourists, some from Argentina and Brazil. Buenos Aires is only a 50 minute ferry ride from the port of Colonia. The town has a lot of military history and apparently was something of a strategic outpost controlled at times by Portugal, Spain and Brazil and you can see both the Portuguese and Spanish influence on the layout of the town and in the architecture. One of the more eye pleasing objects was the lighthouse, completed by soldiers (not sure which country’s) in 1857, that one can climb for something like 20 pesos.
The town has many museums, restaurants, churches and shops that sell local art, handicrafts and clothing. There are beaches on the Rio de la Plata, areas for camping and picnics in Aaron del Anchorena National Park and there’s even a bullring.
But the highlight of the day was the restaurant we stumbled upon called Buen Suspiro which features local cheeses, wines, pastries, soups and entrees made with locally sourced ingredients.
It is located in the cellar of a home that must have been built in the 1700’s by the Portuguese, with low hung wooden beams. The cavernous space had a intimate charm with about 10 tables in all. Our waiter explained the menu, which consisted of several types of appetizers including the one we selected which contained 4 types of local cheeses from mild to strong, bread, a spicy jam, cheese bread squares and balls and dry salami.
We also sampled 6 different local wines – a Cuna Crianza Tannant Merlot blend, one of my least favorites of the 6; a Fripp Tannant, my personal favorite; a Cuna Reserva Riesling, a semi-dry white, with a zesty lime tang that keep the wine from being too sweet; a Cuna de Piedra Sauvignon Blanc; and two rose wines – a Cabernet and a Moscatel. I don’t like roses much so these were my least favorite of the lot.
For entrees, we had a squash soup and a vegetable and meat lasagna. We ordered a slice of dulce de leche cake – to die for – and a round of mate.
Our waiter explained to us how to prepare and drink mate, something we were not aware of even though we had experience drinking mate, Chilean-style, which is not as protocol dependent as the Uruguayan way and as our waiter pointed out, the Uruguayan way is not nearly as particular as the Argentine way.
And we ended the day with a 8 dollar bar of chocolate -always ask the price before you buy something- and a double cortado para llevar. And so it went on Colonia de Sacremento on this cold winter day.