Relax How?

Colonia del Sacramento (13 November 2013)

About an hour from Buenos Aires across the Río de la Plata lies the old city of Colonia del Sacramento. It is a popular day trip from Buenos Aires and porteños go there to relax. Frequent boat trips make the journey to the city and it was for me a chance to visit Uruguay without too much hassle and planning.

Uruguay stands right between Portuguese and Spanish America and, in the days when the European powers were indulging in their “Gotta catch ’em all!” on every single inch of land on the planet, was a bone of contention between the Portuguese and Spanish. Colonia itself was founded by the Portuguese but changed hands several times between those two European powers throughout its history before Uruguay’s independence.

Today however, Colonia is a sleepy little place that felt to me like the land of the lotus eaters as compared to Buenos Aires just across the river. There was hardly anything to do there except to eat and not think. The Barrio Histórico, the main draw of the city, is good for a little walk but nothing much else.

Portón de Campo, the city gate and wooden drawbridge

Portón de Campo, the city gate and wooden drawbridge

Part of the old city wall

Part of the old city wall

By the waterfront

By the waterfront

Former Viceroy's house

Former Viceroy’s house

Colonia street

Colonia street

Colonia street

Colonia street

Colonia street

Colonia street

Shadier part of Colonia

Shadier part of Colonia

The Faro in the middle of the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

The Faro in the middle of the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco

View of the old city from the Faro

View of the old city from the Faro

View of the Río de la Plata from the Faro

View of the Río de la Plata from the Faro

I was a little disturbed by how yellow the Río de la Plata looked. Some people seem to think that the yellow was caused by the tonnes of crap being released into the river all the time by the people living near it. I prefer to see it as merely sediments from the upper reaches of the river and its tributaries which is not an unfair presumption I think. In any case some scientists do not even consider it to be a river but a gulf. As a river, it is the widest in the world with a maximum width of more than 200 kilometres.

I took Lonely Planet’s suggestion and had lunch at El Drugstore. I still have no idea why it is called that since the name actually reminds me of nasty tasting medicines. Anyway it is a wonderful place to have a meal at with its colourful interior and lovely live guitar performances. The food was good too. I have to rate this restaurant as the best thing I visited in the city.

El Drugstore

El Drugstore

I left Colonia wishing that I had done more in Uruguay. The city is easily reached from Buenos Aires and I suspect that is the reason it is still surviving as a tourist destination. I know that many people liked the place and thought it was very charming. For me however visiting the city was something like having an appetiser and getting my appetite whetted and then having the waiter telling me that there would be no main course. As I walked the streets of the Barrio Histórico I kept expecting to see something really amazing and then I realised that I had walked everywhere but still had not been amazed. The visit therefore became just an addition to my list of places visited. At the very least I had seen a new country.

Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento at the end of the calle

Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento at the end of the calle

One of a few vintage wrecks in the old city

One of a few vintage wrecks in the old city

At the Plaza de Armas with the foundations of an old house

At the Plaza de Armas with the foundations of an old house

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