An Excursion To Colonia, Uruguay

By: Kim Karalekas, New Media & Research Assoc., API Texas

Day 1: Buenos Aires
Day 2: Buenos Aires
Day 3: Colonia, Uruguay!

Our 3rd day began with a 6 am cab ride to Puerto Madero…today’s destination: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay! As Colonia is the international excursion for our students studying in Buenos Aires, the plan was to get a feel for an API international excursion. Sounded like a great plan to me. (;

Here’s the Puerto Madero ferry terminal:

We picked up our tickets, boarded the ferry & enjoyed the short trip to Colonia. (The ride between Buenos Aires & Colonia ranges from 1 – 3 hours, depending on the ferry. We rode the quickest ferry, thanks to Carmen, our wonderful Buenos Aires Resident Director!)

Here’s a picture inside the ferry:

During the ferry ride, I sat wondering what Colonia would be like. I had researched Colonia, but I think we can all agree that one really can’t grasp the vibe of a place until experiencing it firsthand. I suppose time will tell…

Upon arrival, we disembarked the ferry and immediately saw the tour company kiosk – couldn’t have missed it if we tried! (; We checked in, boarded the bus and within ten minutes, we were off!

We were a bit early for the tour, so our guide gave us about 45 minutes to explore. As it was already getting toasty, we first ducked in the corner market for water:

I found the bottled water, took one look at the price and immediately thought: 40 pesos (~$10 USD) for a bottle of water?? REALLY?? That’s insane! Water isn’t even this expensive at Disneyland!

(Thankfully), no sooner had this thought crossed my mind, I remembered that prices were in Uruguayan, not Argentine pesos (conversion rate = ~5 Uruguayan pesos to 1 Argentine peso. Phew! (: )

Moving on…

After leaving the market, we explored a bit:

My first thoughts/observations of Colonia? Quiet, wide streets, quaint, colonial, classic cars, lots of trees, charming…looking forward to the rest of the day!

We met up with our group and the tour began – our guide began with a quick rundown of Colonia’s history:

– 1680: Colonia was founded by Portuguese as a means to smuggle goods to Buenos Aires

– Colonia is the only Portuguese settlement along the Río de la Plata

– Spain felt threatened by Portugal – this resulted in a tug-of-war battle over Colonia between the Spanish and Portuguese for years

By the end of our Colonia history lesson, we had arrived at our 1st stop, The Plaza de Toros Real de San Carlos. Notice anything different? Here’s a two word hint: crumbling wall.

The story behind the structure is this: The bull ring opened in 1910, held 10,000 spectators & featured many famous bullfighters. The arena saw a grand total of 8 bull fights before the Uruguayan government banned bullfighting in 1912. The ring still remains today, slowly falling apart…

After visiting the bullfighting ring, we toured the main plaza area, listening to various facts & anecdotes from our guide along the way:

During the tour, we had many four-legged friends tag along. Our guide said the dogs are “community dogs” – they roam freely but they are all vaccinated and healthy:

Our tour ended around noon – perfect timing as we had been getting hungry from all the walking! We chose to dine at a nearby restaurant. Based on the menu’s description, the sandwich my colleague Karen selected seemed to be a fairly “typical” sandwich however, it was anything but:

Holy cow! (no pun intended (; ) Tomatoes covered by lettuce, covered by french fries, covered by a variety of meats, topped with an egg.

…¡Buen provecho!

In addition to Karen’s colossal meal, the other interesting thing I noticed at the restaurant was the Christmas music blasting through the speakers. …huh? It’s April! Additionally, I purchased a mug from an artisan that afternoon – the mug was wrapped in Christmas-themed paper. Though I could never quite figure it out, my best guess was that we were in a tourist area and perhaps it was presumed that tourists really really really like Christmas?

Anyway, after lunch, we hiked to the top of the lighthouse:

Fun fact: The continual battles between the Spanish and Portuguese had a permanent impact on the town’s architecture. The way to distinguish a Spanish building? The roof is mostly likely flat. Portuguese building? The roof is most likely slanted.

Can you tell if these roofs are Spanish or Portuguese?

After an afternoon full of hiking, exploring & venturing, we were ready for dinner! We settled down at this restaurant:

Here is the dish I chose – Spinach ravioli stuffed with basil & cheese, covered in garlic butter sauce. Though my arteries most likely did not appreciated the meal, my taste buds certainly did:

Right before we were to board the bus to return, we ran down to the water to catch Colonia’s famous sunset. Pictures really can’t do justice to the beauty we saw, but just try to imagine this sunset…but 20 times more remarkable:

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Sep 20, 2021 @ 17:45
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