Eleven years ago, T and I were traveling in Buenos Aires when I approached a girl in my very broken Spanish and asked her how to get to the famous and glamorous Alvear Palace Hotel. You see, in Argentina, there isn’t necessarily a look, meaning, locals are blonde, brunette, red-haired, everything and anything, so it’s easy to mistake tourists for residents (or at least that’s my excuse). Replying in perfect English, we instantly struck up a conversation and soon learned that we both lived in the D.C. area, were both educators, and of course were both obsessed with traveling. My new friend Jamie and her friend accompanied us to the hotel where we hit it off over drinks and subsequently took a day trip to Uruguay the very next day. This was before I entered the world of social media and although we had a great day and a half together, we soon parted ways expecting to never to see each other again.
Feasting at a local parrilla
Fast forward about a year later to a DC Public Schools orientation filled with thousands of educators, and Jamie and I find ourselves in line next to one another getting breakfast. Of course we’re excited, we share pleasantries, but again, do not exchange contact information. Well, months later, we run into one another yet again at Whole Foods, and realize that the forces that be seem to be desperately trying to bring us together. Call it coincidence, kismet, fate, destiny…we’ve concluded that we are meant to be in each other’s lives. After nearly a decade of dinners, yoga classes, and bottles of Torrontes, I’m so happy that I met (read: that I aggressively approached) Jamie on that Argentinian street corner so many years ago.
Jamie and I at a Sara Bareilles & Gavin DeGraw concert
Fifty Shades Musical Parody
So why I am bothering to tell you all of this? Well for two reasons: 1.) this chance encounter led to this blog post and 2.) I am so excited to be visiting my fellow wanderluster tomorrow in San Diego(!), where Jamie has called home for the past two years.
Only 50 km (about 75 minutes) by ferry, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay makes for a stress-free and wonderful day trip from Buenos Aires. This quaint and picturesque town is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and its well-preserved Barrio Histórico center was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Strolling the narrow cobbled streets, you get a sense of stepping back into time while relishing in the laid-back atmosphere. What we treasured most about Colonia is that you won’t find many chains and franchises here. Much like other Latin gems that I love: Granada, Havana, and Antigua (but on a much smaller scale), this lovely town has done a wonderful job maintaining its authenticity, charm, and history.
Colonia is the perfect combination of ancient architecture, artisan shops, boutiques, restaurants and sidewalk cafes that is just begging for visitors to explore. We loved stumbling upon small hidden plazas, little parks, churches, cute restaurants and historic houses. Take some time to amble along the eucalyptus-lined Río de la Plata, or wander through the maze of streets lined with flower-filled windowsills.
The lighthouse is a famous landmark of Colonia
Ferry Ride to Colonia:
There are two ferry companies that provide service between Buenos Aires and Colonia. The Buquebus service runs up to 4 times per day with a sailing duration of around 1 hour 15 minutes while the Colonia Express service runs up to 3 times per day with a duration from 1 hr 10 min. Opposite of what I typically do, while this is exactly how Jamie likes to roll, we did not book tickets in advance and purchased tickets at the station (gasp!). Remember to bring your passport if you’re sailing from Argentina!
Eating and Drinking:
There are numerous cafes and restaurants lining the streets and we had a lovely lunch at a local parrilla (grill). Get ready for ridiculously-sized portions for ridiculously cheap prices! #winwin
Currency and Costs:
Uruguay’s currency is the Uruguayan Peso, but we didn’t have to exchange any money. Most businesses accept credit cards as well as multiple currencies for cash purposes. We thought Argentina was cheap (and boy was it ever!), but Uruguay blew us away. Costs were a fraction of what we were spending in already affordable Argentina. The US dollar goes far!
Meeting people from different walks of life has always been one of my favorite aspects of traveling. Sharing a love of travel has a way of connecting people and helping us find common ground. Here’s to developing long-lasting friendships on random street corners throughout this wondrous world!