Nos giró demasiado!!
Saturday 10 November 2007 - Saturday 10 November 2007 23 °C
On Saturday we decided to check out the other side of the wide and brown Río de la Plata by taking a Buquebus ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay. According to my guidebook, Colonia was founded by Portuguese settlers from Brazil in 1680 and was an important center for smuggling Britist goods across the Río into the Spanish colonies throughout the 17th century.
How that history currently reflects itself on the surface of the town was harder for me to see, but maybe just because I was distracted by how amazingly beautiful and peaceful it was. The boat drops you off at the dock, and then after a 10 minute walk through the modern downtown, you hit the Barrio Histórico on the peninsula jutting into the river. (By the way, in the entrance of EVERY shop you pass will be an employee leaning against the doorframe drinking mate. Apparently mate is even bigger in Uruguay than in Argentina. They all have these hearty red-brown leather pouches to fit the thermos with hot water, the gourd, straw, and the herb mix.)
The cobblestone streets are lined with trees, with small buildings housing either small shops (usually with a large array of mate paraphernalia) or cafés (like the really nice Parrilla del Barrio serving “chivito”… a sandwich with a slice of ham, lomo (beef), lettuce, and tomato.
It is a good place for strolling, kind of conducive to that pace. The cobblestone streets, including one called Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) tend to be short and crooked or slanted. The sidewalk leads right to the riverside, where you can see many sailboats just off the shore. Definitely a wonderful way to spend a day.
When we went to take money out of the Uruguyan ATM, there was a sign next to it with conversion factors. It said 1 USD = 2260 URU or something like that. So we were like hmmm… does it mean 2260, or 22.60? I looked on the floor and saw a few receipts from previous people’s transactions and saw amounts like 3,000 URU and 4,000 URU so we decided to take out 5,000 URU between the two of us.
Low and behold looking at the sign on the next bank we pass, it says 1 USD = 22.60 URU … and we were like WHAAA???
Long story short, there are still many hundreds of Uruguyan pesos in my safe box that need to be exchanged…
In terms of the Buquebus, there’s the fast 50-minute ride or the slow 3-hour ride. Show up early on the day of or the day before to buy tickets and be prepared for lines. Also, be prepared to run into more “tercer edad” gringos than you see on a normal basis even in the States (or maybe that was just my experience).
On our way there, I joked with one of the American retirees on the boat, “If you can’t understand our Spanish, it’s just because it’s SO Chilean… not because it’s bad or anything.” We also met a girl on the boat doing a 30 day recorrido of Argentina-Uruguay-Brazil. She had studied abroad twice before including for one year in Florence, during which she spent ONLY ONE WEEKEND in Florence! All the other weekends she was out and about Europe! Is that not insane? I think that’s unnecessarily ridiculous, in a slightly negative way (to put it as vaguely as possible).
UPDATE: Since coming back to Chile, Jeff and I have been looking for a place to exchange the plata. Unfortunately, the going rate here is 1 USD = 10 URU or 11 if we're lucky. Meaning... we have a wad of money worth $80 that they're only willing to give us $40 for. Jeff is waiting to exchange his money in the States.