Romance and Fine Dining in Colonial Uruguay

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Just 28 miles across the river from Buenos Aires (a 50-minute ferry ride) and a two-hour drive from Montevideo… through the richly fertile Rio de la Plata riverbed and past some of Uruguay’s famous farmland and vineyards… Colonia de Sacramento (or just “Colonia,” as it is commonly called) is right off a picture postcard with its cobblestoned, well-shaded sycamore-lined streets, ancient fortress wall, historic colonial-style buildings, fine shops, galleries, great restaurants and parrilladas (meat grills).

I had my favorite meal of my recent trip to Uruguay in little Colonia, in a restaurant called Meson de la Plaza, recommended by expat Mukti Scott.

In the enclosed terrace of this old historic casa coloniale, little tea lights twinkled in the trees… an Uruguayan guitarist with a romantically melodic voice serenaded us as the wine flowed… and three of us devoured deliciously fresh salmon and the organic beef Uruguay is known for. We topped it off with a richly decadent chocolate torte…

Mukti and her partner, Kanan—both Australian—came to Colonia on a whim six years ago and fell in love with it. They bought a home in the colonial center overlooking the river, which is so broad and clean here you’d swear it was the ocean. We sat on her terrace drinking wine and she explained what attracted them to Colonia.

Nighttime Colonia, when the moon shines off the water and casts a dreamy light down narrow alleyways and across the ancient stone walls, is her favorite time, she explained.

“You don’t lock your car here, and it’s very relaxed,” she said. “Sometimes I go for a walk by the river at 3 a.m. and I feel very comfortable… that feeling is fantastic.”

Colonia is a faithfully restored city of 17th century Portuguese architecture that earned status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

It’s a popular tourist town, but unlike coastal Uruguay, which hibernates in winter, Colonia is “open all year.” There’s a summer high season between December and March, but even in July you’ll find the nicer hotels booked solid on the weekends, especially with Argentines who find Colonia an easy and safe weekend getaway.

Many Argentines, in fact, have purchased vacation homes in Colonia, and more and more North Americans and English-speaking expats, such as Mukti and Kanan, are finding their way here. And it’s easy to understand why. As appealing as Uruguay’s beautiful coast is and as culturally exciting as Montevideo is, Colonia is special.

Antique cars still run the streets. Uruguayans have a knack, it seems, for getting the ultimate benefit from everything and from using things as long as they can—from old colonial houses to old cars, hand-me-down furniture and more. If you love antiques and connecting with the past, you’ll love the easy, Old World charm of Colonia.

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