COLONIA: THE PERFECT GETAWAY PLACE
Colonia´s oldtown in Uruguay is the typical place where time doesn´t run anymore. It seems as if time has stopped. People are friendly and live a slow-motion lifestyle. Founded in 1680, Colonia was under dispute between the Portuguese and Spanish crowns. Nowadays, that fight belongs to history, although some ruins and the cobblestone streets silently remind what happened centuries ago.
Only 1 hour distant by water from Buenos Aires, Colonia is the perfect place to make a weekend getaway. Lodging and restaurants have improved amazingly and there is a variety of places to stay and eat. If you choose to take the ferry from Buenos Aires, it will only take 1 hour to get there. It is also 2 hour drive from Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. So, getting there is convenient, fast and easy.
WHAT TO VISIT IN COLONIA
You can take a walking tour around the historic centre or do it by yourself. We went for this last option, as we prefer to handle our own times and at our own pace. We grabbed a map from our hotel that had the most important sites marked and in few minutes we were walking along the oldtown. Our first stop was the Cathedral: it is the oldest church built on Uruguay. It was rebuilt a couple of times, so the current style is colonial. With a white facade, the interior is painted in the same color and is pretty austere and silent. Catholic mass is still given in this church.
Continue to the Lighthouse -you can climb up to the top, except if it´s a rainy day– then the house of the Viceroy and the ruins of the Monastery. Follow to the famous «Calle de los Suspiros» (Sighs Street) with its typical cobblestone one block street. There is an art gallery near one corner that you can visit. Honestly, I found many of the cobblestone streets in Colonia to be as pretty as «Calle de los Suspiros», so don´t tie yourself to this only path. Walk and find your own favorite and less crowded site. Old cars are also a picturesque detail in Colonia. When I saw them I believe myself to be living in a movie, like in «Midnight in Paris» and loved that sensation!
If you want to have fun, get into «El Tunel del Ayer». It is an unusual store with plenty of costumes where the owners will take you pictures dressed up in charleston clothes, or portrait you as a sailor, a bride and groom or as an old gentleman and ladies. There are 3 or 4 different sets where pictures are taken. Then you pick those you like and get them printed in sepia-toned colors. We had so much fun, I would love to go back.
If you like watching the river, walk to the breakwater and stroll along the riverside. I loved the old pier with its beautiful lights at the end. You can stare at amazing and cool sunsets and perhaps enjoy a drink on a bar nearby. The city can also be visited by renting golf carts.
WHERE TO STAY IN COLONIA
We have spent many weekends in Colonia. However, we agree that «Posada San Antonio» is the best lodging we have ever tried in this lovely city. Located in the historic quarter, close to the main sightseeing points, but not that close so it isn´t crowded or noisy, this «Posada» offers modern and spacious bedrooms with fine bed linens and comfy beds. There is a swimming pool with umbrellas, ideal for summertime or if you just want to relax.
The staff is amazingly friendly and helpful. One morning they provided us with umbrellas because it was a rainy day. I saw they have plenty to satisfy every customer. They also indicated us some interesting things to do and recommended restaurants and bars. The breakfast is very complete: fruits, yogurts, pastries, croissants, homemade cakes and more. Perfect air conditionate.
WHERE TO EAT IN COLONIA
If you are looking for a good lunch, Viejo Barrio is a great choice, with homemade food. It only opens at midday for lunch. No reservations are taken, so the place works on a first come, first served basis. It doesn´t open every day, so before going try to be sure it´s open. Best option meal: pasta for sure! Order «sorrentinos» and won´t be sorry at all. Ruben, one of the waiters was friendly, helpful and cheerful. Ambience is quiet. The restaurant is located in front of the Cathedral, in the historic quarter.
For light snacks and sandwiches, I love «Buenos Vientos», very close to the old pier. I like the decoration, the food and moreover, the drinks. Ask for a lemonade with mint and ginger or a «pomelada» (grapefruit juice). The owner was so friendly he gave us an «alfajor» as a present. «Alfajor» is a traditional sweet in Latinamerica, very popular, so if you are the kind of people who enjoys sweet stuff, you will sure like it.