Friday, July 24, 2015

AN EXCURSION TO COLONIA, URUGUAY



Greetings from charming Colonia with its cobblestone streets, historical neighborhoods, vintage cars, and outdoor tables for refreshments!  


        
I have never had to look very far to find an excuse to hit the road.  So it came as a pleasant excuse while living in Argentina that we were required to leave the country every 90 days because of visa restrictions. There was no minimum requirement as to how long we had to be out of the country. One day, one week, one year, they all worked! In my mind this was simply wonderful. As a consequence, we took advantage of this requirement which gave us a valid “excuse” to leave Argentina and go explore elsewhere. We visited neighboring Chile twice, Uruguay once, and Venezuela once just in order to keep the Argentine immigration officers happy!  On rare occasions, bureaucracy can be a beautiful thing!  



       Adios Buenos Aires! See you in a few days.



One of my favorite excursions from Buenos Aires was to the colonial town of Colonia del Sacramento in the neighboring country of Uruguay. A visit to “Colonia” was as easy as boarding either a large ferry which also carried cars or a smaller, high speed ferry. We choose the slower ferry for our departure and the high speed ferry for our return. With the "rapido" you can arrive in Colonia in just over one hour after leaving port in Buenos Aires and crossing the Río de la Plata.



Excerpt from letter written to family and friends while living in Buenos Aires:
“They (the ferries) were a nice change for us from the buses we normally rely on for getting around.  These ferries are quite luxurious and include wonderful snacks and libations, comfortable tables for reading and eating, a large sundeck where the locals get down to their sunbathing, and a duty-free shop for stocking up.”




Taking the fast and comfortable Buquebus ferry across the Rio Plata is a great and convenient way to visit Colonia or Montevideo in Uruguay when you need a little break from Buenos Aires





  Self service on the spacious and comfortable Buquetbus ferry to Uruguay works for me!  


Argentines never fail to take advantage of sun time even when crossing the Rio Plata to Colonia!  




Enjoying a little reading time on the ferry to Colonia, Uruguay. Please note: a book, not a Kindle, was the only reading format available when this photo was taken 

With this convenient ferry service a day trip to Colonia is very possible, but we opted to spend two nights in order to explore and enjoy this delightful town. So let’s meet Colonia del Sacramento!




Colonia del Sacramento in southwestern Uruguay is located on the Río de la Plata (River of Silver) facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. "Colonia" is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and waiting for our visit!         





The tranquil harbor of Colonia, Uruguay on a quiet summer day



     Sunset as seen from the historic center of Colonia can be magical!




Colonia's historical streets are painted in the colors of their sunsets


Colonia del Sacramento (formerly known in Portuguêse as Nova Colónia do Sacramento) is a town in southwestern Uruguay on the Río de la Plata facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is one of the oldest towns in Uruguay and has a population of approximately 27,000. Founded by the Portuguêse in 1680 on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, Colonia del Sacramento is steeped in much history a lot of which was very turbulent. It was the only Portuguêse settlement along the Rio de la Plata and was founded by Manuel de Lobo. “Colonia” became the focus of serious territorial struggles for over one hundred and fifty years between the Spanish and the Portuguêse. For years “Colonia” operated as a contraband port, evading the strictures imposed on trade by the Spanish crown. Disputed for more than a century and one half the city finally fell into the hands of the Spaniards.





The lovely Plaza Mayor (the main plaza) is a favorite place to plan your excursion or rest from your excursion!


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A nighttime view of the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento from the cobblestone streets of Colonia


Excerpt from letter written to family and friends while living in Buenos Aires:  
“Colonia was founded in l680 by the then Portuguese governor of Rio de Janeiro.  The town’s major importance was a source of smuggled trade items, undercutting Spain’s jealously defended mercantile monopoly.  British goods made their way from Colonia into Buenos Aires and the interior through exchange with the Portuguese.  For this reason, Spanish forces intermittently besieged Portugal’s riverside outpost for decades.  Spain finally gained control of Colonia in l777. From this time, the city’s commercial importance declined as foreign goods proceeded directly to Buenos Aires.”


Resultado de imagen para Basilica el Santisimo, Colonia de Sacramento,
The Calle de los Suspiros (Street of Sighs) is a landmark street in Colonia. This typical Portuguese street is paved with its original cobblestones and is shaped to direct rainwater down to the river. Flanked by similarly old but colorful houses, the street, despite its apparent state of “disrepair,” has on overwhelming charm that instantly transports a visitor back in time.



These homes may look abandoned, but many are still occupied and many are in various stages of restoraton and renovation. The cobblestone streets lend a lot of charm to Colonia, but they can be a definite challenge.  Ladies, think comfort and security, not fashion, when visiting Colonia!


Today Colonia is charming and tranquil with its well-preserved town which is an example of a successful blending of the Portuguêse architectural style, the Spanish, and the post-colonial influence. Colonia was developed on a peninsula that protrudes into the Rio de la Plata. The 40 acre "Barrio Histórico” (old town quarter) was enclosed by a fortification wall across the peninsula in the site of present day Calle Ituzaingó. Most of the fortification wall was removed in 1777 and the remaining parts in 1859. The Portuguêse historical section of the city has an irregular street layout. Outside the wall, part of the city was planned in Spanish colonial style with their characteristic rectangular grid layout.





Another lovely view of the Rio Plata from the Historic District of Colonia, Uruguary



Wonderful vintage cars, some still proudly used by their owners and some taking root as street decorations, contribute to the magical atmosphere of historical Colonia



Colonia is a resort town, a port, and the trade center for a rich agricultural region. Built in the Portuguese style of houses with cobblestoned streets the historic portion of Colonia is reminiscent of old Lisbon. Winding streets and colorful houses are a delight to explore. The Barrio Histórico (historic quarter) section of Colonia del Sacramento was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995. It is a popular destination for visitors from Buenos Aires with frequent ferry service across the Río de la Plata between the two cities. The historical section of Colonia is within walking distance of the ferry terminal which couldn’t make it easier or more convenient!





Around each corner and down each street you find reminders of the colonial days in Colonia which I find simply marvelous! 


Excerpt  from Laura’s letter to family and friends while living in Argentina:  

“Numerous sycamores offer protection from the summer heat, and the Rio de la Plata helps to cool things off while also providing a venue for spectacular sunsets.  The colonial-era section of Colonia is a charming place to walk and wander and imagine what life might have been like centuries ago. The streets are still paved with the original stone rocks and cobblestones, the buildings constructed of stone with Portuguese-Spanish architecture, the ruins of lighthouses and fortifications have been preserved, with shady plazas, charming cafes, and a quiet boat harbor to enjoy. The alfresco cafes provide live music with jazz and Brazilian sounds prevailing.  They are great places to enjoy the local food and wine which are very much like those in Argentina.”  



Barrio Historico occupies a relatively small area so the best way to get around is on foot. But please take note: original cobblestones remain from early colonial times on many of the streets. In addition, the roots of the beautiful trees that line the streets have grown under and damaged many sidewalks. Walk with care and enjoy!






   Alfresco dining in Colonia and watching the world (or the local dogs) go by is a wonderful pastime!  






A little local Brazilian music to entertain while the waiter is waiting patiently to serve you! Even though the Spanish ended in control of Colonia, there is still very much a Portuguese (think Brazilian) influence in Colonia.



MY HIGHLIGHTS OF COLONIA:



Puerta de la Ciudadela, also called Puerta de Campo, or Portón de Campo is the City Gate and wooden drawbridge built in 1745 by the Portuguese governor to safeguard the walled city ar the only entrance. Restored, it now marks the beginning of the historic district.



As part of the municipal restoration program in Colonia, a small section of the defensive wall, including the main gate and the drawbridge, was rebuilt, highlighting the city’s unique past. In 1971 the restoration was completed and the plaque on the wall reads:“This restoration project presents our homage to past generations and a message of faith and confidence in future generations. October 12, 1973.” BRAVO!

Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento, Colonia del Sacramento (also known as La Iglesia Matriz, Basílica do Santíssimo Sacramento, and  Church of the Holy Sacrament) was built of stone by the Portuguese in 1808. The parish in Colonia del Sacramento was established in 1680 and is one of the oldest in Uruguay.



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This one-nave church, designed by the famous Spanish architect Tomas Toribio, was completed in 1808. But its present day embodiment is a succession of a few other churches erected in the same place under the common Portugues name Basílica do Santíssimo Sacramento.



Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento was first built from straw and sod in 1680 the year Colonia was founded. Like most structures of that time, it followed typical “birth-and-destruction” cycles for all kind of reasons including fire, structural problems, and wars.


El Faro, the lighthouse, was constructed in 1857 from the stones of the ruins of Convento de San Francisco and is the iconic highlight of Colonia along the Rio del Plata.




The construction of the lighthouse began in 1845 under the rule of Argentine dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas. Because the work was frequently interrupted by wars, it took almost 12 years to complete the project. Finally, on January 24, 1857, the lighthouse located at San Pedro’s Point (Puenta de San Pedro) was opened.



Resultado de imagen para plaza de armas colonia del sacramento
The 27-meter (88-foot) lighthouse tower was built mostly from stones recovered from the ruins of the 17th century Convento de San Francisco (San Francisco Convent) which was destroyed by fire many years prior to its constuction.  Standing nearby you can see the remaining stone walls of the convent which are in stark contrast to the white lighthouse.  




Visitors can climb the 118 steps of the lighthouse for a fantastic view for a few Uruguayan pesos. If you climb the lighthouse tower in the evening you may be rewarded by the sight of a magnificent sunset falling over the waters of Rio de la Plata. What a perfect way to end the day in Colonia!   


Most of Colonia’s museums are located in old historical homes. This creates a truly charming rustic ambiance of old times.  However, it also sets strict limits on the size of their expositions.  The following is a brief description of some, but not all, of the museums to be explored in Colonia. The most ardent museum-goer should be more than happy in Colonia.



Museo Portuguese (Portuguese Museum)
is located in one of Colonia's oldest Portuguese houses and was constructed in the 18th century. The building with its thick two to three feet stone walls and tiled floors is itself an object of great historical worth. The Museum exhibits Portuguese architecture, furnishings, jewelry, military uniforms, old maps of Portuguese naval expeditions, and military standards from the period. 



Casa Nacarello
is a recently restored 18th century Portuguese colonial house and museum that embodies the charming, antique setting of Colonia del Sacramento. This museum has collections of art, historia, archaeology, and, and anthropology. My kind of museum!






Casa de Nacarello represents a typical Portuguese house from the 18th century in Colonia. It preserves the original structure including the stone walls and tiled roof. The house was restored in 1993 thanks to La Fundación Calouste Gulbenkian.  Gracias!  


Museo Municipal (Municipal Museum)
is located in a Portuguese house dating from 1793 and located on Plaza Mayor with a combination of Portuguese and Spanish items including furnishings, artifacts, documents and other items illustrating colonial life in the city’s different periods and cultures. In 1835, during the Spanish control of Colonia, the house was modernized and enlarged by adding a second floor. It then served as Admiral William Brown’s headquarters (Brown is recognized as the Father of the Argentinean Navy) and became commonly known as "Casa del Almirante Brown."


Museo Español (Spanish Museum) 
contains more exhibits of colonial life in Colonia with replicas of pottery, clothing, maps and more. Ironically, the Spanish Museum occupies a Portuguese house dating from 1720. During its colorful history, the house once belonged to a Spanish businessman named Don Juan de Aguila hence being called the Spanish Museum.



Museo del Azulejo (Tile Museum) 
Shortly after entering the old city of Colonia, you will realize that tiles played a significant part of its colonial past. Street names, house numbers and their owners’ names, and even maps make use of tiles. Colonia’s Tile Museum couldn't be more appropriate. The Tile Museum holds an impressive private collection of old tiles from France, Spain, Portugal and Uruguay from the 18th century. It may be interesting to note that the Spanish name “Azulejo” comes from an Arabic word, “az-zulaiy” (meaning “brick”), which reflects the long presence of the Moorish people on the Iberian (Spaish) Peninsula.


The final excerpt  from Laura’s letter to family and friends while living in Argentina:
One of the unique things we really enjoyed while visiting Colonia were all of the restored vehicles which are still very much in daily use.  It was so very nice to see and feel the appreciation for things of by-gone years including these vehicles.  Really quite charming and lovely. Gracias, Colonia for the memories!


Here and there in Colonia you will spot vintage cars, some still proudly used by their owners and some taking root as street decorations, and all beautifully contributing to the magical atmosphere of Colonia.



Accordingly, I would like to conclude our visit to Colonia de Sacramento with photographs of some of those marvelous vehicles which we so admired and enjoyed. I hope you do also!



















This old vehicle has been converted by a local restaurant as private outdoor seating for two - what a unique dining experience! 


 


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                  Meow, meow!










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Not all vintage modes of transport were engine driven!
















                                                           Now this is one good way to get about on the cobblestone streets!


My sincere thanks and appreciation to the following website for inspiration and material:  www.amazing-world-in-free-stock-pictures-and-photos.com



I remember hearing many years ago that a picture is worth a thousand words. Those words definitely contributed to and inspired me in the creation of MEXICO AND BEYOND: LAURA'S PHOTO JOURNEY. I hope you have enjoyed this visit to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay and I look forward to seeing you again in the near future.  Until then, gracias and safe travels!  Laura



                                            Memories are just a click away!

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4 comments:

  1. You make me want to pack my bag, Laura. Such inspiring writing. Just to give you the heads up, though, I tried to click on your Pozos post and was told it didn't exist. I may have done something wrong, but you might want to check to see if it is a live link.

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  2. Thank you, Victoria! My posting on Pozos was accidently published prior to completion and I reverted it to draft status. Thank you for the heads up. Pozos should be published in the next few weeks. I am joing to sneak in a posting on Zihautenajo ahead of Pozos to mix things up. I submited a comment on our last posting just an hour ago or so. Oh, the joys of blogging! Sending my regards to you and lovely SMA.

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  3. I read your Intersting and awesome blog. I really like this blog.
    Fossil Mint Sandstone

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    1. Many thanks, Aanchal, for your nice comments. I will be publishing a new post in the next day or two on the Huichol indigenous people of Mexico. I hope you have signed up to receive automatic notifications of new posts. Laura

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