Sweet Colonia del Sacramento

Colonia del Sacramento, known simply as Colonia, is one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. Situated in southwestern Uruguay, this UNESCO world heritage site is the oldest town in the country, boasts quaint cobbled streets, colourful houses and charmingly dilapidated vintage cars parked in its wide, leafy streets.

Colonia is the quintessential place to wander aimlessly. It is easy to explore every nook and cranny and absorb the natural charm that oozes out from everywhere you look. There are a number of places to simply sit and observe the life happening around you. There are a plethora of restaurants that serve high quality produce. You can sit and share a cheese platter and bottle of crisp white wine while staring dreamily at the Rio de Plata which hovers just at the conclusion of each cobbled road.

I remember thinking that the entire place seemed as though a team of designers ran around frantically placing lanterns, wagon wheels and abandoned cars in the most romantic settings possible.

Justin and I spent a day being followed by one of the local hounds. He accompanied us around the town centre and joined us for an ice-cream. He wasn’t very interested in the cone that we threw him as he was too busy eyeing off the local pigeons. After a day of building the new friendship, my heart almost broke when we had to leave him outside the door of our hostel. Justin made a poem about him, he called it Ode to Cultural Dog and, from memory, it went something like this; “Cultural dog,texture-like dog, he’s so nice, never ignores you, always befriends you, looks like a dog, cultural dog.” This poem seemed a little strange but a nice sentiment all the same.

The three days we spent in Colonia were filled with leisurely strolls, coffees and late-afternoon reading. It was the perfect place to take a holiday within a holiday. We explored the local Basilica del Sanctisimo with an intricately crafted fountain outside. We traipsed from artesian shop to artesian shop taking in the mate cups, scarves, jumpers and various other Uruguay fanfare. We climbed the picturesque lighthouse and stood motionless as the wind whipped through out hair, masking our view of the glorious surroundings. We went for dinner at a place called El Drugstore. It was a quirky establishment with a vivid colour scheme and extensive menu. We ordered dumplings, expecting them Chinese style but were surprised when we were presented with gnocchi.

In the late afternoon on our last day, we sat for hours in a cosy courtyard drinking Riesling and eating local cheddar, cured meats and spinach and leek tartlets.

Just off the courtyard was one of the most charming streets I have seen. It was lined with fences with fringes of bright flowers and sunrise- coloured buildings. We could see the Rio de Plata in its various shades of blue. We ambled back to our hostel and were met by the laid-back guy who owned it drinking his usual mug of maté. I was fascinated by maté. Since arriving in Uruguay I noticed the locals drinking out of strange circular mugs with silver straws. At first I assumed it was some kind of legal drug, but was then informed by the hostel owner that it was called maté. Maté is a traditional South American infused drink made from steeping dried leaves of yerba maté in boiling water. It is usually consumed in a social setting and contains several minerals and vitamins.

Colonia was the perfect place to take a step back and reflect on our travels. It was full of ancient charm and everywhere you turned there was something beautiful to feast your eyes on. Hopefully I will return there one day and reunite with Cultural Dog.

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