Have you ever ridden a single-car, rusty, two-manned ferry across a 300-foot wide marsh?
As of last week, I have.
I spent 6 days exploring the coasts of Punta del Este, Punta Ballena, Punta del Diablo, Jose Ignacio, and more. It was exactly what I and the rest of our group needed as final exams start less than two weeks from now.
We were lucky enough to stay at the beach house of a friend of mine where we cooked delicious dinners every night, played hilarious card games, star gazed, watched movies by the fire, drank mimosas on the patio, did yoga in the grass, and sang along to the constant stream of 90s pop songs that came on the radio (think “I Want It That Way” and “Wannabe”).
We spent our days driving along the coast, exploring little towns and gawking at the enormous, modern houses that looked over the water. Our first full day we explored Jose Ignacio, which was highly recommended by our host. It didn’t disappoint.
It reminded me of my annual summer trips to Cape Cod, what with the chilly weather (we always went in September to avoid the crowds) and the humble shore.
Jose Ignacio is a quiet town, especially in the off-season, but still with so much to offer. We thought we were just a few of maybe 20 people in town that day, until we arrived at a restaurant highly recommended by a local artisan. We were told the wait for a table was 20 minutes…
And it wasn’t a small restaurant. There were two large patios, and three large rooms inside. In all it can probably hold about 200 guests at a time. We figured it had to be deilcous for a wait that long and put our names on the list.
Once again, we were not disappointed.
The restuarant is called Parador La Huella and if you’re looking to find the trendiest people in the area, this is the place to go. Dozens of kids ran around inside and outside in the sand, all dressed in clothing far more stylish than anything I own. It wasn’t surprising that their parents looked like they had walked out of Vogue or Vanity Fair.
Despite how busy they were, our food arrived very quickly after we ordered. I ordered rice with veggies and calamari. I am not a huge calamari fan but I wanted to try something different. It was good but I wasn’t wowed. The rice was actually pretty under-cooked.
About one third of the way there we thought we had taken a wrong turn, as the road turned to dirt and we entered a construction site. However, signs led us down a dirt path toward a ferry crossing. This is not what we were expecting though…
The other Abby unbuckled my seatbelt, “In case the car falls in the water,” she said.
When we reached the other side we all took a collective sigh of relief, waved goodbye to our lovely ferryman, and continued our journey along a long, dirt road.
We arrived in Punta del Diablo much later than we had anticipated and all took to the beach for an afternoon siesta. However, I couldn’t sit still, so I explored the rocky shore.
Eventually we moved to the other end of the beach where we could get a better view of the surfers. People along the beach were refreshingly friendly and we were invited to a drum circle, which we unfortunately had to turn down as we would be on our way home by the time it started.
We were content to read, picnic, and play in the sand though.
Especially once the sun started to disappear behind the cottages.
Reluctantly, we packed up, piled into the car, and headed home.
We had almost reached home when we hit an enormous pot hole and earned ourselves a big fat flat. We pulled over, expecting to be stranded for at least an hour, but with the help of a nearby casino employee we were back on the road within 30 minutes. Thus is the story of how I learned to change a flat tire.
The next day we explored Punta Ballena, the town we were staying in. Its not really a town, there is no town center, but it is home to a beautiful point and Casapueblo.
Casapueblo is the home/studio/artwork/hotel created by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró. It looks like a house that Dr. Seuss would build in Greece.
We meant to wait there until sunset, but our exhaustion got the best of us.
That night we decided to go all out for dinner. I opted for salmon and mussels, as we had heard they were the best we’d ever have, while almost everyone else went with delicious squash soup.
Unfortunately I may have over-cooked the mussels so they weren’t everything I had hoped for. But the salmon was some of the best I have ever eaten. And deliciously prepared with lemon, garlic, and parsley.
I prepared the mussels in a garlic, butter sauce. I only wish that I had had some white wine to add to it.
We woke up early on the day we were to return to Buenos Aires. Before we got on the bus though, we had to make our stop at Los Dedos. Can you guess what “dedos” means?
It was the perfect pre-finals vacation.
Until next time Uruguay (and there will be a next time)!