Hello SISters, how are you all today?
Did you miss me? I missed you all very much! I haven’t been around lately but it was for a good cause: I was gathering some special information just for you!
Me, Alex, your SISter on the Road, had the pleasure to travel to Uruguay, France and England, so I will be telling you all about my trip on the next 3 weeks. Yes, I will give you tips and talk about my personal experience in each place I visited.
“Attention passengers: during take-off, your seat should be kept upright, your table should be closed and locked and the seat belts should remain buckled”
Punta del Este
I went to Uruguay to attend the I ABRAJET INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS, promoted by the Brazilian Association of Tourism Journalists – ABRAJET Nacional, which took place in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, from April 10th to 15th.
Before boarding the plane to Uruguay, do not forget to stop by a currency exchange office and exchange your money for Uruguayo Peso, as this is officially the only accepted currency in the city.
One Dollar equals approximately 29 Uruguayan Pesos (1 UDS = 28,90 UYU)
The amount of tourists in Punta del Este is so big, that they usually understand many languages and they can say the price of the product in your currancy! Look for the price also in Pesos, so you can use your mental calculator (or the phone one…) and divide the value by what your money is worth to compare with the prices that you have in your country, to see if your buy is a good deal.
I’m a cell phone compulsive and I always need Wi-Fi and Mobile Internet because I work with it 24 hours a day. But the international plans of Brazilian operators do not usually compensate much for me (number of days / number of destinations / franchise limit…).
SIS tip: I recommend you to get off in Montevideo and head for Punta del Este (this route is quick and Montevideo airport is much bigger and better).In Montevideo’s Airport, in the main lobby, look for Antel and ask for a cell phone chip!
A chip with 3 gigs of internet will last for 7 days and costs 215 Uruguayan Pesos (approximately USD 8,00)!
Antel is a local telephone operator and they were very reliable, in my opinion. We went through a very strong storm and the signal did not break at any moment.
After landing at Montevideo airport, we felt an impact! Uruguayans may seem slightly “mean” at first, but we must understand that their culture is different from ours: they take things more literally than we do, their intonation can change the whole context and they require minimum politeness from us.
SIS Tip:Always learn to speak “excuse me,” “please”, “thank you”, “sorry”, “good morning”, “good afternoon” and “good evening” in the local language. Your experience as a tourist and even more so as a human being will be much happier as politeness conquers the world!
If you do not know how to speak Spanish, do not worry, try to learn these magic words and use them all the time. They don’t care if you say it wrong, they want to see that we try to value the culture (history and language) and with calm, politeness and basic mimicry, everybody understands.
If within Brazil itself the food already varies from one region to another, imagine between countries?
The food in Uruguay is tasty and good, but they do not use salt and sugar like us, so do not be surprised if your dish comes without salt and the dessert is not so sweet. The food there is more natural and they avoid very salty or very sweet dishes.
Prepare your wallet because the food is not very cheap! Like soda…it pays off to drink a bottle of wine than soda (the difference is approximately USD 3,60 depending on location). A bottle of Coke, the classic bottle, costs 150 Pesos (USD 5,40)!!! An individual bottle of local wine costs approximately 250 Pesos (USD 10,00).
Unlike Brazil, sometimes it’s best to ask for the tourist menu! I went to News Café and I asked for the Tourist Menu that costed 650 pesos (USD 23,20) with entrance, main course and dessert, super well served and with options for all tastes.
If you are a Brazilian southerner then you know and love chimarrão. Well, the Uruguayans do too!
At the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation, I had the opportunity to see how much Uruguayans value this drink: employees were always with their chimarrão nearby (there they call it “mate“).
Where to stay
When it comes to Punta del Este, everyone automatic thinks of Conrad Resort & Casino (current Enjoy Punta del Este Resort & Casino), but it is not always the best economical option…which does not mean you have to sacrifice comfort during your trip!
I had the opportunity to get to know the Bebek Bed & Breakfast, a cozy place with a touch of fairytale, super well located and with unquestionable fair price.
The owners of Bebek are extremely nice people, who act as real hosts and truly care about the comfort of their guests.
This is not a hotel, so do not expect that hotel structure with “receptionist, maid, luggage porter, etc…“. It is a Bed & Breakfast, taken care by the owners, Maria Gloria and Alberto, who prepare everything, with the help of one employee, and makes your stay worthy of a 5 star hotel without all that gigantic structure.
Trust me: it’s not because the structure is not of a hotel that you’ll be missing out. By the way, I can say from my own experience that the quality of their service surpasses some very large known hotels in the world.
Located in Playa Brava (beach in which is the monument “La Mano“), a few meters away from the promenade (Rambla), the Bebek B&B has:
- spacious triple or quadruple room (Parisor New York themes);
- Free Wi-Fi;
- cable TV;
- Repellent (after all, we’re on the beach, right?)
- Air conditioning
You will have everything you need for a good night’s sleep and to renewed your energy to continue the tour, including breakfast, which is fundamental in every trip.
And the food…oh, the food…! I eat very little, but I devoured that typical homemade food prepared with love and affection. It’s worth it! I was so happy in my “let’s get fat moment” that I didn’t even remember to take a picture of those wonderfully prepared meals. I only took a picture of the before and after of the cheese in Provolonera, a typical pot used to prepare cheeses in the oven.
I live in São Paulo, so I’m used to a more busy nightlife, with several places, from restaurants to pharmacies, open 24 hours.
It could be because I went on a low season, but I saw many places closed and I was really wondering how people survive and profit in Punta with so many businesses closed that only opens in the high season.
As every good cultural immersion includes a night out, I could not help but go to a nightclub. I think it was called Gava, but it should of been “Boot Night Bar“, because all girls were either in boots or sneakers (and it was hot). It took me some time, but I understood the reason for the covered feet: people get very “excited ” and start to throw glasses (what night club provides glass?) and bottles onto the floor! Result: if you’re wearing sandals, like me, you will leave there with cuts on your feet.
One thing is for sure: the DJ there was very good!!!
By the way, I want to thank the best companies I’ve ever had!! We were a group of 12 people and I’ve never had so much fun. They are easy going with great energy for having fun.
(Yes, people…I went to a nightclub with glasses!!! I am very blind without them and going out at night was not in my plans, so I was caught by surprise…but for those who are only interested in dancing and not dating, it’s fine, right?)
If you are looking for a nice night out, I recommend the OVO Beach Club, which is inside the premises of Enjoy (formerly Conrad) and you can mend the night in the casino.
SIS alert: As everyone knows, marijuana in Uruguay is legalized. Because of it, the nightclubs and bars count on very large smoke section. I do not smoke (I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t use marijuana, so you can calm down, mom!), but I have friends who smoke and I met Uruguayans who also smoke. I had a certain trauma because, in Brazil, I already lost “friendships” for refusing marijuana, but the Uruguayans are sweethearts! They actually offered me, but when I said no, they did not insist and kept talking to me normally! I was not treated like “the stranger, the outlander, the outsider”.
The transportation in Punta is not the best: I only saw Taxi near Enjoy and saw few Ubers around, so I understood: Uber it is not 100% accepted there (or the driver explained it wrong, I don’t know…). I almost didn’t see buses, and when I saw them, they were the tourists kind.
I recommend you rent a car. The city is very big and things are very far from each other! Without a car you will be “hostage” of taxi (when you find it) and Uber (which I did not find so cheap, to be honest). So, rent a car, even if you are traveling alone, so you can have freedom of locomotion preserved and you can go wherever you want, do whatever you want, whenever you want.
The streets are very wide, there are no hills and are in great conservation, so the driving is very easy.
Where to go
The monument “La Mano” (also called “Los Dedos” or “Hombre Emergiendo a la Vida“ or “Monumento al Ahogado“) is a sculpture of the artist Mario Irarrázabal, with five fingers partially buried in the sand and that became Punta del Este’s symbol.
Casapueblo is a wee little town designed and built by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró and it currently has a museum, an art gallery and a hotel. All this within one single structure that is a true work of art.
As well as the monument “La Mano“, Casapueblo has become a great symbol of the city of Punta and it is a must see for everyone who goes to the beach resort, because it has the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life.
If you do not want to go inside Casapueblo, you can see the sunset the same way as Vilaró’s poem “Cerimonia del Sol” also plays outside so that everyone can enjoy this unique experience. But if I were you, I would go into the café inside and order a Submarine (hot chocolate with melted chocolate inside). That way you will enjoy your hot drink and the same sunset view that has inspired Vilaró for so many years of his life.
– Enjoy Punta del Este Resort & Casino (Formerly Conrad Resort & Casino)
From hotel, casino, nightclubs to spa and restaurant, the Enjoy complex provides guaranteed entertainment for the whole family.
The Casino is beautiful. I had never been to a casino (I was not old enough before…) and I’m not a fan of gambling, but Enjoy was an amazing experience and I want to repeat it.
Fundación Pablo Atchugarry
My high school teacher, Prof. Maria Gloria, who lives there now, took me to the Pablo Atchugarry Foundation, which was created to promote visual arts, literature, music, dance and other forms of expression. Trying to unite art and nature, Pablo Atchugarry planned an International Sculpture Park with approximately 25 hectares.
His motto is: “we can all be artists if we preserve the child that exists in us”.
I didn’t see Pablo Atchugarry himself in action, but I had the honor of meeting the space where he creates and I could see one of his helpers working. I have seen some of his arts, mostly in marble, some still on paper and others already finished, and I was struck by the lightness to something as solid as marble.
The bridge Puente de la Barra is famous for having waves. You know those butterflies in your belly? That’s exactly what you feel when you cross that bridge. It gives you access to the La Barra neighborhood.
Punta del Este’s Port
The Port of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria is a great tourist spot, not only for boats and yachts, but also for the Sea Wolves! The Wolves’ Island is close by and is a reserve where these cuddly animals stay so they can go to the port trying to score some fish discarded from the local merchants.
This is the busiest part of the city.
La Vista is a 360° restaurant where you can enjoy a panoramic view of Punta del Este, while having lunch or dinner.
At the entrance of the restaurant, still downstairs, you can find Spider-Man, Transformers and other sculptures that will drive any child (or adult…) crazy.
This is an ocean Beach, with clearer waters and more waves (the name “Playa Brava” comes from the more agitated waters).
The busiest part of Punta is on this beach, in addition to the monument “La Mano“, and it’s where surfers catch some waves.
This is a river Beach of Rio de la Plata, with darker waters and less waves.
It’s in Parade 5 of the “Playa Mansa” that is the Enjoy complex(formerly Conrad)
It is an old fishermen town, which has become one of tourist favorite places, not only because of the Wave Bridge, but also for the restaurants, art, antiques shops, and the quieter beaches.
For those who like Stand Up Paddle – SUP, cross the waved bridge and, just before reaching La Barra, there is a delicious and quieter beach, with boards and kayaks available for rent. It’s where the sea meets the Maldonado Stream.
It is in Punta Ballena where you’ll find Casapueblo, the place you go to enjoy the Bay of Maldonado and the Port’s view.
You should take advantage that Piriápolis is very close to Punta and go to this beautiful and full of mysticism little town. Founded by an alchemist, Francisco Piria, the city has an exuberant landscape that justifies all the magic we feel when we are there.
The Castillo de Piria, a castle that the Piriapolis founder built for himself, is beautiful and worth a stop. The scenery around the castle is incredible and the architecture of the place is unlike anything you’ve seen. Even those on the tour with me, who did not care much about landscape and architecture, were impressed by the beauty of the place.
And please walk along the Rambla de los Argentinos, a promenade in front of the Hotel Los Argentinos. It’s worth going alone or with family or a date…just be sure to go!
There is also Cerro San Antonio, the hill of Santo Antônio (the “Brazillian version” of Saint Valentine), where you can ride a cable car and enjoy an incomparable panoramic view, as well as make high promises to this Saint to help you find love (you can include me in your list, ok?)
Colonia del Sacramento
Is a city with its historical center recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and is located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata. You can see Buenos Aires on the other side of the river. The city looks a lot like Paraty (Brazil). You travel through time as you walk the streets there.
While in Colonia, we went to a lunch party with the presence of the Intendente (equivalent to what we know as Governor), Dr. Carlos Moreira, with typical music and menu prepared by the local gastronomy school.
There, we inhaled history in every corner (literally).
This is what I love the most about traveling: live through the history of the place! This is priceless.
Oh, can I come back?