A Tiny Portuguese Town: Colonia del Sacramento

A week ago Thursday, I traveled from Montevideo to Colonia in the early afternoon, after a lovely walk on La Rambla, the waterside promenade that goes around much of Montevideo’s coastline. On La Rambla, I passed several people walking dogs or out running, enjoying the sun on the water just as I was.

Buying a last minute ticket was very straightforward, and the bus I was on to Colonia was very nice (nicer than the Buquebus as well as much less crowded). There are two companies that run buses every other hour so that there is a bus every hour most of the day.

As we left Montevideo, we passed through the poorest neighborhood I’ve seen in South America (as I’ve definitely been staying in the middle class/white collar neighborhoods so far). There were clusters of one story houses built out of what looked like concrete. Most of them looked to be one or two rooms, some in blocks that were well-maintained and cheerfully painted, others in decrepit clusters. It was a sobering reminder of the masses of people who make do with very little.

I arrived at Colonia’s bus station and found out I only had a few blocks to walk to get to the charming little hotel I had booked. Posada del Angel is decorated in shades of blue and white with a motif of what other than angels? After checking in, I headed to the old town of Colonia, also only a few clocks away from the hotel. (The old town area of Colonia is tiny.)

Colonia was founded by the Portuguese as a base for smuggling into Spanish-held Buenos Aires. The old city is maybe a mile square, if that, illuminating the life of a town from the mid to late eighteenth century. There are still a few intact streets paved in cobblestones with the drainage groove down the middle. There are some old Portuguese (and slightly younger Spanish) houses still intact. While the Spanish houses are white, the Portuguese houses were painted in rich, deep colors. It’s beautiful.

I found a cute little cafe that seemed to cater to locals instead of tourists, and had a slice of cake and a hot chocolate made with milk and melted chocolate. I went to a place on the main square for a pricey and not terribly tasty dinner (starting with a caprese salad where the mozzarella was similar to the hard cheese you can get as sandwich cheese in the States). After, I walked back through completely quiet, dark deserted streets – the old town out of tourist season. The quiet was a little eerie for a city girl!

On Friday, I had the whole day to spend in Colonia, and I had already explored much of it the day before. So I settled in for a lovely, leisurely day, starting with a breakfast of dulce de leche on medialunas (like sweet croissants) and cafe con leche. I then walked around a lot more, going to the city museums which were open. Each museum is in an old house and is one or two rooms of city history exhibits. My favorite was the little red house furnished as an eighteenth century Portuguese house.

I ate a late lunch/early dinner at this little restaurant inside one of these old Portuguese houses on the Street of Sighs (Calle de Sospiros). It’s a wine and cheese/meats/tortas tasting place, and I nursed a surprisingly dry Uruguayan Riesling while enjoying a cheese plate and veggie tortas. It was lovely to sit in the small, low-ceilinged room with its foot-thick walls and wood beams overhead.

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