Colonia del Sacramento 1, is the oldest city of Uruguay, and due to its location on the River plate (Rio de la Plata 2), was of strategic importance during the colonial times of South America. The river plate is the widest river in the world (120 miles at the widest point), and provides access to the Uruguay and Parana rivers. Whoever controlled these waters, controlled the trade routes deep into the continent. There was a lot of fighting between the Spanish and the Portuguese over this city, and power changed hands at least 6 times. This small city has interesting architecture since a lot of buildings were torn down, and rebuilt each time there was a transfer of power. We joked with the guide that both sides must have given special attention to the Jail since they knew it would be their temporary residence at some point.

We got to Colonia late afternoon, and checked in at the Sheraton golf resort. There was not enough time to start a round of golf. Instead, we picked a couple of bicycles from the resort, and pedaled around for a bit.

The resort was decently appointed, with not much happening really. We wandered around while waiting for the sunset, which we had heard/read was really nice. I busied myself with a scotch, and fancied being the pitch man in a Bagpiper whiskey commercial. Khoob jamega rang, jab mil baithenge teen yaar…aap, main aur Bagpiper… [translation: It will be a colorful party indeed when three friends sit together…you, me, and Bagpiper…]. To get around restrictions against advertising alcohol in India, the front man would pitch Bagpiper club soda! For more, see 3
4. OK, that was quite a tangent…back to Colonia…

The sunset was pretty nice but did not live up to the hype. If you squint enough, you can even see the top slice of the Buenos Aires skyline on the other side of the river plate. Parallel to watching the sunset, and enjoying my scotch, I had to contend with a strikingly fearless pigeon that insisted on invading our balcony, and paid no heed to my most threatening warrior poses.

Talking about Buenos Aires…apparently a lot of rich Argentinians moved to Colonia after the collapse of their economy. They continue to do business in Argentina but commute from Colonia on the ferries.

Next day morning, we did the Colonia city tour. The historic quarter with town squares lined with colonial style homes that now serve as museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, etc., was quite charming. I was intrigued by the contrasting road systems put in place by the Portuguese (convex so that collected water flows down the middle of the road), and Spanish (concave so that water collects in the gutters on the sides of the road).

The old city gate, church, and lighthouse were some of the points of interest. Some of the galleries had very nice art on display. Expensive.

We stopped for lunch at El Drugstore, a zany & colorful restaurant with pretty decent food. They had even converted some really old cars into dining rooms. It was too hot and humid  for us to even contemplate such an experience that afternoon. Bollywood has made an appearance here…we noticed a wall painting that looked like Aishwarya Rai.

We did some souvenir shopping, and more walking around. We chanced upon a school group that seemed to be having an excursion. Education, including University, is free in Uruguay. It is also compulsory until a certain level. You cannot even be a futebol/soccer player without the right level of education. The country has a 96% literacy rate…pretty impressive! But I have to say the school uniforms look like they are from the previous century.

We headed back to Montevideo in the afternoon. The country side is green and nice. It is very flat compared to the hilly/mountainous terrain that we observed in Brazil. Once we saw the harbor, we knew we had reached the outskirts of Montevideo. So long Colonia!