Carmelo, Uruguay

Thursday, 30 January 2014
Our journey next took us to Carmelo, Uruguay and the Four Seasons Resort. It was absolutely beautiful. Even though it is located in a man-made forest of tall, straight pine trees, the feeling is authentic and peaceful. The resort is located on the river and although we didn't swim, we did enjoy the lovely breeze while sitting by the pool.

A vineyard is situated on the property around walking trails and small villas for guests. Our villa looked out toward the river. The best part of the suite for me was an outdoor shower surrounded by stone and green vegetation. 

To take in the beauty of the Uruguayan country side, I went horseback riding on the second morning we were there. James is allergic to horses so he opted out. Our guide was a true gaucho and while he didn't speak much English, he was an excellent rider. On our ride, he was even training this young horse and they showed us some amazing tricks!

The ride was about an hour long and we wound through the "forest" into the country side and around some lovely ponds that were rich with birds and wildlife. 

A couple from New York were also there from the resort to ride. She was a Broadway play director and he worked in production for the plays. They certainly had some great stories. 

I used to ride horses every week in college (undergrad) and looked forward so much to heading to the barn and being around the majestic horses. This was such a fun experience because it reminded me of my younger days! 

Colonia, Uruguay

Wednesday, 29 January 2014
Our guide Karen showed us around Colonia on a lovely, quiet, weekday morning. The small city by the water was almost empty because the visitors to this town usually arrive on the weekend from Argentina and have to get back to work on Mondays.

Colonia was founded by Portugal and is located on the Rio de la Plata. It faces Argentina and has about 22,000 inhabitants. Here, you can see Spanish style colonial buildings, and cobbled streets, as well as structures built in the Portuguese style. There is a noticeable difference between Spanish and Portuguese constructed streets. They're both laid using the same stone found on the peninsula but the Portuguese streets have a low point in the center for water to run down and the Spanish style streets slopes to the outsides so for water drains down the sides, toward the river.

Colonia's people began restoring the area in the 1970s and it was established as a UNESCO site in 1995. While visiting, you do feel like you've stepped back in time a bit. There are so many old cars here and most are still working!

We ate lunch at a fantastic place by the "plaza" called Meson de la Plaza. The food is rustic and homemade and the atmosphere was authentic. James and I agreed that we could have spent a whole day and evening exploring the jewel that is Colonia on the river. 

A trip to South America

Tuesday, 28 January 2014
Wow. Yet again I'm running behind on my blog posts. I finally earned ABD (All But Dissertation) status and now I'm on to writing my dissertation proposal. Because I write from my home office, I won't be experiencing much human interaction during the week outside of teaching and research meeting, so I'm going to attempt to blog again as an outlet.

Earlier this year, James planned an amazing trip for us to Argentina and Uruguay and I must say, it has been my favorite adventure thus far. He selected many activities that he knew I would love: a tango performance, private cooking lesson, spa treatments, tours of wineries and olive groves along with tastings, and going to interesting restaurants. We enjoyed walks along the beach, drives in the country, and watching legit gauchos ride horses along dirt roads.

I'd like to blog the trip but I'm not quite sure where to start. We went to Argentina first and spent time in Buenos Aires. Of the cities and places we visited on this trip, Buenos Aires was our least favorite. While walking with our guide Julie, in broad daylight, a thief ripped James' watch right off of his arm! This was near Cafe Tortoni, a tourist attraction located on the oldest avenue in the city, Avenida de Maya. It is a relatively unsafe city and police do not seem to be active in protecting tourists. James took it in stride and we tried to enjoy the city as best we could before moving on to Uruguay.

Buenos Aires means "good air." When the city was settled, apparently settlers brought a small statue of a woman called, "Lady of the Good Air." Over the years the name has shortened to just "Good Air." In the city, you will notice a strong French influence. French fashion, style, and architecture were sought after by the city's wealthy population and brought in to shape culture.

During our day tour, our first stop was at La Recoleta Cemetery where Evita is buried. It spans six blocks and is laid out in the shape of a Latin cross.

There are 2,500 mausoleums here and most are purchased by middle class and wealthy families. The cemetery cannot be expanded but when one falls into disrepair and the family that owns it cannot be reached for a certain amount of time, the mausoleum will be sold to a new family and renovated. 

For lunch one day we decided to try Las Nazarenas. It is centrally located near the Sheraton Convention Center and was close to our hotel. We felt safe walking there during the day and were mesmerized by the meat roasting over hot coals in the front window. Argentina takes it's food seriously - especially anything to do with beef.

Certainly the most magical moments in Argentina for us (or at least for me) came during a live tango show! I was thrilled and very impressed with the skills and showmanship of the dancers. 

A five piece live band played from above the stage and the sound quality was fantastic. We were delighted to be seated near the stage and were so close that we could see the patterns in the dancer's fishnet stockings! Each number was high-energy with full costume changes and gorgeous makeup, hats, and hairstyles. 

The setting was fairly intimate (about 200 people) and we were served a full course dinner with wine before the dancing began. Admittedly, the food was not great but the waiters kept the wine flowing so no one was hungry. James enjoyed the dessert but I skipped out on that even though it looked good.

The experience inspired me to get back into dancing, maybe tango? Now I just have to convince my partner. :)