Traveler’s Diary: A Uruguayan Birthday
After nearly five years of dreaming about visiting South America’s coolest little nation, this past February I took the plunge and hopped on a plane to Uruguay to celebrate my birthday. I’ve talked extensively about my love for this country - thanks in part to Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ episode and an entertaining World Cup match back in 2010. I’m thrilled to have experienced Uruguay’s cityscapes, lush beaches, and quirky art walks in between meals of meat platters and Tannat red wine.
Arriving to Uruguay from Buenos Aires by ferry meant I had time for a quick stop over in the adorable coastal town of Colonia. I was speechless upon arrival, unable to believe that I had finally landed in this place I had dreamed about for so long. With a few hours to kill and a map in tow, I decided to wander about and find a cafe recommended to me by my Buenos Aires AirBnB host: Lentas Maravillas (slow wonders).
The cafe was a perfect introduction into Uruguayan life: peaceful, slow, and magical. I sat at a small table facing Rio de la Plata (the largest river in the world, separating Argentina and Uruguay) watching families playing in boats along the shore, and listening to birds chirping in the trees. I ordered a beer in a frozen mug (custom among Uruguayans) and watched the world go by.
The next day I celebrated my 29th birthday in Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital city. My hosts surprised me with a wake up call to visit the neighborhood farmers market, where we scouted ingredients to make my birthday lunch.
Here I explored produce I’d never seen before, witnessed locals bargaining with vendors and bought some of my very own local faire to bring back home. Later we cooked homemade fried fish with salad and broke bread together.
That night I decided to walk Montevideo’s 25 kilometres of unbroken promenade along Rio de la Plata on my own. I was greeted with a breath-taking sunset and people watching, constantly amused and delighted to see so many Uruguayos enjoying their evening mate (tea). It was the perfect setting to take in Montevideo’s city scape where I got a peek into its main drags, night life, and riverside scenery. I rarely look forward to my birthday because northeaster winters in February are particularly brutal. But this year was special, and I had the entire day to myself to enjoy a leisurely stroll somewhere new, strange, and unfamiliar. This was my day to make new memories I’d remember the rest of my life. As the sun set on my first day in Montevideo, I let out a sigh of relief and sported a giddy smile that probably left people staring. I was finally in Uruguay.