A Travellerspoint blog

December 2009

Colonia Del Sacramento

UNESCO world heritage site

sunny 30 °C
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After a boat ride of one hour on the fast ferry from Buenos Aires you arrive in Colonia Del Sacramento, Uruguay. It was originally founded in 1680 by the Portuguese but kept changing hands between the Portuguese and the Spanish until 1822 after the Brazilian declaration of independence. For 6 years it stayed in Brazilian hands until in 1828 the independent state of Uruguay came to be.
When you cross over by boat during the summer there is one important thing to remember: Uruguay has daylight saving time and Argentina has not. Why is this so important? Because the boat schedules of the ferries are all in local time, but they do not mention any of this on the ferry or when you buy your ticket, so keep an eye on your watch, because we missed our ferry because we didn´t know. In hindsight this turned out to be a good thing because now we had to wait for the last ferry of 23.30 hours, and we got to enjoy the evening, a very good meal and sunset in Colonia. Which is, believe me, not a punishment at all. Because in the evening on the central square you have three café\restaurants and they serve excellent food, good beverages and every restaurant has a live artist(s) performing. And if that is not enough you get to enjoy a beautiful sunset in historic surroundings. What more can a person ask for?

After we came of the ferry in Colonia Del Sacramento we took a taxi to show us the neighborhood. You do not need to take a taxi, if you are just interested in the historic part. Just turn left when you leave the terminal and after five blocks you arrive in the old UNESCO world heritage site.
But the cab drive was no punishment either, we got to see how the new Colonia had developed and saw the people enjoying there Saturday off by lunching on the beach and in the parks and got to see the, now abandoned, Bull ring. It is slowly decaying, after the government of Uruguay adopted a law making Bull fights illegal.
But it has to be said the old historic part is the most beautiful and well worth a visit. It is only a very small part of the whole of Colonia Del Sacramento, but amazingly beautiful. Everything is kept in the way it was founded and the houses are still inhabited or used for business, such as hotels, café or ice-cream parlors. By the way you have to taste the Uruguayan ice-cream it is just delicious.

So if you are ever in Buenos Aires or Montevideo go take a boat or bus trip and visit Colonia Del Sacramento, you will not regret it. But remember the daylight saving time if you are visiting from Buenos Aires ;-)

Posted by erodrigo 15:59 Archived in Uruguay Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Poor but beautiful

sunny 31 °C
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When arriving at Buenos Aires Airport, use earplugs when you go to pick up your luggage. The baggage belt was squealing like a pig at the slaughter and the high squeaks where a terror to the ears. I do not understand why they did not fix it, because it is a poor welcoming committee to your country.

When going into town from the airport think about how much money you want to spend. Because taxi´s get you to your hotel quik, but are all but cheap. A 15 minute trip from the airport downtown cost you 110 Argentina pesos. On the other hand taxi´s inside Buenos Aires are very cheap, so do not hesitate to take one if the next place you want to visit in Buenos Aires is Just a little bit to far to walk.
Taken on the whole, at the moment it is all in all a very agreeable city. Because all the prices in the city are very good. It looks like the global economy has struck Argentina hard and therefore prices in the city are very good for the visiting tourist. Even if you go to the most famous café in Buenos Aires, café Tortoni, you will find that you walk out with a feeling of wow that was cheap.
Cafe Tortoni, established in 1858 at Avenida de Mayo, is well worth your visit. The atmosphere and the decorations are good. It is a mix of the old and the new and the coffee is great.

When walking down Avenida de Mayo you arrive at Plaza de Mayo and you will see that it is still a place of protest in Argentina. These days it is the veterans of the Falkland war, or Islas Malivinas, as they are called in Argentina.
They fight for recognition for their efforts in their war. It seems to me that maybe the Falkland war veterans suffer the same faith as the Vietnam veterans did when they returned home. Honoring the soldiers of a war that is lost seems to be an embarrassment for the people of a country and a problem for its government.
Plaza de Mayo has some very beautiful buildings however and, apart from Casa Rosada the presidential palace, Cathedral Metropolitana is well worth you visit. It contains some very nice murals and a national monument, permanently guarded by two soldiers in uniforms looking like they where dressed for a ball in the 1800´s
But next to this it looked to me the city of Buenos Aires has some problems itself too, mostly financial by the look of it. Every where you walk in the city you will find that the footpaths have either been patched up with some concrete or are missing complete pieces of the footpaths and you have to be careful not to step in a hole. Which I think is a real shame, because Buenos Aires is a very beautiful city with a lot of marvelous architecture.

A must go in the city is Puerto Madero and the adjoining Reserva Ecológica. Next to the architecture and the old docks in Puerto Madero, lies the Reserva Ecológica. If you are a nature buff and want to enjoy a lot of different birds in a big city visit this park. It is beautiful.
And when visiting Buenos Aires do not forget to take the boast one day and cross the Mar del Plata for a visit to neighboring country Uruguay. Just a one hour boat trip will bring you to a marvelous piece of history: Colonia del Sacramento. But more about this city in my next blog
But inform yourself before you buy a boat ticket, because there are several companies that provide this transfer and their prices differ enormously. Busquebus is the most modern and luxurious one and also the most expensive, but if you look around you can also go with for example Seacat Colonia. Their boats are maybe a little bit smaller and older, but just as fast as Busquebus and cheaper.

All in all I recommend you go visit Buenos Aires, because it is a city with a lot to offer and maybe at the moment with some financial problems, but just overlook that fact and go.

Posted by erodrigo 14:39 Archived in Argentina Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

São Paulo airport

Be prepared for chaos

overcast 27 °C
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Landing at São Paulo airport turned out te be a scary event for almost everybody on the airplane.
After a flight of 11½ hours, starting in Amsterdam airport, we approached São Paulo. It had already been a very bumpy ride the moment we hit the South American continent. As soon as we where above Brazil the turbulence started and the pilot requested everybody to go sit down and put their seatbelt on. But close to São Paulo he said to the flight crew to go sit down, but his warning came just a few seconds to late.

Before the flight crew reached their seat they where rolling around in the cabin, we had hit an air pocket. A loud scream of frightened people roared trough the plain. I just looked at one of the stewardesses and saw she was not in panic so I relaxed. After another 5 minutes of bumping around we hit the landing strip of São Paulo airport and a loud applause from the people on the aircraft filled the air. I never understood this phenomena because the pilots are justr doing their job. But I guess in this case everybody was very happy and thankful we made it to the airport alive.

São Paulo airport is very hectic and it is very hard to find your way when you are in transit. Since I had to catch another plane, to another city within Brazil I had to gather all my luggage and go trough customs. So waiting at the bagage belt for a long time, my backpack finally arrived, and after another long wait at the customs I was in the arrivals hall with no idea where to go for national flights. Luckely I speak a little Portuguese so I could ask the airport officials. Do not aspect that all offilcials at the airport speak English, only a few do so be prepared if you have to ask your way around.

The airport is a chaos and after asking and looking I fianally found the check-in for national flights. Here I had to stand in line for another half hour before I could finally check-in. Luckely I had 3 hours for my transit, because only after 2½ hours all the official fuss was over and I had my boarding pass. So with half an hour to spare I could go find gate 3 which the ticket said would be the gate for boarding. But on arrival in the domestic pier the computer screen said my gate would be 1A. So I walked up to the people at gate 3 and asked if this was still the gate for Porto Alegre and they said yes. So I waited for some 10 minutes and went to the computer screen again and it still said gate 1A. I decidsed to go to the down stair area of the airport where gate 1A is situated. In this area there are three gates next to each other 1A, 1B and 1C.

Upon asking one of the people behind the desks, he said just look on all three screens and see on which Porto Alegre will appear. And when it was time for the plain to leave on schedule finally the name of Porto Alegre appeared on the screen of gate 1C. So we could board and with a delay of 30 minutes the plain left São Paulo airport. But without some of the people I had spoken earlier at the check-in. They came in on the same flight as me from Amsterdam and where from France. I guess with all the changing of the gates (From, 3 to 1A to 1C) they got lost at the airport and missed their connecting flight.

So come to São Paulo airport well prepared for some chaos.

Posted by erodrigo 17:42 Archived in Brazil Tagged air_travel Comments (0)