Punta del Este, Uruguay—39 Years of Wedded Bliss

Our ship arrived at ten a.m. We had our tender tickets and were off on the second boat. Our tour guide, Jaime, had been waiting since 8 a.m. for which we felt terrible. He assured us it was no problem . . . he had time for breakfast and a leisurely start to his day. It was a short walk to his car, and we were ready to set off.  Jaime wished us a happy anniversary, which was also very sweet.

We’d arranged this wine tour through (super travel agent!) Jelena. Jaime was kind enough to postpone his own vacation one day to accommodate us. We felt very special. When I learned that Uruguay has a sauvignon blanc wine I hoped to try it. I’d fallen in love with the sauvignon blanc’s in New Zealand a couple of years ago and enjoy comparing them in different countries.

The famous hand sculpture

Jaime narrated as we drove through town. The famous sculpture of a hand emerging from the sand memorializes those who have drowned in local waters. The lighthouse was actually built in France in 1858, and reassembled here according to one account. The other story is the lens was brought from France. This leads me to believe it has a Fresnel lens, like the one in Heceta Head Lighthouse just up the coast from us in Oregon. Unfortunately it isn’t open to the public.

High-rise condo’s framed the beach. Occasionally a luxurious home appeared. Jaime said the area is called “Beverly Hills.” Apartment rent during high season is three thousand dollars a month. A lot of ex-pat’s live in an area north of here called Floriadopolis.

 

 

Another view of the hand

 

 

 

Punta del Este Lighthouse

Unemployment is seven percent, inflation, nine and half percent, and a twenty-two percent tax on everything, doesn’t seem ideal, but it’s better than Argentina. I can see why those who can afford to want to live here. The tax is factored into the price, so what you see is what you pay.

Soon we were in the countryside, passing large expanses of beautiful grazing areas dotted with sheep and cattle. Estancias (stations/ranches) were spread out and the few homes we saw were very nice. People here name their homes, like in England.  Imagine estates with names like, “Laguna del Sauce, La Barra Manantiales, Pan de Azúcar, and Pueblo Edén.”

Beautiful home in Punta del Este

It was about forty miles to the winery and we enjoyed getting to know Jaime along the way. He lived in the United States for five years and has an excellent command of the language.

Once we turned off the highway, we eventually reached a dirt road that continued about a mile up the hill. With this kind of approach, we were pretty surprised to find such and upscale building!

In front of the winery

Most of the wineries are owned by Italians. That was the case for Bodega Garzon. The owners have two wineries in Italy, one in France, one in California and this one. They know their wine!

We’re accustomed to wine tastings where glasses are lined up for several customers and are poured in order from driest to sweetest. Imagine our surprise to have our own sommelier! He described each wine and let us choose what we wanted to taste. If we liked it we had a bit more. I enjoyed the Albariño, a white wine I’d never heard of before. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any back with us unless we wanted to pay an eighteen dollar corkage fee since this was a private tour.

With our tour guide, Jaime

We did taste several other wines, all of which were very nice. But, then aren’t they all after the first glass?

 

View from the winery 1

On the way back to town we continued chatting about the area. I told Jaime I would love to get a calabash gourd for  maté to bring home, and he thought they might be available at the supermarket.   The hollowed out calabash gourd is the customary container from which to sip maté using a straw called a bombilla.  The straw is traditionally made of silver.  For the rest of us it’s made from nickel silver, stainless steel or hollow-stemmed cane.  I’m always happy to visit a supermarket in other countries.

Maté is a high caffeine tea brewed from the leaves of the yerba mate, a shrub that grows into a large tree.  In Uruguay it is defined by law as the “national infusion.”

I just wish we’d had more time to spend inside the Tienda Inglesia. It was like a Fred Meyer store at home. There was a bit of everything . . . groceries, sundries, housewares, furniture, clothing, etc.   They seemed to have everything BUT a maté. We happened to be at a shopping mall, so off we trekked to the Uruguay store. (Imagine a Made In Oregon store here.) They had several types of maté, complete with the special “straw.” I found postcards, and Jaime generously bought me refrigerator magnets and a jar of Dulce de Leche for Larry.  Dulce de Leche is a confection prepared by slowly heating sweetened condensed milk until it transforms to become similar to caramel in appearance and flavor.  It’s used to flavor cookies, cakes, waffles, ice cream, and as a spread on pancakes or toast.

Inside Tienda Inglesia

I would love to have stayed longer, but we had to be back at the ship in time. So, Jaime finished our tour with a quick drive through an area with more upscale homes and returned us to the port.

As he walked with us to the tender dock, we ran into friends who were asking a street vendor about the product they were selling. Jaime explained that it was a sweet sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and bought us each a bag. I think he was happy with the tip we gave him! We hugged goodbye and as is the custom, kissed on the cheek.

 

Punta del Este skyline

Back on board, we were ready to relax. Larry isn’t quite one hundred percent better yet, so we look forward to a chance to sleep in.

Tonight’s quote: “We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”~~Anaïs Nin

 

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