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Unicorn City, Uruguay: Does it really exist?

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans

I was recently with my family conducting business in Buenos Aires when we decided to take an impromptu trip to Colonia del Sacramento. Uruguay is just a quick ferry ride across the Rio so we figured why not?

Our day was off to a good start. Going through customs was a breeze. My little daughter was having a blast running around the large ferry station while we waited to board. There were plenty of concessions and nice, clean restrooms. Everyone was in good spirits and looking forward to our overnight voyage. Once we got on the Buquebus, we quickly discovered a trio of gentleman from the US sitting next to us. They were apparently headed to the same destination in search of a goat sandwich or something of that nature. I googled this later and discovered that Chivito is Uruguay’s nationally lauded dish. However, they reportedly make it with beef steak vs. goat meat in the Argentinian version. 🐐⁉️🥩 🥪

The ferry was very spacious and had options for beverages, hot and cold food and even a gift shop. 🛳 🛍🥤 There were multiple areas around the boat to sit or look out over the water. I had our temporary neighbors in stitches as I regaled them with the greatest hits of our expat adventures so far. Hmmm, maybe I should quit my day job and write travel stories?🤔👩‍💻😃 It was a novel experience for sure, only my little was running a fever. She refused to take the bitter, cherry liquid Tylenol earlier that morning and was now paying the price. You could see on her sweet little face that she didn’t feel well. I just held her tight and she finally took a little nap.

We arrived at the ferry station about an hour later. We sailed through customs, collected our luggage and hailed a cab. Our driver was a jovial fellow, who wore a beret and played festive music. We managed to speak a little Spanglish between us and learned a few townie tidbits during the ten minute drive. Meanwhile, I’m peering out of the window growing more amazed by the second at how inviting and quaint this little city is. I ask my husband “where are we again?” He patiently informed me that we are in Colonia (what the locals call it). Our accommodations were located right on the enchanting Rio de la Plata which shimmered in the afternoon sun. As soon as we set foot on the ground, I had the feeling that I never wanted to leave. 🌅⛵️⚓️

Meanwhile, baby was still struggling with fever as we checked into our hotel room. My husband footed it to a nearby pharmacy in search of a more tolerable flavor of medicine. I tried to hydrate and comfort her as much as possible. He returned half an hour later with orange flavored ibuprofen. I tried putting it in her sippy cup but that plan backfired. She refused to drink anything else for the next two hours out of fear that I had snuck in more of the yucky stuff. 🤢🤚

I frantically called my sister for a consultation (I was googling myself crazy). She suggested to give small increments of liquid medicine while blowing in baby’s face to help her swallow it. Thirty minutes and two orange stained hotel towels later, baby girl got down most of the 5mL dose (she’s stronger than she looks). 😏🙌 I put on Disney Jr. Espanol to help her relax. After a while, she cooled down and had enough energy for a snack. I must have regained some trust because she was now sipping on juice and water. Meanwhile, hubby is cruising around this serene village by his lonesome taking amazing photographs. It feels like we are on two very different trips. 🤒🏨📸🏰

I conducted some research into Colonia’s majesty while baby rested. I’m not exactly a history aficionado so this should tell you that I was impressed. I learned that the architecture is a mixture of post colonial, Spanish and Portuguese styles. The old town section was revived in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s to include the wall, several museums, the ruins of the convent and the Gate of the Field. Also, the historic quarter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Now that my homework is done, it’s time to order room service. I didn’t want to chance taking baby out in a strange place while she’s not feeling well. Hubby also said that the cobblestoned streets would have been difficult to traverse with a four wheel stroller. We were delivered a scrumptious burger and chicken club sandwich with thousand island dressing (chivito was not on the menu). 😭 My little woke up from her nap and was happy to help with the fries which indicated that she was on the mend.

We settle in for the night as hubby shows me all of the gorgeous photos that he captured from around town. He has a really good eye and I enjoyed seeing Colonia from his perspective. I’m slightly jealous but also happy that he got some time to lose himself and be a tourist. So I didn’t get to peruse ornate gift shops, visit historic sites or go on an exotic foodie crawl like our amigos from California. Mommy duty called and there’s no place I’d rather be. 🤒👩‍👧❤️

The next morning, we enjoyed a very classy breakfast in the hotel restaurant. Both cuisine and atmosphere were picturesque and almost made up for being stuck in the hotel room all evening. The food was displayed in a colorful, inviting bounty with plenty of options for fruit, cereal, pastries, yogurt, hot breakfast items and much more. We sat at a white clothed table overlooking the bay as we enjoyed our cafe con leche, croissants, eggs and pancetta. Plus a couple of miniature brownies and cookies. I just adore how this part of the world fully embraces dessert for breakfast. 🇺🇾🇦🇷🍪🥮☕️👍

I must not have had my phone with me to document our dreamy desayuno. However, this enabled me to be present instead of preoccupied with getting the perfect shot while my food got cold. Plus, little was being a handful. Few restaurants around these parts have high chairs, so I just have to hold the baby and pray while we eat. Her typical modus operandi is to take a bite and then explore, so it was a working breakfast. 🍳🏃‍♀️😓Afterwards, we returned to the room to pack up and prepare for departure. 😢🚕 I had another battle of wills trying to get little to take the ibuprofen. We managed only half a dose this time but hopefully that will suffice because she seems to be on an upswing. 🙏

We had the front desk ring up our friendly cab driver who had given us his card the day before. He arrived a few minutes later and took us back to the ferry station at around 9:00am. To our surprise, there were already extremely long lines for customs and an additional one for immigrants. Then more lines waiting to board. On the bright side, we had ample time for people watching. Highlights included observing eclectic fashion attitudes and Yerba mate fanatics. More on that in another post. 🍵👨‍🎨👩‍🎤

Finally, our ferry number was called but the passengers ignored the lines and basically did their own thing. It felt like every man for himself for a hot minute. Fortunately for us, Argentines are really family oriented and allowed us to cut through the line since we had a baby in tow. 👶 😁 This boat ride was a lot smoother because she was starting to feel better. I never saw our US compatriots, so I didn’t get to hear out about their sandwich sojourn. However, little napped and we had some peace and quiet while we traveled. Note to self: buy a boat. 📝💰🚣‍♀️👶💤

We arrived back in Buenos Aires and went through customs without incident. We checked into our usual hotel around lunch time. It was an interesting 24 hours traveling to this ethereal locale. Colonia del Sacramento will always be a bit elusive to me because of it’s undiscovered secrets hiding around the corner. It’s rare beauty will forever be cloaked in mystery. That is why it’s my unicorn city. ✌️💜🦄

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Mood Ring Kitchen

I’m a self teaching home cook and aspiring foodie entrepreneur. I enjoy coming up with creative ways to prepare flavorful food such as snacks, desserts and everything in between. Cooking is a way for me to challenge myself and satisfy curiosities about different ingredients.

The hope is to produce something thoughtful, memorable or every once in a while maybe even wonderful. I enjoy following my “gut” and exploring new recipes that can be comforting, exciting and nourishing. Above all else, I enjoy exploring the emotions surrounding food and writing about those experiences. 😝👩‍🍳👩‍💻

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