This past weekend the UC-EAP Argentina students travelled with Expanish to Uruguay to visit the historical city of Colonia del Sacramento. Colonia is located a mere 45 kilometers from Buenos Aires, just across the Río de la Plata. Colonia was actually founded in 1680 by the Portuguese, and switched hands between the Portuguese and the Spanish 7 times until it was conquered by Brazil in 1822, and then became a Uruguayan city in 1828 when Uruguay gained its independence.
The students all met early Saturday morning at the Buquebus boat terminal to take the boat ride across the river. After a choppy ride, everyone arrived safe and sound (and happy to be on land) in Colonia del Sacramento. Once we got off the boat, we were met by representatives from Buquebus who would serve as our tour guides as we discovered all that this charming city has to offer. From the boat terminal in Colonia, everyone loaded on to busses for a tour of the city. Our first stop was the Plaza de toros Real de San Carlos, which is a bull fighting ring that was built in 1910 and could hold up to 10,000 spectators. Unfortunately, the bull ring was only in use for 2 years until the Uruguayan government outlawed the killing of animals for entertainment. Despite its beautiful Moorish-style architecture, the ring is now quite decrepit and it is forbidden to enter.
Our next stop on the tour was one of Colonia´s beaches, where students could relax, appreciate the view, and even dip their feet in the river!
Next we loaded back on to the busses and drove to the edge of Colonia´s historic quarter, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We entered the historic quarter by passing through Colonia´s famous Portón de Campo, or the old city gate, which is complete with a drawbridge. Colonia was initially a fortressed city, so the historic quarter is surrounded by a tall stone wall that has strategically-placed cannons. There are no busses allowed in the historic quarter so students walked around Colonia’s 300-year-old cobblestone streets with their tour guides and learned about the history of some of the homes located in the old quarter (some of them date back to the 17th century). Students also learned to distinguish between the Spanish and Portuguese architectural styles, both of which can be seen in the city.
In the afternoon, the students had some free time to get lunch, and explore Colonia a bit more on their own. Many students chose to dine on Uruguay´s signature dish, the Chivito. Chivito is a thin steak that is topped with ham, cheese, bacon, and a fried egg, all served on a bed of French fries (with a small side salad). While very delicious, it is definitely not diet friendly! The students spent the rest of the day renting golf carts and driving around the city, walking on the beaches, and exploring Colonia’s other historical sites. Several students went up to Colonia’s famous Lighthouse to get the best view of the sunset. At 8 pm everyone returned to the boat terminal exhausted but happy to have experienced a bit of Uruguay.