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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Carmelo, Uruguay

Uruguay is the easiest country to travel to from Buenos Aires. Sure, you could fly, but why would you when there are ferries that leave every few hours and take between 1 - 3 hours to arrive at either Colonia or Montevideo. I took this trip back in 2010 with my mom and one of her friends, and way back four years ago when I was a wee young blogger, I wrote virtually nothing helpful in the post. I will say this - not much has changed in the trip except for the price, which was somewhere around US$82 in 2010 and is now closer to US$200 if you have a DNI and higher priced plus a 35% surcharge if you don't. Ouch! These prices vary depending on the day, time and destination of your departure, and there are other options than the company that we used, Buquebus, but they are all far more expensive than a few years ago.

The trip does have it's advantages, there is very little waiting in the terminal, easy on and off the ship, and the best part for us is that we were able to take our car - which also means no unpacking the items from the car - because you drive the car right onto the boat. Major bonus. Also, the Buquebus terminal is easy to get to, located at the top of Puerto Madero, near Retiro Station.

We got to the terminal an hour before our ship was to sail, and this was perfect timing. We passed seamlessly through immigration (although it is a quick trip, you need full international travel documents to get to the other side. If you have DNIs, these are sufficient to travel to Uruguay) and while the kids and I walked onto the boat, Jon headed back down to the parking area to drive the car into the cargo hold. We brought our stroller onto the boat, which was nice because we didn't have a seat for Alex, but pretty bulky and awkward. The seats will remind you of being in an airplane, though the on/off ease will make you glad you didn't fly.

After landing in Colonia, we drove west an hour and a few minutes to the little port town of Carmelo. I'm not totally sure that it has a real port, but there is water access and we saw a couple little speed boats over the course of the weekend.

We splurged this weekend and stayed at the Four Seasons resort in Carmelo. The property itself was gorgeous, with more the feeling of a forest lodge than a hotel, but the real shining star was the pool. This pool is massive, heated with two large shallow ends for children. Everything about the pool is great, the chairs, the flavored ice water they bring you while you sunbathe, the noodles and pool toys they offer. There is a restaurant located on the pool deck, so you can eat and drink while you swim, though the food is overpriced (not surprising with the Four Seasons name and the fact that there is no competition anywhere nearby) and not anything to write home about. But you don't have to leave the pool. Which you will never want to do.

Per our usual, it rained a couple of the days we were in Uruguay, fear not, they have a kid's club that our daughter adored (if they kids are 4+ years you can leave them along at the kid's club, we stayed with Gretchen and had fun together), a gym with all of the equipment you could ever need, a spa and a game room to pass the time.

The other highlight of the property we discovered on our last day. The beach. There is a tiny beach on the pretty gross, brown Rio Negro, though I would not actually enter the water, this turned out to be Gretchen's favorite spot. You can throw rocks into the water All. Day. Long.

Daddy was a master rock finder/thrower.

Mommy did alright too. Gretchen showed me how fun it was to throw many rocks in at one time.

Even our little man had fun. This one is just happy to be along for the ride, such an easy, smily precious little guy.

And he is enamored with his Daddy. Look at this face of pure joy!

The hotel property is filled with walking trails through the woods, which are filled with these cool birch trees. They shed their bark and are stark white - creating a really neat look to the forest.

There are number of restaurants both at the main hotel building and speckled throughout the greater overall property (which is very large and includes a small neighborhood and a whole map of roads - none of which seem to be named). The main hotel restaurant is good, though any of the Four Seasons owned restaurants that we drove to were pretty mediocre. The highlight of our eating experience was at a restaurant and bodega called Campo Tinto. This restaurant has a beautiful view, good tasting wines in a quaint, friendly atmosphere. The food was fine, again nothing spectacular, but the setting, wine and ambiance made it worth a visit.

It was a quick trip, and as it turns out, it will be our last while living in Argentina. Shortly after this getaway weekend, we found out that we are quickly moving back to the US, making me so glad that we took this and all of the multiple travel opportunities that we did. All good things must come to an end, and though it has been an amazing experience in Argentina, it is time to come home. More on how to leave Argentina in the weeks to come.