Why Uruguay?

Top 10 reasons to think about retiring in this ocean-side paradise

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The first question people always ask when they find out where we bought our vacation home is – why Uruguay?

It’s a reasonable question. Uruguay is a small country and since it’s at least 10 hours flight from our home in North America, it hardly registers on most people’s radars there. When they think of South America they usually picture some vague jungle scene from “Romancing the Stone”. They definitely don’t envision the “Hamptons-meets-Miami” enclave that is our chosen destination – Punta del Este, Uruguay.

So why did we choose Uruguay?

  1. Great weather
    If you’re from the northern hemisphere, you’ll love having a destination with the opposite seasons from home. You can time it right so you’ll never have to experience winter again.
    Our town of Punta del Este is on a peninsula jutting in to the Atlantic ocean, so we usually get strong breezes from one direction or the other. Even when the temperatures soar, we rarely have to use air conditioning as we can just leave our windows wide open to catch the breeze. Those breezes also mean no mosquitoes to worry about!
  2. Beautiful beaches
    Uruguay’s coastline is basically beautiful white sand beach for hundreds of miles. You’ll find a beach to suite any mood, whether you’re looking for a laid-back, hippy enclave (Cabo Polonio), big-city access (Montevideo), or a jet-setting lifestyle (Jose Ignacio) – there’s something for everyone. And of course, all that coastline means endless opportunities for surfing, sailing, paddle-boarding, diving, etc – any water-sport you can think of.
  3. Wide variety of things to do
    Since Punta del Este is a top destination for South American tourists, there are ample restaurants, bars, clubs, casinos, art galleries, museums, concerts, special events (regattas, car races, film festivals) and other things to do.
    The peak tourist season is busy, but it only lasts for a few weeks each year. That means for the rest of summer, while the weather is still amazing, there are a wide range of amenities to enjoy without the huge crowds.
  4. Close to even more things to do
    Uruguay is located where the continent begins to narrow, so it’s easy to get to other destinations in South America. We are able to explore jungles, deserts, glaciers, historic sites, world-class cities and so much more, all within a few hours travel from our vacation home. This is a huge plus coming from Canada, where it’s easier to travel to Europe then it is to get around parts of our own country.
  5. Same standard of living
    People often ask how difficult it is to access modern amenities here.   I blame Hollywood – people have been led to believe that all of South America is some dangerous, poverty-stricken place. I can’t stress how much that’s not the case! Supermarkets, shopping malls, cinemas, etc. – they’re all just like you’d find at home (and in some cases, even better).
    Uruguay is known as a stable, progressive country with a socially-minded government. They were among the first countries to legalize gay marriage, decriminalize marijuana use, and provide every school child with a laptop. They are moving towards clean fuels and are generally at the forefront of social issues in Latin America.
  6. Lovely people
    All the Uruguayans we have met have been friendly and more than happy to chat with an “extranjero”. The vibe is generally more laidback, with a typical Sunday seeing everyone gathering with friends and family to just chill on the beach or in someone’s backyard. The most popular activity in Punta del Este seems to be strolling along the boardwalk each evening to enjoy the sunset before dinner.
  7. Not an English-speaking enclave
    Since this is primarily a South American tourist destination, the beaches aren’t overrun with English speakers. We really didn’t want to end up somewhere that we’d become insulated in a large ex-pat community. (What would be point of moving somewhere else if we did that?)
    While it’s possible to get by in English, Spanish is definitely an asset here. We’re working on it and with any luck, we’ll finally end up fluent!
  8. Far from the worries of home
    The distance means relief from hearing about the constant fear of terrorism or the non-stop coverage of the latest political kerfuffle. Honestly, you have no idea what a psychic toll it takes on you until you get away from the incessant background noise of the North American/European news cycle.
  9. Not so commercialized
    You know how everywhere you go there are usually people lined up trying to sell you stuff? That doesn’t happen here. It’s surprising to be on a beach full of tourists in the center of a major destination and find there aren’t t-shirt shops and souvenir stands lining the beaches. The idea that you have to buy things all the time to have fun just doesn’t seem to have caught on here.
And most importantly:
  1. Possibilities – Uruguay feels like it’s just starting to come into its own on the world stage. As newcomers, it feels like there are so many possibilities for us here and a promising future in a welcoming new country.

It’s hard to capture what is so wonderful about Uruguay in words. It just has this perfect combination of beautiful weather, varied geography, great food, a laid-back lifestyle and chill, friendly people that all go into one overall result – happiness!

Contributor: Lianne Winterburn

 

A celebration of Uruguay in Ottawa

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This weekend (Sunday, July 23), the people of the Capital Region were treated to a cultural and culinary trip to the country of Uruguay.   It was an all-day affair at Ottawa’s renowned Horticulture Building, hosted by the Embassy of Uruguay.

The event showcased the many tastes of the South American country.  The Uruguayan parrilla (Uruguayan BBQ for the uninitiated) was a huge hit with the locals.  Not to mention, the wine sampling and the olive oil tasting, which also drew large crowds.

The day’s event were skillfully presided over by Ambassador Martin Vidal Delgado, who worked the crowds, and the parrilla, often at the same time.

The program of the day ranged from a soccer clinic by the Ottawa Fury FC,  a book presentation from acclaimed Uruguayan author, Marciano Durán, and a special performance by Toronto’s La Magia Candombe  (a dance troupe specialising in the drums-based rhythms of Uruguayan Candombe).

A special thanks went out to Trilce Gervaz, the embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires for coordinating the entire event.

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Ambassador Martin Vidal Delgado
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wine tasting

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Trilce Gervaz, Charge d’Affaires

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La Magia Candombe

story/photos by david kovacs

 

back to the beach

IMG_0853I love Uruguay, I really do.  I felt it quite intensely when I first showed up 6 years ago.  It’s an odd sensation to feel so strongly for a place that, for all intents and purposes, is exceptionally disconnected from my native land.   Seriously 10,000 kilometers south and a hemisphere away.   And I can’t stress enough how little I knew about the place.   It really is a bit of a disability we North Americans have.  We know lots about ourselves and even more about our American neighbours, but very little about anybody else.   Our proximity to the United States often overshadows the rest of the world.

Our “busy bee” culture doesn’t help the situation.   We’re always working.  And when we are not working, we are desperately trying to catch up on household errands.  Working at work and working at home.  By the time, we get around to vacation time, we’re exhausted.  Burnt out.  And in desperate need of something easy.  Something close by and familiar.  Nothing too challenging.  Usually something American, or some all-inclusive in the Caribbean.   Maybe if you have a little bit of strength left, Europe, and if you have a little more, Asia.

Well, I, for one, was not burnt out, and was quite excited to take a 10 hour flight straight south to somewhere new.  And that made all the difference.

So there I was, on the beach in Punta del Este.

I had started my day at the beach.  Had a bite to eat and a drink at one of the restaurants lined along the Rambla, hugging the shoreline.  I visited the port, watched fisherman unload their boats, and observed, quite intently, the local sea lions holding court.

I returned to the same spot on the beach, where I had begun my day.   I sat there, drinking a chilled Pilsen beer, watching the sunset.   With the rest of the county.

I am not sure if this is true, but I think that all of the country of Uruguay stops for sunset.  This may be just the peculiar observation of a Canadian, far from his land, but I think it’s true.   The beaches fill up with families.  The Rambla swells with friends and neighbours, watching the sun slowly travel down the sky and then dip below the Rio de La Plata.   We watched it as a group, a great community of people coming together to take a break and soak in the experience.   A lagging red/orange glow still in the sky, I turned around a looked around.  People were gathering up their maté ensemble, corralling their kids, and discussing plans for the evening.   And I felt refreshed.  Cleansed.   Reset by the passing of day into night, by the Uruguayan sun.

Since that day, I’ve partaken in the same ritual whenever I’m in Uruguay, whether it be at the peninsula in Punta del Este, at a café at “Casapueblo”, or on the “la Playa de los Pocitos” in Montevideo.  And each time, it feels great.