On Thanksgiving morning, we picked up our rental car, stowed our big suitcases and hit the road with backpacks and snacks, excited (and a little nervous) to have 4 1/2 days with no plans (other than a place to stay the first night) to fill in as we went along.
We started by driving Northeast up the coast with the goal of seeing Casa Pueblo, a hotel that was built by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró originally as a summer house and workshop, but that now includes a museum, art gallery, cafe and hotel.
The kids were not necessarily impressed by the architecture, but the setting was gorgeous and we were able to hike down the hill right to the ocean shore, getting in our traditional Thanksgiving hike without even meaning to.
Everywhere we’ve been in Uruguay so far, the water is incredibly clear and inviting and the beaches and waterways are very clean. Compared to the city beaches of Rio and the port town of Buenos Aires with the river you rarely see, it was such a stark contrast to drive up Uruguay’s barely populated coast. Outside of Montevideo, so much of Uruguay is wide open spaces, mostly flat, and coast, and while the vast plains seemed unwelcoming at first, the terrain grew on us very quickly.
After our mini-hike, we got back on the road and headed to Jose Ignacio (sometimes playground for the rich and famous, including U.S. celebrities) and the Estancia Vik. Jim has met representatives of the Vik properties at different trade shows he’s attended, as they have multiple properties, and this was a great opportunity for him (and us) to take them up on their longstanding invitation to visit this particular property.
The Estancia Vik is a stunning ranch on 4,000 acres one mile from the Atlantic Ocean. It is easily the fanciest place that any of us have ever (or probably will ever) stay. The unique property was conceived of by half-Norweigan half-Uruguayan billionaire Jose Vik, originally as a summer and vacation property for personal use. It has 12 suites, each one designed by an Uruguayan artist, featuring original art conceived of for the space. The details of each room are completely unique: some walls are wood-paneled, others painted colors corresponding to the direction they face on the property (all of the bright colors to the east to correspond to the sunrise, for example). While there, we got to go horseback riding and see a polo match. Cecelia was jealous that Jim’s horse had previously been ridden by Katy Perry! Needless to say, we felt extremely spoiled to have this experience and were grateful for the opportunity to experience the stunning surroundings.
We ventured off of the property in search of a local restaurant for “Thanksgiving” dinner and definitely had moments of parent-panic when we realized that due to it being low season and a Thursday (versus being the weekend), almost nothing in the area was open. Jim likened the feeling to being down the shore in the winter months, and it reminded me of trying to find dinner in Fairfax after 9:30PM on a weeknight when we first moved back to CA 10 years ago.
We finally found a restaurant with the help of some locals, but we were almost an hour too early for dinner (at 7:30) because true to what we’ve seen in most places, real dinner restaurants in Argentina and Uruguay, especially, do not serve dinner any earlier. Despite our best efforts, we’re not quite on the late dinner schedule yet so we made a pit stop at a local mini-mart to tide us over. Based on everything that ended up piled on the counter, I think we made the right decision to snack since we were apparently quite hungry.
We returned to the restaurant at 8:30 (almost on the dot) and were the first guests seated. The restaurant filled pretty quickly, though, and we had a delicious dinner (though it shared absolutely no similarities with a traditional Thanksgiving meal), splurged on some decadent desserts (including muerte por chocolate, or death by chocolate) and gave thanks for each other, our adventure, and all of our friends and family back home for whom we are so grateful and who we miss a ton.
More to come from our road trip in the next post!
Tchau and Buenos Noches!