After about a month in Buenos Aires we wanted to pop over to Uruguay for some beach time in Punta del Este. Uruguay is surprisingly easy to visit from Buenos Aires – even for a day – due to the frequent ferries that sail between Buenos Aires, Colonia, and the capital of Montevideo. After arriving in Montevideo, Punta is just a short 2 hour drive along the coast.
Summer was in full swing when we arrived, with balmy temperatures, and lots of sun. We bypassed the glitz of downtown Punta for a charming hotel in one of the best neighborhoods a little up the coast: Hotel L’Auberge is like staying at a friend’s private country estate for the weekend. Made even more so when you realize that Ignacio, the owner, and his family live in one wing of the property, and enjoy the beautiful common areas alongside guests.
We stayed close to home our first few days due to unpredictable weather. Sunning in the lounge chairs around the pool, and scurrying for cover when a spontaneous downpour would start. We loved taking walks and jogging through the neighborhood, admiring the sprawling estates, covered in both hibiscus and hydrangeas, bearing plaques with their sentimental names. We were surprised by the prevalence of Tudor architecture and thatch roofs, both of which made me feel like we were in the English countryside – not South America!
One tradition I love is the local insistence on a daily “merienda” – a late afternoon snack of tea or coffee and cake. Hotel L’Auberge is famous for their waffle afternoon tea, and it was fun to see many people recommend we try the waffles when I first posted about our stay! The waffles arrive to your table hot and perfectly crispy from the waffle iron built into the tea-house hearth. The waffle irons are original to the building (dating back to 1948!) and still turn out the most perfect waffles almost 70 years later. We had trouble choosing between toppings and decided to try a little of each: chocolate syrup, dulce de leche, strawberries, bananas, and ice cream. A bit over the top but I highly recommend you go all out!
Just a 15 minute ride away is the fashionable village of La Barra, an instant favorite of mine due to the antique shops and darling cafes that line the Main Street. (My favorites were Juan Cosas Antiques and Paul’s French Gallery, a beautifully curated homegoods store and cafe, where you can buy the chair you’re sitting on.) Further up the coast is Manantiales, home to the famously sculpted bodies of Bikini Beach, and where we had one very magical night at El Abrazo, a restaurant appropriately called “The Hug”.
On our last day, we rented a car and drove further up the coast to José Ignacio, known as a celebrity enclave during the first two weeks of January, it was delightfully low key when we arrived. I loved climbing the steps up the classically preppy José Ignacio lighthouse which affords glorious views of the coastline. We toured the town at sunset and settled into our table at La Huella on the beach. David’s Spanish has made getting around incredibly easy, but at dinner we had our first snafu when we thought we were ordering rack of lamb, and a hot lamb ramen appeared at our table instead. Not what you’d want to eat on a humid summer night! But the ambiance, happy crowd and sound of waves lapping the shore nearby made up for it.
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Thank you to Hotel L’Auberge for welcoming us so warmly to your home and hotel!