¡Hola a todos!
After a rather hectic last few days, which has included some moderate celebrating in the heady aftermath of Spanish classes and the completion of some very organized errands in preparation of the end of my stay here in BA and journey on to pastures new, I have finally found the time to jot down (well, type up) some thoughts about my trip to Colonia.
Colonia is a wonderfully whimsical, endearing, sleepy harbour-town on the Uruguian bank of the mighty River Plate - more like the English Channel than any river I have ever previously seen. Three friends and I decided to head across on the slow (and therefore cheap, ish) ferry departing from BA at 9.30am and returning from Colonia at 7pm that same evening. We chose Tuesday, which was a national holiday in Argentina and therefore a day free from classes and the warm embrace of profesora Luciana. Slightly unfortunate for me was that the previous night had seen Niall and me enjoying the company of some classmates and new-found friends at a roof-top terrace-bar, which was suggested to us by Luciana, who also attended - really, a fantastic teacher! I became engrossed in conversation with the lovely Carolina, from Columbia. Carolina can speak little English, so my Spanish got a thorough and much-appreciated work-out. The sole, minor downside to the night was having to leave. So it was that I dragged myself from the tender embrace of my bed-sheets (nothing more) early next morning, appreciating slightly less the robust Malbec consumed during the delightful previous evening and made my way to join Carolyn, Emily and Niall (who had wisely refrained from drinking the previous night - no, I cannot believe it either, an Irishman refusing a drink). We made it to the ferry terminal in good time, which was just as well seeing as we were due a demonstration of Argentine efficiency. We queued, we received forms to fill in, we queued a little more - I, of course, was in my English element. Upon receiving our boarding passes, we discovered that Emily's ticket displayed an incorrect number for her passport, Carolyn's surname was spelt incorrectly and I was - oh joy - a US national. I cannot say that I particularly enjoyed my five minutes as an American, while waiting for the error to be corrected but, I did think warm, positive thoughts about my fabulous new President.
The crossing itself was comfortable and uneventful. We were given ample opportunity to view, close-up, just what everyone means when they refer to BA as being a very polluted city. The haze was little better than that I encountered when travelling around the Bay of Naples and the water - at least, I think that it was water, mostly - absorbed the fierce, bright sunlight in a rather disconcerting manner. Happily, Colonia proved to be just what I needed after three weeks in a large, crowded, smelly capital city. The streets were wide, airy, tree-shaded passageways to tranquility. The sleepy houses and shops were brightly coloured jewels that belied their quiet, restful aspect. The old, walled part of town - complete with picture-postcard lighthouse, a definite highlight (in every way) - was simply idyllic. I was reminded of the lighthouse in St. Augustine, partially I am sure because my frame of mind at both locations has been so light and contented but, also because both have advertized such peaceful, restful tranquility, so far removed from the purpose they serve and the circumstances in which they are called into action. We enjoyed a lovely afternoon strolling around the peaceful, cobbled streets, peeking into sombre churches and pleasing gift-shops after lunching the Argentine way, late into the afternoon. I stuck to salad, still somewhat drained of those all-important vitamins and minerals, and treated myself to the favoured Argentine (and perhaps Uruguian also) dessert of flan - very reminiscent of creme caramel but, oh yes(!), much larger. True, I was forced to endure the laboured (by this stage at least) taunts of my Irish friend, delighting obscenely over my choice of main-course but, I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, company and all. My only complaint, if there can be any permitted, is that the time passed far too quickly. I can clearly see why so many people recommended that we spend only one day in Colonia but, I really was very taken with the place and once the ferry crossings are factored in, the day is effectively halfed. Granted, the lazy, leisurely lunch did not help matters but, I would like very much to return, perhaps with someone special, and spend two days in the town. I am sure that an evening out wandering those restorative streets would be magical.
We returned to BA feeling peaceful and refreshed, ready to tackle once more the bustling streets, bright lights and intriguing odours of Argentina's beloved (really) capital city. A wonderful addition to the memory-bank and certainly a highlight - ironically - of my time here in BA.