In the “Drinking Buddies” series, I ask fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite bar experience from their travels. In today’s edition, Brianne of A Traveling Life gives you the inside scoop on drinking at the edge of the world in Uruguay.
“We’re so cool.” That’s what Tom, Natalie, Carrie, and I kept saying to each other during the few days we spent together in José Ignacio, Uruguay, over Thanksgiving a few years ago.
While most of our family members and friends were sitting down to turkey and football, we were dining on grilled octopus and sipping spicy sangria on a beach under the stars while a guitarist serenaded us.
Tom and Natalie were living in Montevideo, Uruguay, at the time and working at the U.S. Embassy there. Natalie, my former coworker at a job in Denver, is a member of the U.S. Foreign Service. My friend Carrie, who also lives in Boston, traveled with me to South America to meet up with them for a week-long visit.
After a few days of exploring Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, we decided to ditch the cities and make the two-hour drive east along the coast to José Ignacio.
Most of the year, José Ignacio is a sleepy little fishing village. But once December arrives, it fills up with celebrities and other jet setter-types looking to escape winter in North America. I heard it described as the “Hamptons” of South America, which seemed accurate. There are no high rises or chain restaurants, and the downtown area is little more than an intersection lined with small, high-end shops. The homes and hotels are mostly one or two-story boxy structures made of natural materials and glass, so they are hard to spot among the high sand dunes.
Since we were there on the edge of tourist season, we found the area to be nearly deserted, which was fine with us. The roads were free of traffic, we pretty much had the beaches to ourselves, and we scored beautiful hotel rooms at a significant discount. The only thing that seemed to be a drawback was that many of the restaurants were closed.
So we were excited when we discovered Parador La Huella was open. A spacious chic bar and restaurant made from pale wood and adorned with white fabric, it sits on the wide, pristine beach known as Playa Brava.
Since the weather wasn’t quite hot enough for sunbathing, we’d hang out there during the day in our bathing suits. Lounging on canvas chairs on the patio, we’d drink Uruguayan wine – Natalie, Carrie, and I preferred white varietals like albariño and viognier, while Tom opted for robust reds like cabernet franc and tannat – and watch the waves while snacking on cheeses, meats and bread. The place was almost empty, except for a few other tables that filled up at lunchtime.
In the evening, after heading back to the hotel and changing into dressier attire, we’d return for even more wine and seafood, this time in the company of locals who poured in throughout the evening looking for entertainment. After dinner, we’d sit out on the beach marveling at the unobstructed view of the constellations, laughing and telling stories. It was so dark, it felt like we were on the edge of the world.
After dinner, we’d sit out on the beach marveling at the unobstructed view of the constellations, laughing and telling stories. It was so dark, it felt like we were on the edge of the world.
We kept saying over and over how lucky we were to find a hidden gem like Parador La Huella and experience a place together that few American tourists get to see.
A few months after we got back, however, we saw the Parador La Huella included on a list of the eight “Best Beach Restaurants in the World” by Travel & Leisure. It seemed that word had already been out on our special place for a while, and unfortunately, we weren’t as cool as we once thought.
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Brianne is a Boston-based nonprofit consultant and travel blogger with a particular interest in responsible travel. Her blog, A Traveling Life, focuses on how to balance a professional career with a life of travel. Follow more of her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!