Montevideo, Uruguay: Plaza Independencia, La Rambla & Bodega Bouza
“Uruguay is a native word meaning river of the birds,” our guide Tamara was explaining as we began our drive from the port of Montevideo. We were heading along La Rambla, a 14-mile promenade that hugs the coastline and borders the Río de la Plata, a river and estuary spilling into the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches beyond looked pristine and inviting, but before we could continue our journey along the waterfront, our bus turned inland for a short stop at Plaza Independencia and the old part of the city.
A small park-like space, Plaza Independencia is surrounded by government buildings and anchored by an old city gate and a statue of national hero José Gervasio Artigas. Just beyond is Palacio Salvo, the city’s most famous structure and “visual icon,” as Tamara described it.
Back on the bus, we returned to La Rambla, passing lovely beaches, each as clean-looking and litter-free as the next. Tamara continued her commentary, combining bits of Uruguay’s history, politics and culture. We passed Castillo Pittamiglio, a quirky house built by an architect/alchemist who Tamara said “designed his house like a spaceship as a means of transportation to another dimension.” And we stopped at the Montevideo Sign, life-sized letters spelling the city name along a beachfront backdrop.
The morning was getting late as we left the beach and headed to the tour’s main event – Bodega Bouza, a winery in the Montevideo countryside, about 20 minutes from the city. Known for its wines made with Tannat, the signature Uruguayan grape, Bodega Bouza is also home to the owner’s extensive collection of classic cars.
A winding road lined with white agapanthus takes visitors to the winery grounds and red-bricked buildings. It’s a peaceful and inviting place, with white-cushioned lounge chairs and grassy spaces. We were greeted by Pablo, who began our tour in the vineyards. The climate, he told us, is similar to the Bordeaux region in France, and the soil’s excellent drainage allows the vines to thrive.
Next we toured the vat and barrel rooms. Bodega Bouza produces Albariño and Chardonnay white wines and Merlot, Tempranillo and – most notably – Tannat red varieties.
The final stop before our wine tasting and lunch was the classic car and motorcycle showroom. The cars were in top condition, and we were told they were just a portion of the total collection. There were European autos – a Citröen, Saab and BMWs – and Ford Model Ts, Chevrolets and an old delivery truck for hauling wine barrels. It was a fun and unusual find at a winery.
The lunch and wine tasting at Bodega Bouza were as elegant and beautifully presented as the car collection. We tasted four varieties – two whites and two reds – and then selected our favorite to enjoy with lunch. Several courses later, we were back on the bus and headed to our ship.
The sunset over the Atlantic was especially beautiful that night, with a clear summer sky and calm seas. It had been an incredibly full and interesting day in Montevideo, and I could already feel my mind shift into the next gear as we headed toward the Falkland Islands.