“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.

Plaza Independencia

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.

Walking through Plaza Independencia. In the distance is Palacia Salvo, a 1928 hotel that is now office space and condominiums.
Palacio Salvo Montevideo.
A closer look at Palacio Salvo.
The gate between Plaza Independencia and Ciudad Vieja, or Old Town, is a sharp contrast to the buildings just beyond.
Statue of General José Gervasio Artigas, “the father of Uruguay.”
The Executive Tower, office of Uruguay’s president.

La Rambla

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.

Our tour guide Tamara, pointing out the sights along La Rambla.
Castillo Pittamiglio, also known as the “Alchemist’s House.”
Herb and I dashed to the tourist-filled Montevideo sign. The trick was to quickly position yourself by a letter before someone else jumped in your photo!
A lovely summer day along La Rambla.
Our final La Rambla stop was the Plaza de la Armada and this sculpture, depicting a sailor holding onto a sinking ship with a guiding star above.

Bodega Bouza

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.

The agapanthus-lined road leading to Bodega Bouza.
Bodega Bouza’s distinctive bell and red brick architecture.
An old train car sits at the edge of the grass, fitting into the landscape as if it has always been there.
Grapes on the vine!
Herb captured this shot as a vineyard worker drove by.

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 vat room…
...the barrel room…
...and the bottle cellar.

Bodega Bouza’s Classic Car Collection

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.

A lounge at the entrance to the car collection also had a vintage theme.
Bodega Bouza Vintage Car Collection, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Classic cars…
…and motorcycles.

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.

Bodega Bouza Lunch, Montevideo, Uruguay.

Sailing On

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.


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