Smells like Uruguay, feels like home

Reblogging this to our Uruguay Expat Life site from my personal Author Hub blog, Falling Off the Hemisphere. This will fit, somewhere, in my forthcoming book of the same title. Which is, for your info, highly political and opinionated, more so than what I normally post here or at our other sites within our Uruguay Expat Life / Uruguay For Me site network. But you can’t really discuss reasons for feeling more or less at home, reasons for expatriation/immigration, reasons why a place once visited becomes a place called “home”, without touching on the politico-economic issues of the Global North and the emerging Global South.

Here’s a snippet, with the rest at the link:

When you come to Uruguay, it seems foreign. More so than the busy place from which you arrive here.

Deco/Fascist Progress-style mural of naked man and woman forging the tools and edifices of "Modern Civilization"

Welcome to Colonia and Glorious Uruguayan Progress, Compañeros!

Most English-speaking visitors get their first taste of my new country from a day-trip by ferry out of Buenos Aires, that chaotic, dirty, noisy, uproarious, wonderfully gigantic capital of tango and drama.

As such, the quiet cobblestone streets, the Portuguese colonization ruins, even the Deco-like naked female muse of a mural on the main street of the new part of Colonia del Sacramento, feel like stepping into “the real South America”, some gringo daydream of “the other”. The pervasive smell of the wood fires, from richly pungent woods like eucalyptus and “leña colorada”, burning year-round for both cooking and heating, making it “smell like Uruguay”, as a uruguaya friend of my family once said.

But that’s judging the USA by Plimouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg, sans period-costume actors doing “recreations”…

Continue reading at

Expat Hotel and Inn Owners in Uruguay

Here’s an update on what’s going on at expat-owned hotels and inns in Atlantida and Parque del Plata. Don’t forget, if you’re in the area and craving US movies, Jerry as dedicated Sunday evenings to movie nights at Hotel ViaPark. This week, we bring you another bed and breakfast in Atlantida, the Tsitsicamma Inn.

a beach scene in Atlantida
A quiet day on the Atlantida beach

The Uruguay Way: Union College students experience Uruguay

The Uruguay Way: Exploring the implementation of One Laptop Per Child. Some Union College (NYC) students are having a fascinating time here in Uruguay on an exchange program. Much of their studies focusing on this country being the country first fully to implement the One Laptop Per Child program.

Graffiti image of a mushroom-shaped
Montevideo Graffito. Photo credit Samantha Muritori, one of the Union College students on this exchange program. Copyright © 2013 Concordiensis and the photographer.

Also they’re exploring the area, of course, and taking in the lifestyle and sights. Yes, much of our graffiti is in fact artistic. Though as an ex-New Yorker, I have to say a lot of that is too. (Not necessarily all the “tagging” on the A-train back in the 80’s, though!)

There are some LOL moments in reading the college newspaper report, Continue reading The Uruguay Way: Union College students experience Uruguay

Sunset Watching in Parque del Plata

Had a lovely evening yesterday at a small, modest, fun hotel and fast-food beachside place two towns up the coast east from us. The Hotel Via Park, in Parque del Plata.

Customers getting served fast food at the Via Park
Via Park Hotel – Beachside Fast Food cooked to order

About 3 or 4 kilometers from where we live in Atlántida. Quick 10 minute 19 peso (U$S 1 dollar) ride on any Copsa 710 or 761, Raincoop 222, or Cutcsa C4 or C3 bus passing through Atlántida. (It’s a short ride, you can put up with the disgustingly dirty and ill-maintained-interiors Copsa buses for 10 minutes. Longer, wait for Cutcsa or Raincoop!)

Classic beachside fast-food & motel joint, to the extend that it was bringing back memories of Humarock Beach on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Except without the rocks of Humarock, and without the freezy cold water too! And the beach with its high dunes is right there on the other side of the road, not even set back a ways like in Atlántida.

The event? An expat friend of ours who is a longtime Uruguay resident, is buying the hotel. Plans to keep it pretty much the same, menu will still be a fast beach food offering, not gourmet cuisine nor Uruguayan parrilla. Panchos (hot dogs), hamburgesas (común, con queso o completo con huevo – cheese, eggs, probably ham), chicken nuggets, french fries, and really good calamari rabas. He may tweak it a bit, but it’s beach food and affordable beachside rooms.

Parque del Plata feels even more “beach resort” to us than Atlántida, which has more of a year-round-with-a-beach feel. Though Parque del Plata is a true year-round community and an actual city, the beachside area has a deeper concentration of fishing and sport shops, food stands, beachside hotels, and beach-centric feel than here along either our Playa Brava or Playa Mansa.

The weekly feria shows up there on Saturdays, and was just closing down as we arrived. We saw several of the same sellers as at our Thursday feria in Atlántida, but many different ones as well. When Lisa said “look it’s the same sunglass guy!”, I replied “Look, it’s the same sunglass guy. Now buy some sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV like I’ve been nagging for weeks!”. She finally did, and saw the rest through rose-colored glasses.

Photo of the crescent moon in the early night sky above the umbrellas on the terrace lounge
We stayed well past sunset. A little blurry, but so were we by then.

Our host opened up the rooftop terrace outside the 1st floor rooms (2nd floor to you estadosunidenses – “Americans”), as the “VIP Lounge” for drinks, food, darts, and sunset watching. Likely to open it to the public as a bar/lounge/restaurant area rather than just for guests, as part of the update. There’s a stairway up to the higher rooftop over the lodging area, and he has some plans for there too.

Imiage of large room with large bed and single bed, colorful red tones, ceiling fan and air conditioning
Family room at the Via Park hotel in Parque del Plata

The property right now under current ownership is lovely, affordable, brightly painted for a modest, appealing beachside experience. Check them out! Good place to play, eat, and stay right now, and even better things to come.

Edit 10 May 2013: Changed the link in the first paragraph to the hotel’s new English-language website. With this disclosure: We, Mark and Lisa Mercer, the owners of Uruguay Expat Life & Uruguay for me, just built and earlier today published that website for them, under their contract with our new venture, Southern Cross Web and Social Marketing. However at the time we wrote this blog post in Dec 2012, our new venture didn’t even exist, and our client hadn’t yet even completed the purchase of the hotel. Other than the link change and this disclosure, our post is unchanged from our unsolicited, uncompensated words six months ago.

How Uruguay chose us

Lisamaria is probably too reluctant to toot her own horn (or tweet her own article), so I’m posting this for her. A brief retelling of how and why we came to Uruguay, and specifically chose Atlántida, as our new home. Uruguay beachside with lush vegetation, bright sand, gentle waves

This is her latest article for International Living magazine and website. I Didn’t Choose to Live in Uruguay – It Chose Me. It was an exclusive to International Living Daily Postcards email subscribers a few days ago under the title I Didn’t Choose Atlantida, Atlantida Chose Me. Repurposed for their website with the more generic Uruguay rather than Atlántida, but it is in fact a good summary of our decision-making process in on where exactly we wanted to live. In the city, way out of the big city, in a resort town, in a walkable town, or where?

What we found was that Atlántida, for us, was the perfect mix of small beachside resort, with a year-round community, walkable to shopping and services, and with good enough car or bus transport to also be a “bedroom suburb” of Montevideo for job and business opportunities, and for the occasional big-city fix that we former New Yorkers/Bostonians still need once in a while.

Your specific mix of preferences may differ. But Uruguay has many options along those different dimensions.