My wife, 3-year-old and I returned from nearly 2 weeks in Uruguay...and we're ready to go back.
We began our trip in Buenos Aires (flew from DC - JFK - BA overnight) and spent the first 3+ days of the trip in BA. We stayed at a B&B in Collegiales (it was actually an apartment), which worked out great: quiet leafy neighborhood, close to good neighborhood cafes and restaurants (Restaurant Bambi was amazing!), and easy for transportation to sites. We found the B&B on Craigslist!
We went on both Buenos Aires Free Tours(www.buenosairesfreetour.com/en/index.html) as an orientation to the city. Sol was our excellent guide for both. It rained one day so we went to the Abasto Mall and the Children's Museum (inside it). Our 3-year-old daughter couldn't get enough of the Children's Museum - we played there for over 6 hours with lunch in the food court as the only break. We went to Recoletta cemetary, had a very nice lunch at one of the cafes there, went to the Evita museum, and went for a pedal boat ride in the park in Palermo. The only downer was the difficulty that we had hailing a cab from the Park de 3 Feb: we got stuck in the rain and soaked (which is no fun with a toddler).
We departed BA for Colonia, UR via a Buquebus ferry. We took the fast ferry and had lunch (suprisingly good empenadas) on the boat. The weather was quite windy and rainy on the Colonia side, so it was a bit of a struggle getting into the port (swaying boat)..and from the ferry port to the hotel (kind of confusing exit to get to taxis). We stayed at the Raddison Colonia, which was excellent (heated indoor pool, great free breakfast, clean, comfortable room, 5 minutes - if that - from the ferry port and historical area). Raul, who was the bellhop, was the best: he made bus reservations for us to Montevideo, helped us with storing our luggage (while we toured Colonia), and otherwise answered all of our questions in perfect English. I brought back Chivitos from a restaurant in town and we had an excellent dinner in our room.
Colonia is a charming town and great for walking. We ate breakfast at the hotel, changed some money (OK rates), mailed some postcards (there's a post office right off of the main drag), and headed to the historical area. We wandered around for a couple of hours and had a not-inexpensive lunch at El Drugstore restaurant (my wife had the fish of the day and I had their house chivito - both very good). There was also live music.
We departed Colonia via bus and rode an uneventful 2.5 hours to Montevideo. We then took a shuttle to Salinas. The "base" for the rest of our time in Montevideo (the next 12 days) would be Salinas, which is a small town on the coast (45 min from MVD) in Canelones.
In Salinas we met Felipe Cantera, who runs Aqvaterra (www.aqvaterra.com), an eco-tour service. Felipe is probably the foremost expert on the fish, snakes, and reptiles of Uruguay and would be guiding a group of 8 of us on a tour to visit and collect fish (!) in different regions of Uruguay (Canelones, Minas, Durazno, Artigas, Salto).
In Salinas we stayed at Cabanas Albatross, which provides cozy beach cabanas overlooking the white sand beach. The water in Salinas is a mix of the Atlantic and Rio de la Plata, so it's somewhat brown but warmer than the ocean. We basically had our own private beach - which was exhillerating.
Filipe's tours are all-inclusive, so we ate meals (while we were in Salinas) at his house. His wife, mother-in-law, and helpers prepared fresh food from scratch each meal: sweet pastries and freshly squeezed juice in the mornings and beef, lamb, rabbit, and other delicacies for lunch and in the evenings. The food was excellent and abundant.
We began with a couple of day trips to Paso Pache and Aguas Blancas (near Minas) to collect fish. Since my wife and little one were not interested in this aspect of the trip, they stayed on the beach in Salinas. Cabanas Albatross also has a nice pool, kiddy pool, and play area for little ones. What is striking is how untouched and clean the countryside is in Uruguay.
Uruguy has a great road system (we were traveling in a 12 person van) with many gas stations with 24 hour service/snacks so travel was comfortable. We next traveled to a ranch (Estancia Rincon de Pacheco) in Artigas (on the Brazil border) and stayed with Jesus and his family. We collected fish on the Rio Cureim and had fresh lamb for lunch (cooked in a clearing by the river). This area and the nearby Rio Macedo have all sorts of geodes and amethyst, so we also collected many examples of these. The ranch was primitive (no electricity except in the evening for a couple of hours from a generator) but the fresh air, beautiful views, and good company more than made up for it.
I'll continue my trip report in the next few days to include our time in: Artigas, Bella Union, Salto, Durazno, and our trip home...