San Gregorio de Polanco
We call this the farming area, but the fact is that almost all Uruguay is arable farmland. The picture above is pretty typical of the lay of the land in most of southern and central Uruguay. As you move north toward the Artigas Department, which we will cover in a later issue, you get into what locals call the “mountains” of Uruguay.
This is part two of our report about the interior area of Uruguay. If you missed part one, you can see it here.
As we leave the traditional beaches of the coast, we might think that we are leaving the tourist areas, but that is not entirely correct. Our target town to visit today, San Gregoria de Polanco, in the Tacuarembó Department, is a tourist area in its own right. Vacationers come to San Gregorio to play on the beach, water ski, canoe, jet ski, fish, swim and camp. Most of them are South Americans and not international visitors. Since the tourist season will not begin at least until October, we were visiting at a very quiet time. We found the residents friendly, caring, and anxious to go to uncommon lengths to be helpful. We think that if ever there were a meltdown of the world economy, this it is the type of place that would be a safe retreat.
By way of introduction, let’s take a little summertime drive into San Gregorio, courtesy of You Tube.
These videos are mostly amateur and we find it is easier to get an idea of what is really there if we pause it occasionally. (We’ve also been known to turn the sound to inaudible!)
We could find no up-to-date population figure for San Gregorio, but “small” certainly covers it! Wikipedia claims there were just over 3,000 residents in 2004. San Gregorio is the town that I reported had absolutely no café where you could sit down and have coffee or breakfast in the morning. We mention this to point out that there is opportunity in many small towns. In fact, we found just two places where you could get a real meal at all, and only one in the downtown. That one appeared to be the community center. Here is the plaque on the front of the building.
The area inside was a large expanse with a large, movable divider about halfway back. In front of the divider was a bar-type counter and tables and chairs where they served meals. It was not fancy, but the food was excellent. The chef told us he had moved there from Montevideo to take the job. If we were to decide to open a restaurant in that town, we’d be sorely tempted to do our best to hire him away. Yes, we would!
At the very rear were game machines with kids playing them. Behind the divider, a group of adults and teens were preparing decorations for a party—blowing up balloons and related activities.
When I was photographing them, several performed some pretty cute show-off antics, then came to our table and asked if they were going to be in a magazine. We even had strangers come to our table to welcome us and ask where we were from. There was a lot going on, all at the same time, in that building.
Here is the main street—or part of it at least. It looks a bit stark with the leafless trees but we are now just at the beginning of spring. One thing we like about most of South America is that their cities always have a lot of trees–and not just in the residential areas. They also grace the main streets of their downtown areas. Buenos Aires, as large as it is, is the same. Those Spaniards that planned these cities loved to plant trees. They grow up right out of the sidewalks. Buenos Aires and Montevideo have enough rain to support the trees naturally, but in areas that are more arid, like Mendoza, for example, they built concrete irrigation ditches right into the sidewalks to irrigate the trees automatically.
You can see the art on the building in the previous picture. Here is a close up of this particular artwork. The town bills itself as an art museum since so many really talented artists have painted murals on so many of the buildings and even on some houses.
If you lived in San Gregorio, unless you raised your beef yourself, which you certainly could, you might buy your meat here:
The sign above this butcher shop promises you better meat at better prices with better service. Now where can you get a better offer than that?
You might receive your letters and packages here.
Yes, that’s the post office.
Here is your public library.
You could buy your saddles, saddle blankets and riding equipment here.
We did notice these are English saddles instead of Western. Perhaps because South America is more closely aligned with Europe than with North America.
Take a close look at these bicycles and see if you notice what we noticed.
There is no chain and lock on anything here. Walking around town we even saw front doors of some houses standing open. People repeatedly told us there is no crime here.
Technology has definitely arrived in San Gregorio.
More next week about San Gregorio and the real estate agent and others we talked with. In the meantime, have a great week and we look forward to our next visit.
But more than that, we look forward to seeing you in person–in South America.
Copyright Four Flags Journal 08/05/2012