Amazing. Phenomenal. Unforgettable. Once in a lifetime. None of these superlatives even begin to describe our trip to Uruguay, yet everywhere we went and everyone we met was just that. Eight of us flew overnight from the U.S. to Montevideo and drove an hour and a half up the coast to Estancia Vik (http://www.vikretreats.com) – a beautiful white Spanish style ranch house. Every part of the estancia was a feast for the senses: the architecture of the hotel itself, the indigenous art in each of the unique rooms, the sculptures in the courtyards, the luxurious pool and the miles and miles of open vistas from the meandering river to the ocean in the distance.
Our trip was part cultural experience. Upon our arrival, the architect and the curator of the Estancia explained their overall vision for property. We toured the guest rooms of the Estancia and Playa Vik with some of the Uruguayan artists that were commissioned to put their mark on each room. We climbed in uniquely designed bathtubs, washed our hands in purple geodes made into sinks and slept under hand crafted blankets. We met several Uruguayan artists in their homes and saw them at work in their studios. Painters, sculptors, muralists – all internationally known. Their art was as inspiring as their personalities were welcoming and endearing. We ate homemade empanadas with the Trujillos and shared an amazing sunset with Carlos Paez Vilaro at Casapueblo, his huge Mediterranean styled oceanside home and museum. One beautiful afternoon, we accompanied sculptor Pablo Atchugarry on a tour of his studio, expansive sculpture garden and modern gallery spaces where he encourages the work of artists of all disciplines. We modeled for portraits, ooohed and aaahed over original artwork and selected special pieces to take home.
Our trip was part adventure as we enjoyed the natural beauty of Uruguay. We kayaked in the river alongside horses, cows and sheep. We rode horses through the vast property and even galloped on the polo field. We went bird watching to learn about some of the over 200 different species of birds and other wildlife that can be seen there. Someone even had a visit from a friendly animal in their room! We went on long walks, bike rides and trips to the beach. We relaxed by the sleek pool at Playa Vik which seems to hang over the ocean. From the Estancia, we saw authentic gauchos in action as they herded their cattle.
Our trip was indulgent in the Uruguayan lifestyle. We slept in and stayed up late. We ate three course lunches late in the afternoon either in the dining room, al fresco by the pool or at the beach. Multi-course dinners usually started at 10:00 pm with a different venue each night. Delicious beef, fresh fish, beautiful greens and dulce de leche were staples on the menu. Our last night we celebrated a 50th birthday with a traditional Uruguayan asado (huge barbeque over hot logs in a cooking contraption you have to see to believe) and the birthday song was sung in 7 different languages. The after party was one the Estancia and our group may never forget!! Other fun memories include sunset cocktails at the Playa Vik followed by tango lessons with private instructors and musicians.
The trip was expertly planned by our wonderful leader, Caroline, in coordination with the professional Vik staff and the gracious and knowledgeable hosts and artists who made it all happen. Nothing was left to chance, but they had lots of surprises for us. Delia, Kike and Alejandro were talented and fun to be with. Agustin and Max were true to their consistent response to our requests — “but of course.” They were not only our translators, language teachers, cultural mentors, drivers, tour guides, dinner partners, dancing partners, riding instructors and photographers. They became our good friends. We met some of their families and heard about those we didn’t meet. We laughed more than anything else. They were by our side the entire trip and we wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Of all the amazing things we saw and did, the time and attention that these endearing folks gave us throughout our week was priceless.