This month we are spending some time in a semi-deserted beach town on the Uruguayan coast. La Floresta is about 30 miles outside of Montevideo; we came by bus, which took about 90 minutes.
We found our house without a problem – it is situated in a neighborhood mostly consisting of vacation homes. The beach is just a few blocks away. Since we are here in April and May, the weather is turning chillier and most of the summer weekenders are gone. Many of the other homes are shuttered for the season. The last gasp of summer was May Day, which is a long weekend in Uruguay. Hundreds of extra people showed up and even the restaurants in downtown La Floresta were full.
However, the rest of our stay has been beautifully quiet. Few cars drive by, the occasional dog parks, once a week landscapers show up to mow and clear branches. We usually only have to share the beach with one or two other people – if that.
I had never thought of Uruguay as a beach country, but the sands here are stunning. The water is now too chilly to tempt us to swim, but others are out in the waves fishing, kiteboarding, body boarding, or bobbing around, and I imagine that at the peak of summer it would be the perfect cool-down.
We try to go for beach walks each day, avoiding it only during storms. The sand goes for miles, coming upon a stream to deep to cross on foot is the limiting factor. Crushed shells decorate the high-water mark, but much of the sand is beautifully soft. We’ve found pretty shells, even an arrowhead in the sand. The sunsets are stunning, as are clouds hanging over the ocean. It is wonderful to feel like it is our own private beach and that we have it all to ourselves.
There are plenty of gulls, herons, and sandpipers fishing at water’s edge. A couple of days brought mid-afternoon beach spiders that seemed to be feeding right at the waterline. There were also a lot of webs floating in the air, possibly from spiders trying to balloon back to dry land after getting swept out to sea or from a mass hatching. Thousands of web strands were attached to seafront weeds and power lines. Not my favorite natural phenomena to date. Unless there is a stiff breeze, there can be mosquitoes in the evenings; even they like trips to the beach.
Though humans largely leave La Floresta alone in winter, there is plenty of evidence it is popular and near seafront population centers. Garbage washes up continually, and is especially prominent after wind or rain. I’ve taken to picking up a bag full every few days, but it doesn’t make a dent. It has really made me think about how much must be in the oceans – I’ve read the numbers, but to see it each day is depressing and eye-opening.
Quite frankly, at this time of year there isn’t much else to do in town. On May Day/Day of the Worker weekend, the ice cream parlor and small bookshop opened up, and stands were selling empanadas near the waterfront. But normally, we are confined to two groceries, a pharmacy, and couple of kiosks. Walking around, there is so few cars that sidewalks are unnecessary. No crowds, no traffic. Everyone seems so relaxed. It reminds us of off-season tourist towns in the Midwest.
We took one afternoon to walk all the way to Atlantida. Unfortunately the reason that spurred us to go was a hunt for parts for our washer (which is missing some of the plastic agitator panels inside the drum and shredding our clothes on the sharp corners that should have been covered). Atlantida has a larger permanent population and is more well-known as a beach town. Even during a weekday afternoon, snack stands in the parks were open. Their grocery is much larger and more well-stocked – they even had Nutella! Their beaches are more populated, and we don’t regret staying in an out-of-the way spot.
The temperatures have gone from low 70s to low 60s while we’ve been in town. We thought the onset of fall would knock the remainder of the mosquito population out. That turned out to be wrong on so many levels. Apparently there is a type of mosquito that enjoys coming out after rainy chilly weather, like we experienced after our first week here. One day, a few flew around when we were outside; the next day, clouds hovered around us all day long, unbothered by rain or wind or bug repellent. We still are waiting for the last of that bloom to vanish… and we are running out of bug spray!
We’ve gotten a lot of work done and have thoroughly enjoyed a respite from city living. Next month will be a change back to the mainstream city-centers of Europe; I’m sure we will miss the quiet beach.