Punta del Este: A practical guide for the five senses

 On these summer days, as you may have read in several of my articles, I dash out to Punta del Este whenever I get a chance. Some may say it’s a “pleasure trip”. Yes, it definitely is, but there’s also work to do and a never ending source of inspiration and news of different sorts: from fashion, architecture, looks, cuisine, famous international personalities who are just passing by. So I may not bring back a nice tan or a finished project but I’m sure to bring back lots of pictures and data to share. And above all, my thoughts on so many things one kind find there that money just can't buy.
Summer seasons may not be as stable as we wish they were (let’s look at the bright side of things: scarce items always have a higher value) or maybe consumerism fluctuates, but one can’t deny the fact that the place develops year after year. Maintaining and reconciling identity, sustainability and continuity criteria is a tough challenge.
This is especially difficult when the population goes from 15 thousand inhabitants off-season to 500 thousand people between December and January. 
From mega real estate projects by Bulgheroni and Constantini or Donald Trump, country side ranches such as the Vik or hotel entrepreneurs like Fasano with his “Las Piedras”, top-of-the-line brands on 20th street and residential hotspots like Punta Piedras or José Ignacio, for those who have been around the world this is still an extraordinary location and it’s always nice to remind ourselves why.
Here's a fruit salad of possibilities: if you’re looking for informality, tranquility and laisez-faire or fun and entertainment and outdoor activities, everything is right there. Looking for shopping or business deals? You got it. It’s got forests and large green areas, but also more laid back urban areas such as José Ignacio or more formal ones along the peninsula. A park-type residential neighborhood or a panoramic view at Punta Ballena, the variety accounts for its uniqueness and can please every palate at every stage of life. Highly valued by foreigners who come here to retire, by famous personalities who like to remain unnoticed, or a permanent population who progressively demands a larger cultural offer, Punta del Este is undoubtedly Uruguay’s jewel.
Any experiment that normally requires large financial resources and world-class clients is empowered in this area. The result is a real estate stock embedded in an extraordinary landscape that enhances the location’s quality concept. Chalet-type residences built in the sixties merge with more contemporary houses of a wide range of styles and state-of-the art interior design.

Over the last years, and especially after the seventies, real estate developments of different magnitudes have popped up, ranging from tall towers to country houses, from three story apartments to residences that make up the local real estate offer.  Real estate magazines are truly a catalog of modern architecture and many of the buyers of these properties may be found in jet-set and international business magazines.
Many houses can still afford not to install gates or high protective walls: safeguarding this oasis from growing security issues is a big challenge.
This is a haven where one can find exclusive brands and stores that cannot be seen in the country’s capital, Montevideo, located only 120 km away. International equipment brands, businesses owned by Argentineans -renowned for their refined taste-, art galleries meant for the owners of hidden farms who hold fantastic art collections; fashion boutiques and exquisite accessories; the local handicraft fair just a block away; an artist’s atelier around the corner; a Hampton-style fish shop or a test drive center for premium cars: all of these coexist with refinement under the same sun.
Even the decoration of a common, simple bar radiates good taste and creativity which one wishes could be found more often in the country’s capital as well. From five-star to native and charming hotels, a nearby convention center, exquisitely decorated restaurants with a sophisticated cuisine, let’s not forget the beach or sophistication. 
3 mundos deco y cafe el tesoro
Hotel Fasano Las Piedras (Foto: Las Piedras web)
Mutate José Ignacio
Santas Negras
Paul deco 
Vik Hotel José Ignacio

También cultural y de tiempo libre:
Fundación Atchugarry

Renowned regional and international chefs come together here for different events. Others are even lucky enough to own their own havens where foodies can enjoy the select atmosphere, dishes, music, company and events where every detail counts. Many specialized magazines or selective international lists from different sectors feature these restaurants.
La Huella, José Ignacio
L´incanto (Fotos L´incanto web)
Jardín by Sarava (fotos jardin by Sarava Fb)
Panadería Lalinda, Manantiales (fotos Lalinda Fb)
The inhabitants of Maldonado, a calm and obliging people who are used to having to deal with all types of indulgences, must also deal with the resort’s stable population: cosmopolitan people or foreigners who have chosen to retire here or who work for international companies, investors, young people who settle here to develop their own business, people from Montevideo who work or vacation there sporadically, in addition to the landslide of regional and international tourists: together they make up a melting pot of cultures, languages and aesthetics worthy of trendy fashion magazines. A European prince, a rock singer and the owner of an internet company may go unnoticed while visiting the local ice-cream shop or while dining at Francis Mallman’s restaurant. All of this is bathed in remarkable tolerance and respect.
Events such as the Punta del Este Food and Wine Festival, polo and rugby tournaments, international regattas, art exhibits, mega out-door concerts or meetings with friends at sunset.
The good news is that fortunately not everything is just large investments and opulence: not everyone is dressed in Prada, you can also hear a simple “buen día" (good morning) dressed in “alpargatas.” During the summer you might see the latest Ferrari, but you can also hear bike bells and the sound of the sea. The port not only features wonderful boats that you may find at a yacht exhibition, there are also local fish shops offering the day's produce of shellfish or sole ready to be cooked on the grill accompanied by friends. The smell of French perfume travels amongst the pine trees and the sea; the inside streets are surrounded by trees and green gardens, while the “rambla” is decorated with the ocean and the sky.

One can’t deny the quality of life of  those who live there year-round or just temporarily. 
As a personal anecdote I always recall years ago when my business partner and I were working on some projects over there: while I rushed in my car around Montevideo from one place to another,  with literally no time for anything, in Punta del Este it would only take him a couple of minutes to get where he was going, and in the meantime he could breath fresh air, discover new things and have a picnic at the beach on bare feet, before resuming the usual tasks...
Uruguay is not Punta del Este and there are certainly many things to improve, monitor and plan but it’s very close to a Ying-Yang harmony that one wishes we could find more often. It’s not about sophistication, it’s about tolerance, coexisting opposites, the optimization of time, enjoying the ubiquitous scenery and nature, spending unforgettable moments with family and friends, the inside-outside beauty of the houses, and shops, the calm rhythm of life closer to friends and nature….

Some books on Punta del Este:

(Photos by Arq.Gabriela Pallares excepting those with their own note).

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