My better travelled friends probably already know about Punta del Este but for me it was a revelation. Our cruise stopped there on 22nd January 2020, before we sailed south in the Atlantic. The town is located at the mouth of the River Plate (confusingly this river is 290km long and 220km wide at its mouth)(the banks of the river are also the most densely populated parts of Argentina and Uruguay having both Buenos Aires and Montevideo on it). Punta del Este is on a peninsula with beaches on both the river and the ocean. It is a holiday resort, principally of Argentinians, and is described by Wikipedia as ‘as “the Monaco of the South”, “The Pearl of the Atlantic”, “the Hamptons of South America”, and “the St. Tropez of South America”, being also compared to Miami and Cannes. In the height of the season, from December to February, the population increases from 10,000 to 160,000. There are 250 yacht berths, towers of holiday apartments, a suburb of luxury homes called Beverly Hills and on one of the beaches hosts the sculpture, La Mano, by Mario Irarrázabal, which depicts five human fingers partially emerging from sand.
After driving through the town our excursion took us to Casapueblo, 13km from the town. This is a building constructed by the Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró, which took 36 years to complete and has thirteen floors with staggered terraces. It was originally a summer house and workshop of the artist and now houses a museum of his work, an art gallery and a hotel. Carlos Páez Vilaró (1923 – 2014) was a Uruguayan abstract artist, painter, potter, sculptor, muralist, writer, composer and constructor. His output was prolific, working until the day he died and leaving a vast collection which is now in the museum. A fascinating building and collection.