From Canada to Atlántida, Uruguay - Our Story

By Syd Blackwell 
At La Barca, the beach-side restaurant in Atlántida, to watch the sunset
From left to right: Carole (a friend from Toronto) Gundy, and Syd Blackwell
In November 2006, we flew to Uruguay for a two week exploratory visit.  At the end of the first week, we put a deposit on a house in Atlántida that we had seen online before our trip.  We hadn´t taken a long time to decide we liked Uruguay.

A week later we were on the plane back to Canada with the realization we were moving to Uruguay.  We had two businesses to sell, personal goods to sell or ship, and, we had to explain to families and friends we were retiring to Uruguay.

We are Syd and Gundy and we have now lived in our Atlántida home more than six years.  We have made a lot of improvements, but the building, swimming pool, and perimeter fencing were all there when we bought our house for just $45,000.

Real estate values have increased dramatically since then; we have never regretted our sudden decision.  We also love the distance from and the proximity to Montevideo.  We do not want to live in the city, but we need to go there.

I am Canadian and had never lived in another country and spoke only English.  Gundy is also Canadian, but she was born in Germany and had also lived in Switzerland and France before Canada.  She spoke three languages and was acquiring Spanish before we came to Uruguay. We had both travelled extensively in dozens of countries.  Her Spanish is now quite serviceable.  Mine is not.  Slow learner!

Our relocation had challenges.Our businesses did not sell at the same time.  Gundy actually arrived back in Uruguay seven months before me.  She had to deal with significant problems by herself.   She also needed new hips and had limited and painful mobility.  This was not at all the way we had envisioned our move.  After I joined her, she was able to have her hip replacement operations through the excellent Uruguayan medical services.

Our home is actually located in Villa Argentina, one of four contiguous communities that form greater Atlantida.  We live on the north side of the interbalnearia, the major highway connection between Montevideo and Punta del Este.

During the busy summer months when the Atlántida population swells with vacationers, we truly appreciate the quiet of our location on the opposite side of the highway from the beach and the downtown activities.

When we came here, we did not know of any other expats in the community except Germans.  We did not socialize with them, but did go in to Montevideo for some expat gatherings at Old Mas in Pocitos.  There we met Americans, Europeans and even some Canadians.

We continued to attend social gatherings in Montevideo for a couple of years.  Slowly, the expat population in Atlántida also grew and eventually expat gatherings were organized at Don Vito´s Restaurant.  Those meetings still continue, but at different locations.

The early gatherings and the online forum sponsored by the late David Finzer, opened the doors to relationships with many expats. Those connections have proven very useful over the years.

We are appreciative of the difficulties of relocating to a new country and we try to help and share our experiences with anyone who is interested in the Atlántida area.  We are pleased that we have helped the expat group here to grow significantly.  Although we no longer attend expat functions in Montevideo, we are also pleased to note that expat groups have grown over the same years in other communities like Piriapolis and Punta del Este.  Expats need support; especially when they first come.

Gundy (in pink) walking with Swiss friend, Uschi, and two of Syd and Gundy's three dogs.
Syd is taking the picture and has their third dog with him. 
When the vacationers leave, we more frequently visit the beaches.  Strange?  Well, not really.  Neither of us are beach people like the summer throngs.  We prefer the quieter fall, winter, and spring beaches, with a few fishermen and other walkers.  We can also bring our dogs to the beach then too.  However, a summer sunset with a cool drink, nice food, and friends from a table at La Barca restaurant is an Atlántida experience everyone should try.

Atlántida is a great place to live.  We have all necessary services, like a bank, clinics, dentists, real estate agents, and escribanas.  The Tienda Inglesa supermarket is reputedly the largest in the country.  There are many other stores and shops open throughout the year. We have ferias (street markets) three times a week in greater Atlántida.  We think Baipa, an Atlántida pasteleria, is the best in the country, although repeated visits might be dangerous to your health!

What are some other things you should experience in Atlántida?
  • El Aguila, the stone eagle head overlooking the beach in Villa Argentina
  • All the beaches, all the way from El Aguila to the mouth of the Solis Chico river in Parque del Plata (another greater Atlántida community)
  • The Planeta Palace Hotel, a boat-shaped art deco beach hotel (now an apartment building)
  • Cristo Obrero, the 1952 brick fantasy church built by Eladio Dieste, in north Atlántida.  (We met a Vancouver architect who flew to Uruguay just to see this church!)
  • Viñedo de los Vientos winery, a couple kilometers up Ruta once
  • And, of course, Baipa  (And no, we do not have shares in the company!)

Editor´s Note:
Syd and Gundy rent a room in their Atlántida home, Casa Inspiración. They provide breakfast and will even come and pick you up at the Montevideo airport.  For more information and images click here


iancochrane said...

Interesting story guys.
I can see the attraction - the warm weather for starters - but quite a quick decision. You guys really went for it!

Anyway, it does look lovely, & you're still there...in a fascinating part of the world.
Cheers, ic

Kevin said...

Beautiful house and garden. Congratulations! Just my taste--and de gustibus non est disputandum--I'd prefer a different color in the bedroom, a more restful ochery color, perhaps, something earthy.

Do you find the winters a bit cold and damp and windy? How do you heat the house? Sounds like the warm weather is actually a rather short period--is that correct?

Thanks for the article and pictures!

Anonymous said...

From Syd Blackwell:

Hi Ian,
Quick decisions can be good decisions. We wouldn´t do it any other way!

Hi Kevin,
Yes, winters can be “a bit cold and damp and windy”, because it is a four season climate. We do not, however, get snow. We also get a wonderful little break in the winter, called the “veranillo”, little summer, when temperatures soar to summertime heights. We heat with wood as do most Uruguayans. Electricity is expensive. As for warm weather, we use our unheated outdoor pool from early November through at least half March.

Glen Roberts said...

The expat meetings at Old Maz were started by me and Total Uruguay in Nov of 2005. David Finzer attended some of them, but was never an organizer of them.

The meetings that I started in Nov 2005, continue on a weekly basis (there has not be a Sunday since then without one).

The forum I started in May of 2005 also continues to support the expat community in Uruguay.

David Finzer may have organized other meetings and you are welcome to give him credit for those, but please do not disrespect me as you have above.

David Hammond said...

Hi Glen, I hope all is good. I don't think there is any disrespect was intended here. I think it is just a misunderstanding. The writer tells of going to your meetings at Old Mas. In a different paragraph the writer describes the early meetings and forum of David Finzer - as a separate item. David Finzer also had meetings and had a forum and this is what I understood the writer was referring to. David Finzer recently passed away, so his memory is fresh in the minds of expats who went to his meetings, participated on his forum, or read his book.

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