José Ignacio, a top destination with small town essence
We saw each other in 2010, I was 6 months pregnant expecting Francesca and I wanted to vacate not far from Buenos Aires. When Sebastian said he wanted to travel to Punta del Este I hesitated, this destination wasn’t in my bucket list at all. He finally won the battle and we left for a week, one day we decided to visit the famous lighthouse and beaches of José Ignacio. When we got there was love at first sight, a small town by the sea that, despite having thousands of tourists every year and hosting top restaurants and shops, it didn’t lose its essence. From that day to the present we choose its beaches to spend part of our summer holidays and every season we feel more like we’re part of it.
In the morning, we walk to “la brava” beach (the name comes from the brave sea) and we enjoy the big waves, Fran and Nello slide through the dunes with the sandboard and we have quiet walks to the lighthouse. At noon we escape from the incandescent sun looking for refuge at the house where we have a light lunch and an occasional dip in the pool. Later in the afternoon, we head to the beach again but this time to “La Mansa” sheltered from the wind that begins to rise after noon and with a calm sea that resembles a quiet lagoon, to witness sunsets that arouse the applause of those who are contemplating them.
Besides this beachy routine that Works to perfection to us, we combine it with lunch or dinner in some of our chosen restaurants like Popei (our kid’s favorite), Il Faro, La Huella, La Susana, among others (José Ignacio gastronomy offer deserves a whole blog post that is already in progress).
We also love going to the town to see deco shops like Sentido (located next to La Huella) and La Esteña that sells furniture and divine deco objects, we tour around the ateliers of local and international artists, have a cup of coffee at the picturesque coffee shops and but the best churros at Pepe Nacho to have with the afternoon “mate”.
When we want to escape a bit from the beach or the weather does not accompany us, we like to visit the town of Garzón, 30 km away from José Ignacio. Despite having very few blocks and being stopped in time, this was the place chosen by Francis Mallmann to open his restaurant that bears the same name of the town. We have also visited Bodega Garzón, which in 2018 was awarded as the Best Winery of the New World by The Wine Enthusiast, and as we look out onto the restaurant terrace for a good view of the vineyards, for a little while we felt like in beautiful Tuscany. This is not the only winery in the area, that is becoming an important wine region, there is also the Bodega Oceánica de José Ignacio that I still have on my wish list, and I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to visit it anytime now.
Another must-see is the Garzón Lagoon and its circular bridge designed by the Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. When I first came here in 2010, we had to cross the lagoon by raft, times change...
Beyond all there is to do, one of the things I like most about José Ignacio is that mixture of unspoiled nature with great metropolis gastronomy, the warmth of its people and, as the signs that are throughout the town say : "Here the only thing that runs is the wind ..."