Yesterday, I wrote about my visit to Colonia del Sacramento, and I mentioned that on the tour there were some strange stops. Organized tours usually need to tout the number of places they visit to compete with other vendors and to show the overall value of their package. I always check to see if the other places seem interesting enough to spend time in or if they add enough value to be worth the time. Sometimes these places end up being fantastic, other times they just distract you from getting to spend more time at the main event. For example, in Rio de Janeiro, a lot of tours combine visiting Corcovado to see the Cristo Redentor statue (Christ the Redeemer) and Sugar Loaf, which visiting independently would take much more time and organization. Since both are must-sees, this can be a great benefit. However, some tours add on stopping at Tijuca National Park. This is great for people who want to see the rainforest. But some want to skip this, and some want much more time. Always check out all the stops listed on a tour and decide if that’s the best way to go before getting started.
This particular tour had one main stop – Colonia del Sacramento. However, most tours tack on 3 additional stops to add value plus time for snacks and a bathroom break. On the way, we stopped at a Swiss hotel for coffee and a practically never used bull fighting ring. Both were pleasant and interesting, but not why you get on a bus for a few hours.
On the way back, we stopped at an amazing and weird and bizarre place: The Pencil Museum. I hadn’t done my homework (tsk tsk Stephanie), and I didn’t know we would be stopping here. But I think in this situation that almost made it more awesome.
What is the Pencil Museum? It’s a beautiful little building on Granja Colonia, a farm outside Colonia, which holds multiple Guiness World Records for most pencils, as well as tens of thousands of key rings, and thousands of match boxes, pens, ash trays, and empty perfume bottles. Getting off a bus at the end of a long day to see you’re on a cattle farm in rural Uruguay and walk into a building you think is the restroom, but it’s actually a room full of pencils is an extraordinary experience.
And then, after you tour the pencils and pens and erasers and trinkets, and stare at the World Records framed on the wall, you get to sample dulce de leche! Which, bring cash, because when in Uruguay you should always sample and buy a jar of farm-fresh dulce de leche!
Also, this place had some pretty cool cows.