The City of Lights

Don’t you just love it when you find a well-hidden gem in a familiar place? Well, I had one of those discoveries a couple of months ago.

I’m telling you, one of the best distractions when you’re waiting for important, life-changing decisions, is visits from friends. This time, it was Sophie who came to visit from the US. I first met Sophie back in our beloved Edinburgh in 2012, when she was out busking with her smokin’ squeezebox. I loved her rendition of Lady Gaga and Queen songs so much I invited her to perform live as part of my Fringe show that year. As it happens, both Sophie and I had to leave the UK shortly after that, going back to our respective native lands. But another thing we both have in common is the complete inability to spend long periods of time in the same geographical position, so I received an email from her saying she was planning to travel around South America  for a few months and would like to come see me. Yay!

So after trekking across the continent from Ecuador to Peru to Chile to Uruguay (apologies if I’m missing out any countries you’ve been to), Sophie arrived in my border hometowns for a few days of relaxed fun. I’ve got an already established tour route to show people round Livramento-Rivera, but I always try to find something new and exciting (which can be really hard sometimes). This time, I thought we could just tweak the route a bit and take her to a vineyard that no one in the family had been to yet. We have quite a few vineyards around here, so there are plenty to choose from. After doing a bit of research, my sister and I opted for this small, family-run place on the Uruguayan side.

We had a quick look at the map, shoved Sophie in the car and set off. And this is how we found out that the FlavNav does take wrong turns occasionally. The road signs were unclear, and we got to a dirt track ending at a crossroads. I suggested going left, we did. After driving for a few miles of nothing but empty fields, we spotted something to our right side. We were driving right on the border line and this thing was on the Brazilian side of the road. As we approached, we could see it looked like some sort of newly-built condo. It was fenced off, which wasn’t surprising as it’s a common thing to do around houses and flats here. What was unusual about it was that each corner of this isolated area was *ahem* decorated with a red spike with a cow’s skull, also painted red with black horns, on top. We slowed down to have a better view of the place. We passed a few houses and a small gatehouse with something written in German across the top. We continued on until we saw a large gateway with a futuristic-looking tower flying the Brazilian flag, and an arch which read “City of Lights” in Portuguese (Cidade das Luzes). The strangest thing was the last big building we saw near the other end of the fence, which looked like a temple, or place of worship. Its architecture seemed to mix and match Islamic and Judaic characteristics, but it also featured a cross in there somewhere. And outside on the porch and all around it, there were hundreds of garden statues of everything you can think of: gnomes, happy frogs, Snow White, saints, Orishas…

Anyway… we figured out the vineyard was NOT there, took a u-turn and eventually found the right way. We got there and woke up the poor owner’s son, who had decided to hide in his car for a siesta and was startled by seeing three random girls wandering into his wine-making sanctuary (he’s probably trained to identify alcoholics), and ended up giving us a lovely tour. Word of advice: book your vineyard tour in advance if you’re ever in these parts. People like to be prepared for visitors.

No, we never found out what the “City of Lights” actually was. Not even after the wine. Suggestions on a postcard.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. rak
    Dec 23, 2015 @ 17:21:06

    As an “outsider”, I like to spend my sundays looking for something to do around the border. For lack of information, I always end up in the same places, like Cerro Chato or some vineyard in the Brazilian side of the border… Recently I heard of this place and, as odd as it sounds, I believe I will check it out on any given sunday. 🙂
    If you have some tips on nice wineries in Uruguay, please let me know. I find it very difficult to find information online about Livramento/Rivera, and most people I talk to around here do not know their way around either…


    • flavnav
      Dec 28, 2015 @ 17:19:38

      Hi Rak, it can really be tricky to find information online about this place. I tend to joke that people know what the internet is over there, but they are not entirely sure what to make of it. I’m assuming you’ve checked the 636 website, Carrau is also meant to be a good place to visit. Other than that, check out Frontera Ecológica, they used to have a kiosk on Sarandi Avenue outside Club Uruguay (if I remember well) for hikes and other outdoors activities in the area. 🙂


  2. Matheus G
    Apr 19, 2016 @ 22:31:37

    Hi Flavnav, about city of lights, I saw this place last saturday night with a friend, we didn’t understand what it was, we went there around 4am on sunday to see what the hell it was, we get inside, we took some photos and now we want to know more about that place, nobody in this city knows about city of lights. ( sorry for my english, isn’t good )


    • flavnav
      Apr 26, 2016 @ 12:45:11

      Hi Matheus… it really is a bizarre place, isn’t it? I think it’s some sort of retreat, I’ve heard that some of the town’s important people (business managers, judges, doctors) go there sometimes to take a break.


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