“My work is loving the world…
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here.”
— Mary Oliver
Last Friday night, José and I made a last-minute decision to go on a roadtrip over the weekend, our decision being inspired by two primary motivations: Firstly, the following day was our 18-month anniversary and we were excited to do something a little different this time to celebrate. But even more importantly, we were inspired by the weather forecast.
Montevideo in the springtime can be full of blustery wind and rain, but the forecast for this past weekend read one thing for all of Saturday and all of Sunday — pure and unadulterated sunshine. If the forecast proved accurate (always a big ask, I know), it would be the warmest, clearest weekend we’d had yet since arriving back from the U.S.
How could we not take advantage of such gorgeous spring weather and get out of town?
The only question that remained was where. Instead of heading to the beach, we decided to head inland, to a hill range called the Sierras de Minas. And for Saturday night, we found a guesthouse called Cumara, in a small town we’d never heard of: Aiguá.
I knew little of what to expect from the weekend, and the anticipation was nothing short of thrilling.
The hill range proved to be beautiful, full of rocky terrain and undulating horizons — but I’ll wait and tell you more about the mountains next week. Today, I want to share with you the even more unexpected discovery of our weekend in the Sierras: the guesthouse I could barely pull myself away from on Sunday morning.
Our guesthouse, Cumara, was built in an old colonial-style home, right along the main street of Aiguá. The design of the house was one I’ve always loved — the kind with a central, enclosed courtyard, with the different rooms and parts of the house wrapping around the open space, as though protecting it from the outside world. Cumara’s courtyard held an old, covered well, its sides decorated with colorful, tiled mosaics; there were scattered, eclectic tables, many of them made from old sewing machines; and covering it all were twisting, twirling rows of verdant grapevines.
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We spent most of Saturday night in Aiguá’s sole restaurant — and at times, we were even its sole patrons. It wasn’t until Sunday morning, as José and I set up our breakfast in Cumara’s courtyard, that we began to notice just how magical a place it was.
Our trip to Aiguá was the first time I’d ventured into Uruguay’s interior, so for breakfast, we had bought a classic of the interior at the local supermarket — huge, layered rolls known as galletas de campaña, or “cookies of the countryside.” The long shape of the galletas almost reminded me of an accordian, with pleats you can pull apart and eat separately like thinner pieces of bread. We’d also bought a creamy, spreadable cheese to go with them.
Finally, with a cup of tea for me and chocolate milk for José, our Sunday morning breakfast feast was complete.
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Normally, after you’ve showered and packed and had breakfast, that might be the expected time to check out of a guesthouse and continue on your journey — but for some reason on that Sunday morning in Aiguá, we couldn’t bear to leave just yet.
Just as we’d hoped it would be, the sun was shining, illuminating the grapevines and casting vivid shadows across the courtyard. The air was quiet and calm — the perfect soundtrack for a long, leisurely reading session. And even the guesthouse’s owners, a vibrant, smiling woman named Marcella and her husband Gustavo, encouraged us to linger. They would lock the house up, but said we could stay in the courtyard as long as we liked and simply show ourselves out the side door.
We eagerly accepted Marcella’s invitation, making her courtyard our home — even if for just a single morning. I read and journaled and sketched — of course — choosing a few leftover galletas as my subject, which Marcela had kindly placed in a wire basket as we were laying out our breakfast earlier.
That day, there seemed to be enough time for every ritual and rhythm I love most in the world.
As I was sketching the galletas, José was reading in a chair beside me — but nearly every time I glanced up at him from my sketch, I saw him looking not at his book, but all around him.
“It’s like everywhere you look here,” he said, “you see some other beautiful little thing.”
By the time I finished sketching, we really did need to leave Aiguá and begin making our way back to Montevideo, but first, I wanted to try and capture as many of those ‘beautiful little things’ José and I had loved about the guesthouse. And since I didn’t have the time to sketch them all, I resorted to my second best option: My camera.
I first turned to a small, open room off the courtyard, complete with prayer flags and vintage treasures. And it was as I was photographing an antique scale laden with fresh flowers, that I noticed a chalkboard sign behind it bearing one of my favorite words and themes. I didn’t know it was possible, but I fell even more in love with Cumara in that moment.
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Next, I captured some of Cumara’s windows — and window-like features — that all seemed to celebrate color and light.
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Finally, I turned to the courtyard itself — to the simple beauty of fresh flowers in the sun, and the patterns of dappled sunlight and shadows playing across a wall of bamboo.
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On our way back to Montevideo at last, I pulled out my phone and opened Instagram, wanting to share just a bit of Aiguá’s magic while it was still so very fresh in my mind. I chose my favorite photo from the morning — the one of my cup of tea and Kindle in the courtyard — and without a moment’s hesitation, wrote a single line for the caption:
Simple pleasures on a sun-drenched Sunday morning.
Just then, we passed by Aiguá’s visitors’ center on the outskirts of town.
“Wanna stop by?” José asked me. “Maybe they have a brochure or something for you to take.”
(Throughout our relationship, José has been an excellent sport of my love for art journaling, always keeping an eye out for little pieces of ephemera I can add to my journal.)
We pulled into the parking lot, but before I’d even got out of the car, José was already busy reading a large display sign in front of the center, that held one map of Aiguá and another of the surrounding region.
“You’ll never guess what the town’s motto is,” José said to me, pointing to the display.
Leaning over José to see out his window, I could hardly believe what it said:
La belleza de lo simple — or as it says in English, “the beauty of simplicity”
Our whole weekend had been an exercise in serendipity, of last-minute decisions and unknown towns and random guesthouses that turned out to be not so random after all, and now here was one last moment of kismet. It was as though Aiguá somehow knew what it was that we had loved most about the town — and indeed, what we’d even learned from it — and it wanted to make sure we had the perfect, memorable phrase to carry our lesson home with us:
To never be afraid to head somewhere new, and to always — no matter where we find ourselves in the world — search for the beauty in simple things.
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How has October been for you so far, friends? I’d love to hear about it below!
Know that I’m wishing you continued inspiration and beauty this month.
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