Travel: Site for Sore Eyes

  • Bobbie Leigh

If you have ever tried to pack too many sights into a 12-day trip, you know how vital it is to build “vacation time” into your vacations. In South America, there is a place that provides nothing but a respite from your travels. The Four Seasons Car-melo in Uruguay (formerly known as the Madison Resort, Golf & Spa) is an ideal winter escape, where you will not experience jet lag if you are traveling from the United States.

It takes a mere 20 minutes to fly from Buenos Aires to Carmelo, or you can slow down the pace by taking a two-hour scenic cruise from Buenos Aires north along the Río de la Plata to the resort. Either way, you will feel as though you have crossed to another continent rather than another country, because visiting South America’s newest Four Seasons Resort is an international experience. Two Balinese warrior sculptures guard the entry, and the 160 acres of expansive woodland and savanna are dotted with the richly decorated stilted rice barns of Indonesia’s Toraja people.

Once you arrive, you will quickly realize that there is no reason to leave. Carmelo offers a variety of leisure activities, including tennis, biking, horseback trail rides, fishing, windsurfing, and golf on an 18-hole, par-72 championship golf course that rivals Pebble Beach. The spa here is also exceptional. Even if you have overdosed on spa life at other hotels and resorts, you will find that treatments at Carmelo rate among the best. The spa’s Harmony Fusion massage—two therapists work in sync with each other on either side of your body—is worth the trip alone. With its water pools and fountains, the spa feels completely Asian, except for the expert massage therapists, well-trained and soft-spoken local women who perform a variety of body treatments and wraps, therapeutic massages, facials, and hair and nail care for men and women.

The accommodations feature nearly all the comforts of home, yet are designed to remind you that you have traveled to an enticing destination. The 44 wood-paneled bungalows and duplex suites each have exposed-beam cathedral ceilings, hand-carved four-posters, huge stone baths, fireplaces, and outdoor patios facing the river. The style could be dubbed “South American Zen,”
because the work of local weavers and artisans meshes so successfully with the understated Asian decor.

The cuisine is of another influence altogether. Pura, the resort’s dining room, is run by chef Theirry Granero, who transforms local produce into French culinary masterpieces. Most impressive is the range of Granero’s repertoire. You could easily dine at Carmelo for a week and never repeat a meal. His zesty Argentine beef cooked on an asado, a type of slanted grill, is not to be missed. Granero, who previously worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and Germany, also turns out sumptuous American-style breakfasts with an array of healthful breads and muffins and homemade peach preserves.

With so much to look forward to, you might want to skip the sights and just head straight for Carmelo, where the only thing you will need to schedule is serious
downtime.

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