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House Talk

No. 28 - September, 2008

Scaling Down with Style in the "St. Tropez of Uruguay"
A talk with Karen Mannix and Ken MacMillan

Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine often encounter many sellers who want to scale down and simplify their lifestyles and the question is always the same – but where would I go? Meet Karen Mannix and Ken MacMillan, long time Bay Area residents, who decided to take a giant leap and buy a home in Uruguay. They found themselves with grown children and the desire to live elsewhere with an interesting life style. They do not consider themselves independently wealthy but trusted that they could find a place that would fit their needs.

Their search began in Mexico, then continued on to Central America, Argentina, Panama and finally Europe. They settled on the South American country of Uruguay because they liked the coastal region and the climate. Their top priorities were met - a stable, clean and safe country with excellent food in an economy where they felt their financial investment would be secure. In addition, they feel that Uruguay is free of the stress of conflicts that are present in many parts of the world. The Uruguayan way of life is full of passion, culture, and simplicity. In fact, on the website infoplease.com, Uruguay is referred to as “the Switzerland of South America – an uneventful safe haven.”

When the decision had been made, Karen and Ken came back to the Bay Area, sold their home and then faced the hardest part of the moving saga - what to do with a lifetime of possessions when each one contained a memory. The solution? The most precious possessions would be loaned to friends and family for their personal enjoyment with the understanding that the items could be reclaimed in the future.

With anticipation and excitement, the adventuresome couple departed from their familiar surroundings and loved ones, each with two suitcases, and set off to find their dream home. . After six months of searching, they settled on a Urugauyan town called Punta del Este, situated along the ocean with long stretches of white beaches, rivers, lakes, golf courses, tennis courts and beautiful homes. They fell in love with an old Mediterranean-style golf clubhouse, nearly one hundred years old, located in an exclusive and well-established neighborhood. Karen describes the house as having “all the right things wrong with it.” It was structurally sound with 2,000 square feet of living space all on one level. The house includes three bedrooms, three baths, two-foot thick walls, a French tile roof, black slate floors, French doors with shutters inside and out, large living room and kitchen and adjacent servant’s quarters with bedroom and bath. The building is surrounded by beautiful wisteria, tropical flowers and well-established gardens. Lastly - like ALL residences in the area, it has an outdoor wooden barbecue where the men cook. Indeed, Uruguay is famous for its organic, grass-fed beef which costs about six dollars for two- and-one-half pounds of good steak.

Karen and Ken are just beginning to discover the magic of this delightful spot. It is known as the St. Tropez of Uruguay. During the summer months of January and February, the population of Punta del Este increases to 250,000 and in the remaining months, the population decreases to about 10,000. During the two busy summer months, many people rent out their homes to the visitors, who come mostly from Europe. A large home can rent for as much as forty thousand dollars a month and a small average home can rent for three or four thousand dollars. Everyone enjoys the many fine restaurants which are mostly French or Italian. The tourists also enjoy a multitude of water activities. Everyone loves the slow pace which includes afternoon siestas, great music and dancing and late-night suppers.

Karen and Ken offer the following advice to others who are considering what it would take to have a life-changing adventure:

  • You can have a fabulous life without being totally rich
  • You can be excited with your own life by having the courage to live your dreams
  • You can travel to other parts of the world and feel safe and welcomed
  • You can step out of the world that you know into a new world that will expand your vision

To learn more, you may contact Karen directly at kdeleste@hotmail.com.

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For further information or questions for our House Talk column, 
please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
or call us at 510-326-5055.

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