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One a quiet Sunday morning, the streets of Montevideo are almost empty. The city is slowly awakening from a night of fiesta, another journey into the revelry of the dark which South America embraces as a proud tradition.
Music had escaped the bars of the capital and filled the crowded streets; the restaurants had overflowed with groups eating into the small hours; and the children had set off fireworks on the pavements, either unaware or unconcerned with their explosive dangers.
But on this Sunday morning you can see the city for its innocence – the same way the study of a sleeping body reveals features without the self-conscious.
Montevideo has long been ignored by many Western tourists. Dwarfed in size by neighbouring Argentina and Brazil, Uruguay is often left in the shadows of the tourist trail.
It is, though, a beautiful city full of fascinating architecture, water vistas and welcoming public spaces.
What’s it like in Montevideo, Uruguay?
Walking as everyone wakes, you find fishermen by the water; grocers setting up their stands; and early risers stretching the ache of sleep from their legs.
The smell of coffee wafts from a restaurant and from one house the notes from a piano drift into the morning.
As the sun hits a granite wall, it sparkles like a million diamonds jostling for attention. Most of the buildings are still in slumber, though. The rays of light slowly bring them to life as the yellows and browns of their walls and doors are revealed.
A dog barks. Not an aggressive or intimidating bark, just a greeting to the day. A nearby cat, emaciated and with large yellow eyes, sits in the sun and soaks up the heat.
Montevideo is not overrun with stray animals but, like most big cities, they are a part of the urban ecosystem.
The rest of the ecosystem seems relatively in balance for a large South American city. There are few overt signs of poverty, there is a comforting sense of security on the streets, and there’s a good nature in the interactions between passing strangers.
As a day like this begins, it’s hard to see why tourists have generally avoided Uruguay and its capital.
The centre of Montevideo, the historic areas and the waterfront all offer a seemingly endless bounty of treasures to discover and explore. It’s friendly, quaint and clean.
This morning the city is awakening but it’s the tourist crowd that should perhaps be waking up to itself.