If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen I’ve been moving quite rapidly lately – through four different countries in as many weeks. And many of the places I’ve stopped, I’ve not particularly enjoyed – not only was the strain of budget travel taking its toll, but I just wasn’t seeing anything I liked. As you know, I didn’t warm to La Paz, and the cities of Argentina were loud, brash, scruffy and incredibly hot and sticky. Then I arrived in Uruguay and it was literally a breath of fresh air.
In fact, I like it so much, I think I’ve found the next place where I’m going to settle for a while. The capital, Montevideo, is one of the most pleasant cities I’ve been to.
My days here so far I have spent walking every inch of the city, and the more I see the more I like. For starters, its position on the coast is ideal – the old town and port area are on a promontory so when wandering the city streets, you regularly catch a glimpse of the ocean, or receive a fresh sea breeze as it whistles up the street.
One Sunday evening, I walked along the seafront Ramblas for about five miles, enjoying the sun lowering over the Atlantic, along with local families, couples and groups of teenagers civilly sipping their maté.
In the city centre, I keep discovering excellent-quality cafés maintaining their ‘60s décor and waiting staff, serving delicious pizzas, pastas (many Italians settled in Uruguay), chavitos (massive sandwiches filled with steak, ham and egg) and more, all coming in portions fit for four (which suits me – as anyone who knows me knows, I can eat).
People are cosmopolitan yet very amiable, and the streets, even in the centre, are spacious and crowd-free, while the traffic is light and – more importantly – polite.
There are plenty of museums I’m still waiting to investigate; I’m looking forward to dinner in one of the grills in the smart port market; and there are lots of bookshops in the University area begging to be rummaged through.
Best of all, Uruguay imports some of my favourite chocolate from England, along with its finest teas. Yep, I’m happy to stick around for a while.
Montevideo is the 2013 Ibero-American Capital of Culture – see what’s happening on their culture and arts website.
See my trio of guides to Montevideo.