"Darlings," we asked ourselves, "is this a country which works?"
Not at all, that is if we take heed of our friend AS who is convinced, unconvincingly, that there are only two countries in the world which have a legitimate right to such a claim: North Korea and Romania. Indeed, for those seeking the security and convention of a dull democracy, then Uruguay and, in particular, its capital Montevideo, is not the place for them.
But for us it was, and is, a dream become reality.
|Palacio Salvo - a landmark building in central Montevideo|
|reminder of former colonial times - Montevideo town house|
For how could we not be captivated with, and enchanted by, a country where the brilliance of a southern summer sun, shining through the December days, is reflected in the vitality and warmth of a people so relaxed and at one with themselves?
|a cheery shopkeeper leans across his book store counter|
|a woman in the park enjoying a drink of the traditional Mate|
|group of nurses returning to the hospital after the lunch break - note the Mate|
With our Mad Boy, Rafaelito, to act as our guide we toured the old town with its crumbling colonial-style shops and houses, its faded Coca-Cola signs, its bustling markets, street corners and pleasant parks. And at each turn always something to fascinate, to interest, to intrigue. New, new world indeed!
|Coca-Cola, almost a National drink, seen advertised almost everywhere|
|the port area with Lance Hattatt and Rafael González Paz|
|browsing among the books and objets d'art in the Old Town|
|explanations being given by Rafaelito [Rafael González Paz]|
|playing at statues in a small city park within the Old Town|
|possibly not quite the Harrods of Montevideo but hugely interesting|
Denied entry to the port to see the anchor of the 'Admiral Graf Spee', scuttled at the mouth of the River Plate in December 1939, we merrily, through the persuasive talk of Rafaelito, skipped past the guards and into the house where Garibaldi had once upon a time lived.
|Jane Hattatt, Rafael González Paz and Lance Hattatt at Garibaldi' s house|
A music concert, a night at the opera, a tango party [led astray by Rafaelito], a mausoleum, museums, cathedrals and churches, and buskers on buses all served to delight us further.
|staircase, looking down from above, inside the Museum of Decorative Arts|
|inside the mausoleum situated underneath the Plaza Independencia|
|purchasing tickets for the opera , 'Il Duce' at Teatro Solis- a very jolly occasion|
In Pocitos, a residential suburb, we were invited into one of Montevideo's finest extant Art Deco buildings, ate delicious dinners and cavorted on the seashore.
|Art Deco at Edificio el Mástil, 3105 Avenida Brasil|
|clambering over rocks on the shore of the River Plate|
A Sunday market, occupying several streets, proved amazing, a handbag snatched and stolen alarming, a Christmas dinner of uncooked rice [woe on you Rafaelito] inedible, and a trip to Colonia del Sacremento pure heaven.
|young rabbits, just one of countless items for sale in the Sunday street market|
|motoring in Colonia with Rafael González Paz [Rafaelito] and Lance Hattatt|
But of Colonia del Sacremento there will be more to tell! [click on all images to enlarge]