Day 3 – The Surprises of Montevideo

Montevideo Riviera

Montevideo Riviera

When thinking about this trip, we were not especially looking forward to visiting Uruguay.  After all, it is a very small country. The population of the entire country is about the same as the combined population of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale.  Wednesday morning, the ship docked in Montevideo, the capital city.  We had arranged a city tour for the morning and once we left the ship we found our guide and got started. Montevideo surprised us.  We loved the beaches along the Rio de la Plata where some of the nicest neighborhoods were located.  Montevideo was the last of the major cities established by the Spanish just before the period of colonizing ended. The result? The city looks much more modern than the other capitals of Latin America.  The beauty of the beaches combined with the historical signature of the center city left us saying, “We would love to live here.”

Taranco Palace

Taranco Palace

There are many reasons to love this city.  First, the people were warm and inviting.  We found people helpful and interested in us. (Keep reading and you will hear how we discovered this!)  Many people who live in the large cities become weary of visitors. We did not find this to be the case in Montevideo.  Second, we pace of life and the vibe. No one was in a hurry. People were enjoying each other and the beauty around them.  Third, we were enchanted by the history.  In the city center, you could see the buildings of each generation of people who have lived there since the city was first established. For example, when walking in the old city, we stumbled upon Museo de Artes Decorativas also known as Palacio Taranco. The entrance was free into this renovated and restored mansion that briefly served as a hotel.  Beautifully restored, it was brimming with history of Montevideo along with decor and art from the late 19th century. This visit was such a treat for us giving us a feeling of what the city was like at that time as well as the awareness that the people want to keep their history alive.  Of course, the mention of Uruguay and history would be incomplete without a visit to the stadium where the first World Cup was hosted.   Centennial Stadium is holy ground for the sport.  Uruguay hosted and won the first World Cup competition in 1930, but you would think it was yesterday.

Centenial stadiumFootball pride continues just as strong today as ever.

Following the city tour we were deposited in Independence Plaza so that we could walk down the pedestrian street Sarandi.  There we found a glorious bookstore filling a glorious historic building.  Sandy had a hard time dragging me out of there for the walk back to the ship.  As we walked Columbus Street toward the dock, we passed through a neighborhood filled with late 19th century buildings.  The street fronts were long abandoned, but as we looked up, the facades remained, giving us a hint of the beauty of the street before it was abandoned.  People had given up on this neighborhood two generations before.  It struck us how culture and history in all its beauty can be easily lost. It takes only a generation to let it go…and it is gone forever.

gate at old cityAs we gazed upward at the facades, a man came and tapped me on the shoulder.  His name was Jesper, and he had noticed our interest in the buildings.  He had walked away from his desk to come and speak with us. He could tell we were tourists, and he explained that he and his wife had begun an urban restoration project.  They had purchased an abandoned building, renovated it and were now renting the upper floor apartments.  They also created a store front downstairs.  Jesper and his wife showed us some of the buildings they were brokering and then they gave us a tour of the building they had restored.  The apartments were beautiful.  We were so grateful for their dedication to this neighborhood and to injecting life into the community through their work.  Of course, Sandy and I were more than surprised that they approached us (and didn’t want to sell us anything!), and that they shared their story with us! When we keep history and culture alive, it means more than honoring the past.  It means giving a gift to the future, a gift of rootedness and meaning. We thank God for this experience and for the lessons learned in Montevideo.

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Sandy on February 4, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Ready to go back.

    Reply

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