No matter where we live, the start of summer is usually a happy time – we shed winter’s clothes, constrictions, and inhibitions as we celebrate the beginning of warm weather, long evenings, vacations, and a more relaxed pace of life.
So this afternoon, I join thousands of Montevideans wandering along the 22.2 kilometre La Rambla, the longest continuous sidewalk in the world. Trying to access the beach side from across the street gives literal meaning to the phrase the quick or the dead (crosswalks? I don’t think so). But once you find a gap in the traffic, you’re ready for a great afternoon of people watching.
The crowd separates itself into two groups- the beach-goers and the sidewalk browsers. I figure the Atlantic hasn’t warmed up quite enough for swimming yet because only a brave few are in the water. Most people are lounging on the sand, showing off sometimes-more, sometimes-less beach-ready bodies, playing volleyball or soccer, or flagging down the snack vendors.
Up on the sidewalk, the wheelers, the walkers, and the sitters compete for a place in the action. Cyclists dart in and out of the crowd (warning bells? I don’t think so), and roller bladers glide or stagger by. A man pushes an elderly woman in a wheelchair while his wife holds the woman’s hand.
Young, buff-bodied men with their shirts off swagger by, eyeing young, tight-jeaned women, who pretend not to notice them. People walk Golden Retrievers, and Boxers, and Bull Terriers, who strain against their leashes in an effort to make contact. Elderly couples in large sunglasses and sweaters hold hands and take careful steps.
On benches, sometimes supplemented by lawn chairs, moms and dads watch affectionately while grandmas and grandpas cuddle grandkids. Women cuddle each other. Middle-aged couples drape their arms across each other’s shoulders. Friends meet up with friends and hug- not the “eew, I can’t wait for this to be over” kind of hug but a HUG. Elderly ladies with swollen ankles, their hands clasped on top of their purses, watch the passing scene, maybe remembering hugs of their own.
An afternoon like this begs to be extended, and the Hyatt Centric Hotel, where I’ve relocated for the business meeting portion of my Montevideo visit, offers just the place: a pocket-sized, outdoor patio, with seats facing the sea. Since dinner won’t begin for most Montevideans until 10ish, it’s a great spot for a drink or a snack or a sweet – or maybe all three.
The sun disappears behind the luxury apartment buildings, the traffic throbs past, blasting Spanish club music, and it’s time to put on a sweater against the oceanside evening breeze. But there’s no denying that summer has arrived in Montevideo- and this grateful Canadian is happy to be a part of it.