The people who swarm Georgetown on Saturday nights seem driven by a manic curiosity: Something might happen, they think, and we might miss it. They come to dance and eat, to pose and watch, to be part of the kinetic buzz that fills the streets for hours.

The folks who filter into Georgetown an hour or so after sunrise have something else in mind. They know what they're missing. They have come on purpose, in the gentle lapse between the last bar call and the first Sunday brunch, when the streets are quiet and belong to just a few.

Sunday morning, it is hushed enough to hear the click of bicycle gears as a woman on a 10-speed whizzes down the middle of M Street. By 7:30, the weather is heating into humid stickiness, the kind of day when air clings like wet Kleenex.

Peggy DeBell anchors her dog, a chocolate-colored labrador named Mousse, to a parking meter on M Street. Every Sunday, she and Mousse run three miles, then DeBell gets bagels for breakfast.

"It's a weekly pilgrimage . . . . I think it's the nicest time of the day in Georgetown," she says. "It's the only time you can actually walk on the streets. It's actually better a little earlier in the morning, around 7 a.m."

DeBell lives in Georgetown, but "I usually avoid it on Friday and Saturday nights."

Weekend nights at Wisconsin and M bring a frenzy of movement; people cross the street in hurried packs. Sunday mornings are to window shop, or stroll, or pause.

Leary McCall parks his red 10-speed on the south side of M and stands for a long moment, the brim of his white cap tilted up, his green backpack slumped on the sidewalk, as he wipes a smudge from his plastic goggles.

"Right now, yeah, it's quiet and peaceful. You can get around," says McCall, who works as a museum guard for the Smithsonian Institution and lives in Southeast Washington. "You can walk and enjoy. When things begin to open, you're right there, if you want to buy something . . . . In a few hours, things will begin to crowd up."

The previous night's crowds have left remnants of their fun: Seven bulging bags of garbage and 14 metal trash cans are piled near McCall, in front of Clyde's of Georgetown.

In quantity, the garbage lends its own air to the morning, a sour vapor so heavy you can taste it. Scattered, the litter tickles the imagination like clues to a mystery: What happened here to leave this residue?

A trail of trash in front of the Burger King includes mashed cups, some straws and a crushed red rose. Another pile on Wisconsin Avenue yields cigarette butts and a stained pink ballet slipper.

The trash will vanish by 9 a.m., loaded into trucks by engineers of the inevitable cleanup that is also part of Sunday morning. Like a movie set readied for a nightly crowd scene, Georgetown will be swept and laundered, hosed down and spruced up.

Someone will drag a broom across the brick sidewalks. Someone with a rag and ladder will polish the door pulls of Georgetown Park shops.

In a narrow, steamy room to the right of Clyde's, Anthony Felson-Ceasay washes tablecloths and napkins.

Two giant aqua Washmaster 1000 machines spin the tablecloths until they're clean; two other machines tumble them dry.

Felson-Ceasay folds the warm ones quickly, before they wrinkle, then heats a pressing machine for the rest. He threads a blue checkered cloth under the roller, like paper through a typewriter carriage, and the cloth drops in ironed pleats to a table below.

"In the morning, it's really tough. You have to sort everything -- put the napkins aside, put the uniforms aside," he says. "It takes about half an hour for a wash. If you're doing uniforms, you have to wash them twice."

Felson-Ceasay doesn't count the items, but a manager at Clyde's says 400 tablecloths and 1,200 napkins will go through the wash on an average Sunday morning.

Around the corner, at the Little Tavern on Wisconsin Avenue, Daka Oliver holds court behind the counter, a Little Tavern paper hat tilted over one ear.

"The people who went out last night, they might wake up real hungry, and they don't have time to start fixing anything. Some people don't like to cook in the morning," Oliver says.

He says the Sunday morning breakfast special -- two eggs, toast, bacon or sausage and coffee for $1.99 -- is very popular with patrons.

If Georgetown on a Saturday night froths with conspicuous activity, Sunday morning seems to pare life back to its essentials -- something to eat, a morning paper, a quiet block to take a walk.

Luette and Stan Coussis of Arlington lean on the wall of Garfinckel's, eating bagels and blueberry muffins from paper plates. They both wear shorts and T-shirts, hers still damp from a 10-kilometer race in West Potomac Park.

"This is an anniversary breakfast," says Stan. "This is our first anniversary."

"He bought me breakfast," says Luette.

"I splurged and got her bagels."

"Honey, you're so wonderful," says Luette. She says it as if she means it.