The Lonely Planet guide to Argentina says that Mendoza is a trap! We agree! Our five day stay there was only long enough to ensure that we will be back. It is a small, walkable city with some very attractive squares and parks, wide side walks lined with umbrella shaded eating establishments, and, of course, the center of Argentina's fast growing wine industry.
Mendoza lies just east of the Andes Mountains and is basically an oasis in the desert. The indigenous Huarpe people used the snowmelt from the Andes to irrigate their fields and this continues today augmented by the large aquifer that is beneath the region. Being in the foothills of the Andes, many of the wineries have vineyards located at different altitudes which enhances the quality of the wine they produce.
We did an all-day wine tour of Maipu visitng three wineries and having lunch at the old family home on the last visit of the day. Tempus Alba, Finca Flichman, and Luis Segundo Correas were the places we visited on our nine hour tour. If we had drunk all the wine presented to us, we would have consumed nearly 1 1/2 bottles of wine each! We paced ourselves in order to make it through the day. The mid-afternoon parilla (barbeque) meal on the veranda at San Luis capped off a wonderful field trip.
Flichman's Private Cellar
The weekend we were in town the Megadegustacion (Megatasting) was being held. Two blocks of one of the main streets off the central square were blocked off and over 200 wineries were dispensing their wares from the tented booths. The weekend after we left was the annual Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia (National Wine Harvest Festival) culminating in a parade and the coronation of the festival queen. McDonald's was even running a special for the occasion: a double hamburger, two empanadas, and small bottle of wine for $47 (that's pesos--about USD$11). Oh yes, most of the many fountains in the squares around town were spewing red/rose colored water while we were there--definitely a wine oriented place.
One evening after an early dinner and stopping in at the Iglesia, Convento y Basilica de San Francisco (mass was being held) we heard a band playing in Plaza San Martin (General Jose de San Martin was instrumental in the independence movements in Argentina, Chile, and Peru in the early 1800s). We stopped for a look-see and spent the next 45 minutes there listening to music, speeches and watching traditional dance troupes from Argentina and Chile. It was a birthday party for San Martin whose statue dominates the center of the square!
A visit to Mendoza would not be complete without a late morning breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. Offerta #1 cost a little less than USD$3 and included a small juice, water with gas, cafe con leche, and two media-lunas (small, sweet croissants). In fact, it was so good, we ordered a third!!
Breakfast with the Ramblers
The return bus trip to Santiago was much more pleasant than one to Mendoza. The sky was clear over the Paso de la Libertadores, we saw Mount Aconcagua, got our jamon y queso sandwich lunch and only had to spend one hour at the border (a 6 1/2 hour trip vs the nearly 10 hour ride a few days earlier).
We are currently enjoying Santiago in our lovely small, but new and modern apartment located near the centro. We have only a few days left on our current South American experience, but are already thinking about and planning next year's winter get-away south of the equator!
View of Santiago Centro from our apartment balcony (yes, there are flying bicycles here!)