Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Thanks to the swine flu the wife got a surprise 4 day weekend. Thursday was actually a holiday but in an effort to disinfect offices and help cut down on cases some local governments were shutting their doors on Friday. As did the sponsor so we quickly changed our flight and headed to Mendoza a day early. BTW- LAN airlines you are the best, no change fees?!? Love it!
Although technically our second weekend in Argentina it was our first weekend traveling. It is always interesting to see how difficult it is to travel in a country. How expensive is the taxi to the airport, how far away is the airport, how difficult is the airport to get through, how do they board the planes, how do they announce flights, what is security like, can we take liquids…there are a lot of little things that once your used to aren’t a big deal but figuring them out in the first place can be a pain.
So far Buenos Aires gets the award for easiest domestic travel. The airport is 15 minutes from our hotel, a mere 6 USD cab ride. It is modern, easy to navigate, small and painless. And we can take liquids!! They even give announcements in English although we didn’t find that to be the case in the Mendoza airport for our return flight. Note to self- practice numeros!
So after an easy, breezy journey we landed in Mendoza on Thursday afternoon. Our hotel was located on one of the cities many plazas, had a cute lobby, restaurant, an extremely helpful staff and after upgrading to an executive room we were more than pleased. Our standard room was about the size of a broom closet and although we’re used to small rooms we decided the whopping $8 USD a night was worth the extra space.
We had a leisurely and late lunch at a restaurant a block or so from the hotel and enjoyed a very nice local malbec. We bummed around for a bit and eventually went back to the hotel to book our tours for the weekend.
We chose to do a high mountain tour on Friday. It was a full-day, 12 hour tour driving up into the Andes almost to the Chilean border. We were one of the first pickups on Friday morning and as we gathered the rest of our group it became quite obvious we’d be the only non-Spanish speakers in the group. After about 15 minutes of speaking our guide did lean over and tell us that although the majority of the tour would be Spanish she’d give us the high points in English. She was actually pretty good about it but it was funny how long she would speak to the others and then give us about two sentences.
With or without English the Andes were stunning. I’m so used to the vegetation of mountains giving them their color but here it was the mountains themselves. Everywhere you looked you saw countless shades of greens, yellows, reds, oranges, browns, grays…it made for a tremendously scenic drive...
Along the way we stopped at a small ski village or what I would call a bunny slope on the side of the road, had lunch at the last town before the Chile border, and stopped to see the Incan Bridge, a natural rock formation over the Mendoza River...
Unbeknownst to us the tallest mountain in the Americas is actually located here so we got to cross that off the list without even expecting it! Aconcagua Mountain…
We were pretty wiped after our day but did find the energy to go have an amazing steak dinner at a little parilla near the hotel. 10oz fillets for under $8 USD…can’t beat it!
Saturday we spent the early part of the day shopping and exploring Mendoza’s many plazas. My favorite was definitely Plaza Espana which was filled with beautiful mosaic tiles.
After lunch we headed out for our winery tour. We visited one medium size winery, an olive oil distillery and a small artisan winery. Again we were the one and only English speakers but our guide was very nice and said he enjoyed practicing his English with us. We even got our own guide at the last winery and she was a hoot. She kinda reminded me of Charo but in slow motion.
The wine was of course wonderful and we even bought some to cart back with us to Buenos Aires. I seriously contemplated buying a vat of the incredible olive oil but the Wife said no…thank God.
We had a quiet dinner on Saturday night and spent Sunday morning walking around and sitting at the Plaza de Indepencia writing post cards and enjoying the sunshine.
It was a lovely weekend. Although we did do a lot of touristy things we also had time to relax and enjoy the city itself.
Rho gets here tomorrow morning! We’ll be taking the city by storm but first this weekend we’re headed to El Calafate to see the glaciers! Sooo excited!