Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mendoza: Vineyards and Sun-kissed Beauties

Chris had done his homework and arranged for us to stay with a couple of couchsurfers in the city of Mendoza.  Nacho and Franco were wonderful hosts—not only did they give us all the pointers we needed to explore the city, but hearing how much we missed good bacon and eggs, they bought us some, which we woke up to the following morning! 

Mendoza is pretty easy to navigate, and though not a particularly remarkable city in and of itself, is very relaxing and easy-going: it’s a joy to sit at cafés on the edges of its leafy plazas or wander its streets—the center is framed by four parks, one at each corner of a several block grid.  A truly bizarre experience was a snake farm that resembled less a farm or museum or zoo than it did one of those eerie tunnel rides at an amusement park… it did feature a twenty foot python in a glass cage!

More of interest than the city itself were all the vineyards surrounding it, and it was with anticipation that we found a bike rental that supplied you with a map of the various wineries.  We had fallen in with a fellow American the day before, Wiley J. by name, student by trade, recently come over from Chile where he had been for the semester or the year, I don’t remember.  He gladly joined us, as we cycled the dusty backroads of Mendoza in search of a buena desgustación!  Well unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us, the winetasting market had apparently grown cynical of all the freeloaders in recent years and had consequently started charging between 20 and 30 pesos per person for a tour.  This was somewhat above our means, so, our spirits crushed, we were forced to settle for a wine museum (that nonetheless included a free tasting), a cheaper winery (15 pesos), and a family-run chocolateria.  This last one proved an incredible find, though—molten chocolate infused with delightful hints of various fruits and liqueurs; the family also pickled their own olives in a slew of different spices and flavors, which we also got to sample.  For my money, though, Argentina’s best kept secret are its Mendocinas—you can keep your Rosario girls any day!

Chris, Wiley (r.) and me with our lovely tour guide at the family-run chocolateria

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