Even though we visited these three cities at different segments of our trip, it seems right to group them together.
Mendoza is a lovely city in the middleish of the country. We did lots of wandering through the central areas but a (the ?) primary reason to come was to do a winery tour. We did spend a few hours with Gage's boomerang - which seemed to have an affinity for high trees...
These wine tours have a huge range of options to visit. There is some sort of symbiotic process to select them…some payments from the wineries to the tours and some cost to the participants? It is opaque to us, but it worked out well. Our tour was through Trout and Wine Tours, the owner was an Irish fellow - Charlie - who relocated to Mendoza years ago.
We ended up with three exquisite choices and one that was ok. Perhaps our level of drinking impacted our perceptions as the day went on?
Our sommelier at the first winery - Mendel - was Silvina Puebla, and she was excellent! Well-schooled in food, wine, chemistry, bread, cigars...you name it..she was engaging and funny and nice. We tasted a new wine, Torrontes, that we all loved (a PERFECT beach wine) - alas not exported by Mendel to the USA as it is such a young wine and so inexpensive. And of course the local speciality Malbec was delish. And I'm not even a wine drinker!
And most surprisingly was the olive oil! They intersperse the vineyards with olive trees and deliver on amazing olive oil. We would have purchased gallons if we didn’t have to head over the border to Chile!
The second winery, Budeguer, was a bit more eclectic - it was the pet project of a wealthy family and the wine was sold in mostly unlabeled bottles, ok - the labels were hand written after your purchase (maybe to remind you what you bought after too many tastes?). They also implemented a new (for Argentina) method of avoiding grapes freezing, by spraying water when the temps drop - quite impressive!
The third winery, Casarena, was our lovely wine and lunch combo. Wonderful wine and food pairings - my mushroom dish was a nice contrast to the meat-heavy bias.
(nb: the Chinese fellow to my left was a buyer in town and the picture was for him, to show the love for the winery!)
Finally the afternoon lead us to Trez, a micro winery. It was ok but surely the day-drinking before this impacted our feelings?
Overall a super fun day and so different than anything we had done previously.
This city in the far north of Patagonia nevertheless felt more like the rest of the middle of the country. It is very alpine and feels also like a ski town (which it is, although we’re here in the off season).
The downtown is very Germanic feeling, as it was settled and planned by Germans!
One topic that we haven’t touched on is the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo movement that we see all over Argentina. In summary it is a symbol from the women who lost children during the last military dictatorship in the 1970’s & 80’s. It still seem fresh on minds as we see the symbols in plazas across the country.
We had two excursions from here. One day up to the el Circuito Chico, and I actually had a lovely bike ride thorough the winding roads. It was nicely quiet, without many tour buses. The others decided on a hike through the gently rolling forest.
I also had a quick stop off at the mountain cemetery...calm yet eerie...
The second was a trip centered around lake country. There are seven lakes that are on this tour, and despite the light rain we rented a car and visited them, making it to each of the spots and then to San Martin de los Andes. It was a lovely trip all around - however a lot of driving for someone who hasn’t driven for five+ months!
This city was our final stop in Argentina - a very tranquil city sitting in a warm valley environment. I think since we were coming up to some more difficult overland travel to Bolivia we didn’t have aggressive plans here. We wandered the local squares and the buildings were beautiful. And they had a parade on April 30, perhaps back to the mothers of Argentina? They also had a strike on May 1, and absolutely nothing was open...
Lill and I made the hike to the top of Cerro San Bernardo since the cable car was closed inexplicably. The hike was a good warm up for the upcoming outdoor activities in Bolivia. Such sights over the city - breathtaking - and beer reward!
Off to Bolivia!