We arrive back in Mendoza after what seems like an eternal bus journey. In truth, it’s only 10 hours long but it should take seven and to make matters worse, Rich is missing the Spurs game because we are running late. He’s not a happy bunny. But after two hours getting through customs and a driver who refused to go above 40mph, we finally arrive in the city. Unfortunately, Spurs have taken a pummelling so Rich is no happier but at least we are here.
We check in to our hostel, Hostel Empedrado, and sign ourselves up for that evening’s barbecue. After freshening up, we sit down with the rest of the residents to a great feast of empanadas, salad, wine and, of course, meat. Lots of it. I only managed two helpings but Rich ate an impressive five portions!! After more wine and some amusing conversations with an English couple and an American guy we head off to bed – we’ve got a wine tour booked tomorrow and they’re picking us up early so we want to be on top form.
We’ve decided to splash out on the wine tour. It’s been something we’ve been looking forward to for a while and we both love our red wine so we’ve put a bit of money behind it in the hope of getting a half decent experience and drinking some half decent wine rather than being on the tourist conveyer belt with the rest of Mendoza. We’ve chosen a company called Trout and Wine which is not only recommended in the Lonely Planet but also by the girls that we met in Paraty. It’s not cheap but you get to visit four vineyards, tasting some of their top wines, in a group of no more than eight people and get a five course gourmet meal which is paired with some more excellent wines. Yum.
If you’re not feeling quite so flush or aren’t into wines that much then there are plenty of other options for visiting vineyards around Mendoza from simply getting the bus out there on your own, to hiring a bike for the day, to doing a cheaper organised tour – there really is something for every budget.
As it turns out, it’s just us and a couple of young Indian guys which is great – we were a little afraid we’d end up with some annoyingly loud Americans. I won’t bore you with the details of the different wineries we visited but suffice to say we had an excellent day, drank copious amounts of wine (we tasted 15 in total), enjoyed a brilliant meal including an enormous steak, and even bought ourselves a bottle to enjoy later. The guys from India only had a few glasses and were very drunk, very amusing.
We arrive back at the hostel around 5pm and decide it’s time for a late siesta – after all that wine and meat we’re feeling quite sleepy (translate quite drunk). Later, we opt for a quiet night to recover from all the wine and then a relatively early night after a couple of episodes of Friends on Argentinian TV.
The next day we decide to explore town. Although Mendoza is a city, it feels a lot smaller and friendlier. We take a stroll down to the centre and then out to Parque San Martin, which is absolutely enormous, being the biggest man-made park in South America. After a wander round the lake we head back for some lunch at one of the many parrilla restaurants that line Avenida Sarmiento . It’s hard to know which one to choose but we go for one with plenty of locals and are not disappointed. Rich orders one of the house special steaks – a huge sirloin topped with ham and two fried eggs served with chips and onions. I tried some and I can safely say it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever tasted – maybe even better than Sophie’s Steakhouse!! And it’s not just steaks either – I’m a bit meated out from last night’s barbecue so I opt for stuffed trout instead which is delicious.
But of course, after all that food, we’re feeling pretty stuffed and in need of a lie down so it’s back to the hostel for another cheeky siesta – I could definitely get used to this!!
That evening, we head back into town for a taste of Mendoza nightlife. Avenida Villanueva Aristides is the place to be, with a great choice of cool bars and restaurants – there are certainly plenty of people enjoying pizzas and beers at the rows of tables which line the street. A lot of the bars looked like they also had dance areas out back but we didn’t stay late enough to see things kick off. As always, there’s a healthy dose of Eighties music playing in the background. There’s a number of hostels along this road as well, but since most of them are adjoined to the bars, I’m guessing they are somewhat noisy.
And that’s pretty much it. We’ve had a great time in Mendoza, eaten lots of meat, drunk LOTS of wine, and all in brilliant sunshine too!! Next stop, Bariloche, for a taste of Argentina’s Lake District and some outdoor activities to work off all the meat and wine!!