My summer adventures have begun, in Mendoza… the sun is shining, the red wine is flowing and the parilla is smoking away.
We hopped on the direct bus from Santiago to Mendoza, supposedly intended to arrive at 5am (we are in South America), a few hours later, we arrived at 9.30 feeling very tired. There had been a lot of loitering around in the freezing cold at the border, I believe it was actually snowing outside! In the true relaxed, without-haste South American style, the PDI checked our passports and all the Christmas presents the Argentinians had bought in Santiago (it’s cheaper to buy them in Chile and take the overnight bus back and forth), to which the workers at the border asked for a ‘propina’ (a tip for checking everything on the bus – their job, might I add, very slowly!) although for the Argentinians, this is definitely a cheaper and quicker way than individually taxing each product.
Our hostel was well located on Av. Arìstides Villanueva, where there are many restaurants and bars, despite it being rather outdated and dirty. So rather than hanging around in the grotty hostel we went for brunch at Bröd, followed by an afternoon wine tour…
The first vineyard tour was at Vistandes, where we saw how the wine is made, learnt about the process and tasted some Argentinian Malbec. 🍷
In the summer heat, the red wine truly makes you very sleepy! Our next stop was an olive factory called Pasrai, where they make Olive Oil and pastes. The end products were great, and our lovely tour guide even brought me some GF rice crackers to try the pastes with.
On to our next vineyard, which was a family run ‘Bodega’ called Domiciano, where they specialised in red wine… we tasted Shiraz, two Malbecs and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our final stop was the Chocolezza factory where we saw the Christmas preparation under way.
When in Argentina, you absolutely have to have an asado (a BBQ) or parrilla, the steaks and chargrilled chorizo is to die for, and Argentinian meat is world renowned.
To be sure your meat doesn’t come out completely butchered, I would advise learning the most important Argentinian vocabulary…
bien cocida (well done),
a punto (medium rare),
jugosa (rare, literally “juicy”),
or muy jugosa (very rare).
There are many great cafes and restaurants along the main street. We popped into El Mercadito as they offered a great brunch deal, including scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, fruit salad, a fresh juice and tea or coffee.
Sills 14 is a great cafe for a well needed caffeine hit, they also have brunch and cakes.
Some of the restaurants are coeliac friendly, such as Zitto for cheap Italian eats. You can look at most of the restaurants menus on av. Aristides which will specify if they are coeliac friendly. Unlike Chile, leche sin lactosa isn’t common, nor is soya or milk alternatives.
Unfortunately the trekking and spa tour we wanted to do was cancelled. So we got the local bus up to the Termas de Cachueta, which was really relaxing, with beautiful surroundings.
If you are thirsty for a tipple then…
There are some great artisan breweries on the Main Street, Hangar 52 in particular.
Wine bars ‘Wine not?’ and Decimo, which is on the tenth floor and has great views as well as having the best Argentinian wine on offer.
Fruity cocktail bars (Gingger, pH public house, cachitas) and many restaurants will offer two for one drinks in an attempt to lure customers early, because here the locals don’t eat before midnight and don’t venture to the clubs until 3, which will most definitely wipe out your next day.
In the centre, the pedestrianised streets usually have Tango performances, a nice addition to your afternoon or evening as you sit outside and enjoy the warm weather with a glass of red in hand.
With about ten days till Christmas I definitely don’t feel festive, probably as this will be my first hot Christmas, but Mendoza is trying its’ best.