My last hurrah in Argentina
08.04.2012 - 13.04.2012 20 °C
When I was doing my trip planning for Argentina, I had ruled out going to Mendoza because it is wine country. I am not a sommelier or a big drinker and I figured I could check that box by hitting a few wineries around Santiago (also a famous wine producing area). I changed my mind, not for the wine, but for the food. Overall, I really like Chile. The people are wonderful (men give up their seats on the bus to the old ladies), but the food (wine excepted) has been really hit and miss. I have had mediocre meals in recommended restaurants and been unimpressed many of the local specialties. The grilled fish is lovely, but the sea food dishes are overcooked (think rubbery shrimp and pastey clams and mussels). They do delicious salads and an amazing brisket (mechada or beef steak stewed in wine, tomatoes and onion), but chicken and pork are also overcooked and tough. I tried the famous eel, and found it meaty and tasteless.
Flying back from Easter Island, I kept thinking about beef tenderloin and sauces that do happy dances in my mouth. Decision made. Mendoza is a mere 6 hours away from Santiago and the drive required several hours driving through the spectacular Andes mountains. On the Chile side, there was one section of the road with 60 switchbacks! On the Argentina side, there were different colours in the hills - red, purple, green and yellow. It was really pretty.
Mendoza is a city of about a million people. It is very relaxed and clean with walking streets and 5 plazas (or parks) with different themes, vegetation and fountains, all in the centre of town. It was nice to just to sit in the park and read a book. The wine producing area, is just outside of the city, in an area called Maipu. There are 600 wineries in the area. One day, I took the bus to the heart of Maipu, rented a bike (they gave me a little map of the highlights) and designed my own tour. There was not just wine to sample, the region produces olive oil, tapinades, jams, raisons, liqueurs and even chocolate. There were industrial wineries with metal tanks and traditional bodegas owned by a family for 5 generations. It was a treat! The down side was riding a crappy bike on the highway with buses and trucks bearing down on you, but I distracted myself with the shady tress, and tidy vineyards lining the roads.
Another day, I spent relaxing at the Cacheuta spa in the foothills of the Andes. Le Nordik watch out! This place had outdoor pools with views of the river and mountains. There was a natural sauna in a cave, a mud bath section, and a shallow pool with rocks to massage your feet. That was a very good day!!! Oh and the food? It was worth the 6-hour trip for beef tenderloin that melted like butter and wonderful desserts. Even the tapinades for the bread my mouth water. I discovered a new wine (for me), a white of all things - Torrontes!! It was so different and so good (clean and light, but not fruity, sweet or bitter). It made me want to order fish!
So ends my 3-month adventure. It has been a great run and it went so fast, but I am tired. I am back in Santiago and fly back north tonight.