Mendoza, Argentina – Day 1 & 2 of 6 or 7

3 Feb

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Day 1

The 19-hour bus ride to Mendoza was passed relatively quickly and without incident (no Bear, thank God). We had charged up our electronic devices in advance so we had hours of laptop power to watch movies, iPhone power to play Scrabble and stored our books at the top of our carry-on bags. We had also stocked up on snacks (another dinner of Pringles for the road), not anticipating that the bus would provide 3 airplane-like meals. Being a fairly picky eater this didn’t benefit me much, but the other 3 said the food wasn’t too bad.

We pulled in to the bus terminal in Mendoza around 4pm and once again put our circus skills to the test: 1 cab driver, the 4 of us, 4 big backpacks and 4 carry-on backpacks all in 1 tiny cab. The driver was actually laughing at how jam-packed his cab was, especially when J.J. shifted his bag to hold it so that it was hovering about 3” over the cabbie’s stick shift.

A few minutes later we pulled in to Monkey Hostel, our home for the next 6 or 7 days. After our 4-bed dorm in Salta the 5-bed dorm we were given in Mendoza seemed huge and cool thanks to the AC. The bathroom was located just outside our door and only had to be shared between our room and one other dorm.

Tal and Jonny were ready first and Tal still wasn’t feeling great so they headed out to do a small tour of the city. J.J. and I got our things organized at the hostel and wanted to wash the 19 hours of bus ride off with a shower before exploring.

We started with our hostel and discovered a small bar, an even smaller pool (it was the size of a large hot tub), a pool table and a foosball table. The hostel also has a very sweet resident dog, Monkey, that from what I can gather may have been a street dog and looks like a young black lab.

We grabbed a map from the front desk and began walking around. The first thing we noticed was how clean the streets were – you could actually see your reflection in the tiled sidewalks. We passed a casino which had a line-up of the black and yellow taxis outside and well-dressed, well-to-do looking people coming out of it. Next we passed the Plaza Hotel and it is a beautiful white building that resembles the White House but had an outdoor patio that spans the entire front of the hotel, aside from the staircase up to the front doors from the immaculate sidewalk. The patio overlooks a park on the opposite side of the street through the tree-lined sidewalk.

When I finally picked up my jaw after taking in the Plaza, we wandered through the park, stopping to buy some candied nuts for the walk. There were hippy street vendors and performers all through the park and an enormous, European-looking fountain in the middle of it all. We stopped and watched an artist working on his spray-paint art, and he was as much of a street performer as an artist as he had drawn quite the crowd.

Venturing off the square we set off to find this dirt-biking tour office that J.J. had read about and wanted to look into. We never did find the tour place but the walk there was shoe store after shoe store after shoe store, for about a 25 minute walk! Everywhere you looked was another shoe store.

Because we didn’t have any luck finding out about dirt-biking we decided to head back to the Hostel and see how Tal was feeling and to see if she and Jonny would be up for going to dinner. They had found a Subway when they had been out and Tal was still under the weather so we set out again to find a place to eat.

It was about an hour before we settled on a spot, not because there’s nowhere to eat (Mendoza has as many restaurants as shoe stores), but because we were taking in the beauty of the city, and I was forcing J.J. to stop every few feet so that I could take another picture.

We opted to eat on a patio on one of the car-free cobblestone streets, much like Toronto’s Distillery District or Ottawa’s Sparks Street, and ordered a caprese pizza to share. There’s really not much to eat here that isn’t Italian.

As we ate, roughly every 2 – 3 minutes, we were interrupted by a young child (anywhere from 7 to 10 years old) either begging for money or trying to sell stickers or cards or trinkets of some kind. We also witnessed a very drunk homeless man speaking loud, slurred Spanish to the crowded patio as he put uneaten food from tables that had not yet been cleared into an empty box before stumbling on his way.

We paid our bill and picked up some water before heading back to our hostel to get a good night’s sleep in a real bed – bliss.

Day 2

We must have needed the rest because we woke up close to 11am, just before our hostel stops serving breakfast. After showers, some tea and a bun with dulce de leche spread, we were off to the grocery store to pick up necessities for a picnic day in the San Martin park as it was 30 degrees and not a cloud in the sky.

The walk to the park was about 8 blocks from our hostel and looked absolutely huge on the map. Tall iron gates greeted us at the entrance and it reminded me of Central Park, even down to the zoo. We found the road that led us to the lake and found a grassy knoll in the shade where we spread out our towels, our picnic and our books.

Lunch, for me at least, consisted of pickle and hot sauce sandwiches made with baguette (the others like sandwich meat and cheese and the boys even added BBQ Pringles and avocado to their sammies). We hadn’t had hot sauce since early Bolivia and the hot sauce we found was spicier and more flavourful than Frank’s Red Hot. If we didn’t have another 7 or so months of traveling I’d get some to bring home.

We spent the whole day in the park and just as Tal and Jonny were packing up to head back to the hostel for a siesta, a jogger ran over to us speaking frantically in rapid Spanish. When we got him to slow down we realized he was asking to borrow a phone as he wanted to call the police on some boys he’d seen smoking pot in the park. 3 boys then rode up on their mopeds down close to the ledge leading to the lake and then rode back up behind us.

Moments later a police officer came over to us asking we had seen a bag go over the ledge. We hadn’t. When we turned around 3 police officers were loading the mopeds and the 3 boys into the back of their Policia truck.

When they were gone, J.J. walked down to the ledge where the boys had been and found 2 rolled joints tossed over the edge.

Aside from that, perfectly relaxing day in the park.

We arrived back at the hostel and J.J. and Jonny decided we should make dinner using the hostel kitchen and so they set off for the grocery store to pick up the ingredients for gnocchi (like I said, Italian food or bust).

J.J. cooked an amazing meal for Jonny and I  while poo Tal, still not feeling great, had Jello and a Mad Men marathon in our room.

The boys stayed downstairs to hang out at Monkey Bar and play foosball while I headed upstairs to call my parents and call it a night. This cold Tal and I have is a buzz-kill, but fingers crossed the warm, sunny weather and wine tasting bike tour we have planned for Saturday (with our Kiwi friends!) will help us kick it…

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One Response to “Mendoza, Argentina – Day 1 & 2 of 6 or 7”

  1. Erin Mutrie February 3, 2012 at 11:24 #

    I love all the pictures! Mendoza is lovely. Hope they have figured out a different bike/wine tour than the one I went on… biking down a highway (tipsy) while giant transport trucks zoom by. The view of the the vineyards against snow capped mountain while biking by quaint houses is pretty amazing! Looking forward to seeing pictures. p.s. my favourite wine when I was in Argentina (besides all of them) was San Felipe 12 uvas – here is a picture http://www.crwines.com.ar/productos/1290617303/photos/prin.jpg
    Try it and tell me what you think! The winery and museum they have there was pretty awesome too if you get a chance to go.
    E

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