Published: January 29th 2010January 28th 2010
We flew back into Chile and thought we’d be staying at one of our favourite hostels, which is Keoken hostel in Punta Arenas. However, there had been a burst pipe so we were put up at the Anis hostel around the corner. We had a relaxed afternoon and went to dinner at a restaurant that I enjoyed but that Chuck found overpriced and dissatisfying. There was an item in my smoked seafood soup that I was not able to identify as animal or vegetable. It had little toe-like protrusions, but also a crunchy seed-like centre. Oh well; you can’t win them all. The next morning, we were driven up to the Reserva Nacional Magallanes, where we were told we could hike a few km’s to a spectacular lookout over the city. Expecting a mild summer’s day, I wore flip flops and capris. As we were nearing the lookout, the clouds began to look ominous and before we knew it, it was snowing! We left Canada in the winter to get away from the snow! The clouds lifted eventually and we did get to look out to sea over the brightly coloured buildings of Punta Arenas. After changing into boots back at
the hostel, we toured the Punta Arenas cemetery. This is a tourist attraction because of the graves of many men who died in shipwrecks off the coast of Chile. We had planned to spend the afternoon at a local museum but being on holiday, we had lost track of the days of the week and the museum closed early on Sundays! We had to content ourselves with wandering around the pretty town and spending another lazy afternoon reading and napping. It wasn’t a difficult decision! That evening we went to one of our favourite restaurants so far on the trip to sample the fish soup, or caldillo de congrio, for the second time!
The next morning we caught a 5:30 taxi to the airport and flew to Santiago, where we spent the day before taking an overnight bus to Mendoza. For me, Santiago was a pleasant surprise. We had been warned by other travellers and even Southern Chileans that Santiago was dirty and dangerous, but our experience was anything but. We wandered through a huge well-kept park, through a more bohemian area where we stopped at a cafe for a cerveza and a bowl of papas fritas with queso
, garlic and cilantro, and through several bustling town squares. We made our way to the Mercado which we were able to find by smell before we saw it, due to the huge quantities of seafood (fresh and not-so fresh), available for sale. We spent a couple of hours in a cafe with WIFI catching up on journals and e-mails and enjoying pisco sours before making our way back to the bus station. The overnight bus was not pleasant (way worse for Chuck than for me) and we resolved to try to get cama seats instead of semi-cama from now on (cama seats are like a lazy-boy while semi-cama are like a deck chair), and to try to avoid border crossings in the middle of the night. We have yet to cross a border in less than 2 hours and to wake up and be forced to stand in a line, sometimes outdoors, for that length of time is something I think we’re getting too old for! The bus ride through the Andes is supposed to be pretty spectacular too, and we missed it because we were sleeping.
Mendoza has been one of my favourite stops on the trip so
far, but I’m sure I’m a bit biased because we became engaged! We arrived at 7am and napped on the couches at our hostel (well I napped while Chuck tried to do some trip planning online) until our room was available and we could shower. That afternoon we did a wineries tour, which of course is a big part of what one does in Mendoza! The wineries we visited were Bodega Weinert, Bodega Lopez and Bodega Carmine Granata. The tours were so-so and the tastings were great. Our favourite was Granata because the guide was a sommelier and her enthusiasm for the tasting experience was contagious. We also visited an olive oil factory called Pasrai and I will never be buying olive oil at Costco again. We also learned that black olives are in fact the same as green but more ripe.....don’t laugh if you already knew that! We’re animal people okay! Anyway, a disappointing discovery was that we couldn’t ship any wine home. I won’t reveal the price differences here but the prices we pay for some of the Malbecs at home are astounding compared to the prices here at the Bodegas! That night, we checked out a restaurant
around the corner from our hostel and ended up having Chuck’s favourite meal of the trip so far! The place was called Don Mario’s. I saw Chuck’s face when he beheld his steak for the first time and he actually looked fearful! That’s a first! We also arrived at 9:30pm and had to peer in the window to see if they were even open, not having realized that dinnertime in South America is around 10pm at the earliest. For that reason, we had multiple waiters jumping to respond to our every request! We liked it so much that we made reservations for New Years!
The next day was to be the Big Day, although I didn’t know it! We spent the day wandering down the broad, tree-lined avenues of Mendoza and exploring the huge park and green Laguna on the other side of downtown from our hostel. We stopped for lunch and white wine at a patio and arrived back at our hostel in time for a bottle of rosee that I’d picked up at Granata the day before. Our dinner reservations were at Frances Mallman 1884, a restaurant listed as one of the top 10 in the world
by those that pay attention to such things! We definitely felt a bit out of place, but it turns out that it wasn’t the food that would make it so special for me! I won’t get into the gory details (although if you’re interested just e-mail me!) but at the end of the night we were engaged after 7 years and 2 mortgages!
The next day we had planned a wineries tour with a private company. We visited Alta Vista, Bodega Benegas and had a 5-course lunch at Ruca Malen, where each course was matched with a specific wine. I was suffering the effects of the celebration the night before, so I did actually just taste the wines most of the time! Our favourite tour and tasting was at Bodega Benegas. This is a small winery that has been in the same family for something like 5 generations, and the guide actually opened some of the nicer bottles for us to try, in particular a Meritage which was superb. She had us let the wines breathe, and had us go back to one after tasting a second one to see how the flavours had changed (this may be second nature
to some of you winos out there but for me it was all new!) We celebrated New Years back at Don Mario’s and Chuck managed to finish his whole steak this time! All in all a wonderful way to start 2010!
There are more photos below