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Published: September 5th 2011
We arrived in Mendoza pretty early in the morning and looked on the map to locate our hostel from the bus station. On the map it looked pretty far away and we were tired so we just jumped into a taxi...about 2 minutes later having driven up one road and turned left once we arrived at our hostel...we definitely could have walked that! We checked into the hostel and decided to go out for some lunch, the woman in the hostel recommended a vegetarian place around the corner, which normally we would have rejected straight away but as we had been living off steak and alcohol for the last week and I had only just got over my stomach bug we thought that a nice bit of salad would go down a treat so headed off in the direction of vegetables.
After lunch, we had a little wander around the town and around the plaza but as it was about 3pm everything was closed and the place seemed a bit quiet so we headed back to the hostel, on the way back Ben started to feel a bit ill, I think he caught my illness...oops. We spent the rest of
the evening at the hostel with Ben feeling ill and only ventured out to the supermarket to get some food for dinner and had an early night.
Next day we woke up at 1pm! obviously we still had some recovering to do from our final send off in Buenos Aires and went and had some lunch in town. We have come to realise that lunch in Argentina is rather limited in choice...you can have either a plain cheese and tomato pizza or a pretty intense sandwich with ham, cheese, fried egg, tomato and lettuce with your choice of either chicken or beef...these are called the "sandwich complejo". Over lunch we pondered what would become of South American menus if one day they woke up and ham and cheese no longer existed...we concluded that their menus would be decidedly sparse! After lunch, and feeling rather unfulfilled by the lack of choice we walked past an ice cream shop and decided it was just what we needed. We were told we could have two flavours and so I opted for Banana and Chocolate (classic) and Ben went for Mint and Pistachio, they started scooping out the ice cream and they just
didnt stop! They were absolutely huge! But also absolutely delicious! After filling up on ice cream we headed to the park, where we wandered around a bit and then had a little lie down to let our ice creams go down.
After a bit we went and sat on a bench and did a bit of people watching...and there was a lot for us to watch. It seems that after their loooong siesta Mendozians like to go for a little work out in the park on a Sunday afternoon, there were groups of women "powerwalking" (i.e. having a little gossip whilst walking), kids on bikes, people jogging etc etc but BEST of all there were hundreds of people rollerblading! Some of them were highly amusing to watch and others were really good but I decided that I think rollerblading must be the one sport for me and have vowed to bring the trend back to London with some funky skates and leggings combos on Sunday afternoons. I hope the Londoners are prepared for this whirldwind of amazingness! After the park we went back to hostel and had a bit of dinner and a few drinks of the (free!) hostel
wine and headed to bed in preparation for our wine tour the next day.
We woke up at a proper time in preparation for the wine tour and made sure ate a proper breakfast to line our stomachs and got on the bus to Characus with four other people from our hostel. The bus ride was a very bumpy hour but we finally arrived in one piece and made our way across the square to collect our bikes for the day. The bikes, it has to be said, had seen better days but we were given a map of where to go and all cycled off into the distance...well down the road...on the way to our first winery of the day. About 45 minutes later and few hairy moments on the busy roads we arrived at the first winery, where an little old man gave us three wines to taste and showed us clippings of his winery in newspapers and even the washington post! He also showed us a pretty amazing tshirt with a picture of him on it which Ben was very excited about but I dont think it was sale unfortunately. He also taught us some interesting
facts about wine...1) you should always store wine on its side to stop the cork from drying out and 2)you should always take the plastic foil off the top of the bottle to allow the wine to breathe throught the cork. After the tasting we got back on our bikes and cycled back to the plaza for a spot of lunch before our next tasting at 2pm.
There was a lot of tooing and froing about where to eat lunch as the place the lady had suggested to us was closed and in the end we settled on a little grill place and ordered our food...me and Ben ordered a pizza to share. After about 20minutes waiting the waitress brought out Ash´s side order of chips and we were all expecting the rest of our food to arrive shortly...it didnt....after about another 20minutes and Ash´s chips gone while he waited "raging" for his hamburger, she finally brought out our food...it was NOT a pizza. What we had in fact somehow managed to order was a kind of meat pizza...basically a massive slab of beef with tomato sauce and cheese on top like a pizza...hmmm what exactly what we had
in mind but as we were so hungry we munched it down anyway. However, unfortunately for Ash his hamburger still did not arrive and when we were about half way through our meat/pizza he piped up from the end of the table "why the fuck dont I have a hamburger in front of me?!" in his thick Bristol accent, to which the entire table burst out laughing. Eventually his hamburger arrived...as she cleared away everyone else plates.
Next stop after lunch was a chocolateria, where we were greeted by a small, fat, bald man who told us that he made liquers, chocolates and an array of preserves and said we could try three of his liquers each. First of all I opted for the Banana and Chocolate...which was AMAZING! and Ben got the Chocolate and Hazelnut which was also very nice. Next I got one which he called Femme de Passion which was made with rose petals which was also really nice and Ben jumped on my Banana and Chococlate bandwagon. As the guy was going through which liquers he had for us to try he said "Rum...Sherry...yeh...yeh Ill have a Sherry..." as though convincing himself to have one,
we decided he must be half cut most of the time. The guy then told us that he had Absynth which was 75% and was made with the original recipe and so would be enough to produce hallucinations! We opted for the sensible choice and decided to share shots between us...it was seriously strong and burnt your lips as you drunk it, not nice. Next we tried all of his preserves which were also pretty banging, in particular a chilli sauce which Ben was very fond of (obviously). We hung out there for a bit and I bought a bottle of chocolate and banana liquer and ben got chocolate and hazelnut and the chilli sauce and we got back onto our bikes and headed off the to next stop...a little bit wobblier than last time.
We got the next stop a bit early for our tasting session and so had a little wander around the vineyards and took some pictures of the amazing mountain views and then Ben played a bit of hackysack with the other boys while we waited. At about half 4 it was time for our tour and we were shown around the winemaking process and the cellar and then taken into a very swanky tasting room, which actually used to be a massive tank for storing over 300,000 liters of wine! We tried a few wines (including the first white wine we´d had since arriving in Argentina which was yum) but I really wanted to try the Rose and the woman told us that we could buy any of the wines we wanted by the glass so I bought a glass on the Rose. Ben, on hearing this news went into typical "over the top Ben" mode and decided to buy a glass of the most expensive wine they made - The Alto - which they had been mentioning all the way through the tour - its 1000pesos for a bottle of the stuff! The woman poured him a glass which he gluged down...I tried it...it wasnt very nice...but I dont like red wine... During the tasting the woman noticed that Ash was pouring away all his wine after 1 tiny sip and asking him if he liked them or not...to which he replied..."I don´t like wine", cue an explosion of laughter from everyone and the obvious question of "well, why are you on a wine tour then?!", his only response was that he was looking for "The One" wine that he liked so he could buy it when hes older and sip it in front of a fire place with his future wife...bless.
Our final stint of bike riding from the third winery to the last was more than a little wobbly lets say but we all made it in one piece...even though we were a little later than anticipated. The final winery was an organic one and the guy seemed to be in a massive hurry to get rid of us and was literally filling our glasses up as soon as we walked into the place without even a hint of a tour, as it was the most expensive of the tasting sessions we all felt a little miffed. However, Ben and Jeremy had other ideas, they were NOT letting this man go easily and proceeded to ask him every imaginable question about wine and wine production you could ever dream of, and by the end we were all trying not to laugh everytime one of them asked yet ANOTHER question. The guy gave us a bottle of wine and we went and sat on a bench outside and drank it, luckily a van arrived and picked up our bikes and so we only had to walk around the corner to the bus station to get the bus...I dread to think if we had cycled back from that final stop.
After another bumpy bus ride back to the main town we arrived back at the hostel just in time for their infamous "Pasta Night" were the owners mum makes spaghetti and meatballs for everyone at the hostel and theres free wine all night. The dinner was pretty banging and just what we needed after our long day cycling. The free wine was also going down quite well and the night decended into an evening of good conversation and drinking with everyone from the hostel.
Next day, feeling a little bit fragile, we realised that we had a few boring "errands" we needed to do like washing and trying to send that DAMN parcel again. We headed to the post office only to be told the international office closed at 12...it was 12 30, very annoying. We didnt do much else that day and tried to plan some possible routes for the rest of Argentina. In the evening we went to a little micro brewery with a few people from the hostel which was pretty cool as they had beer tasting things where you got 7 little shot glasses of different beers to taste...then we all picked our favorites and ordered bigger glasses of them...mine was the honey beer..yummy. We went to bed pretty early in preparation for another early start and horse riding the next day.
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