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June 15th 2017
Published: June 18th 2017
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David here...

We got up early and had a quick breakfast before getting over to the bus station on the outskirts of San Rafael. Our bus was at 10:00 and we timed it pretty well. We stowed our bags and sat down and away we went. The journey was only 3 hours and was uneventful, though we did get coffee and a snack which was a bit of a surprise for such a cheap ticket.

At Mendoza we were faced with a 40 minute walk to the hotel from the bus terminal. This would normally be fine but my cold really hit me and I was struggling. We got to the Bohemia Boutique hotel and were soon in a lovely, well decorated room which felt spacious despite it being quite small.

We relaxed for a while, thinking that some rest would sort me out, before deciding that we should hit the town. I hoped that fresh air might help me. We wandered around Mendoza and I have to be honest, it was just a little disappointing. Being ill didn't help, however we'd read that the wide streets and near rainless climate made it a strolling paradise. The problem is, due to a big earthquake in 1861 there is no historical architecture to see. Added to this, nearly every street seemed to be under repair. So we just weren't feeling it.

After a couple of hours, I just wanted something to eat and to get some sleep. Suzanne was feeling a little down and ill as well, so we ended up at Subway where I got a sandwich to take back. On the way into the hotel, we met Amir, the evening reception guy, who asked how we were doing and was distressed to learn we weren't doing that great. He said to call him if we needed anything; a doctor, reservations, a cup of tea, anything, he would sort it for us. All I wanted was some quick food and some sleep. I was snoozing on and off by 8pm, and we were both fast asleep by 10:30pm.

I'm glad to report that after a good nights sleep we were feeling much better. After a basic breakfast we began to plan our day. We had come to Mendoza for the same reason everyone does... to try local wine. Now, most normal / sensible people book on one of the numerous bodega tours and visit 3 or 4 places to see how the wine is made before sampling some. We've done winery tours before, many times actually, so we're only really interested in the tasting part. We'd pretty much decided that the expensive tours done through an agency would not be good value for us so we started researching tasting rooms in the city centre.

We found a few listed however soon realised that most had shut down. Our only likely candidate was Wine Not which didn't open until 17:00 so we decided to pop to the nearest supermercado and buy our own wine to try (we also bought plastic beakers) and make use of the nearby park. We ended up with some bread and soft cheese, a bottle of Malbec and a couple of cold beers. We spent a good 3 hours in the park, drinking good wine, eating bread and cheese and relaxing in the sun. Before we knew it, it was approaching 17:00 so we headed off to find Wine Not, hoping it still existed.

We found it where Google said it was, right next to Plaza Italia and was everything we were hoping for. For around £22 each, we got to try 5 local wines with a bit of expert knowledge thrown in as well. The guy talking to us, answering questions and choosing the wines we had from our feedback was amazing and we loved every second of it. All the wines were lovely but the first one we had, a limited edition Chardonnay with banana notes was the standout. We left, quite tipsy and with a genuine new found respect for wine and wine makers. A highly recommended, and now seemingly a unique experience in Mendoza.

We ended up at Taco Azteca, partly because we can always go for Mexican food and partly as they did cheap drinks. We ordered a traditional fajita mix for 2 and 2 pints of beer (still on 2 for 1). The food looked the part with around 8 different salsas and fillings to go with the 3 kinds of meat but it was all a little bland. There was no heat to any of it, even the salsa picante we asked for. At least the beers made it a cheap meal, finishing off with 2 more pints. We got back to the hotel and Amir was waiting for us and was pleased to see us feeling much better as he and the other hotel staff were worried about us as we didn't look well.

He then pointed to my rather spiffing new Iron Maiden t-shirt and said to me 'We've got a lot in common you and me. I'm glad to see you're wearing that'. Turns out, he is a big metalhead and had recently travelled to Cordoba to see Maiden for the first time, supported by Anthrax, a 30 hour round trip. We spent the next few minutes chatting about Metal and passing names of bands between us that we all had to check out (he found Evil Scarecrow very entertaining).

After another decent nights sleep we wandered the town hoping to find somewhere offering wine tasting, and failing miserably. Seriously, we were actually kind of shocked by how little wine tasting is offered in Mendoza centre. Everywhere sells wine but we only found Wine Not for tastings that didn't involve having to buy wine afterwards. We ended up after much roaming at a restaurant called Bardot where we had 2 glasses of wine each and shared wedges with cheese and bacon. Not exactly what we wanted, but we did actually thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

After a few hours rest, relaxation, research and freshening up we went to La Barra for steak, a little family run place that had been recommended to us and looked like just our sort of thing. The place is small but has a nice atmosphere and is very welcoming. We ordered the bife de chrizo to share and a green salad. And of course, a Malbec. The wine was lovely, though ironically from a bodega in Salta, our next destination. The green salad was just that, a bowl of lettuce (for 140 pesos), and while the steak looked the part, it was nowhere near the best we'd had so far. It was also the most expensive meal we'd had. Overall a little disappointing (though our expectations are stupidly high for steak now) but we still had a great evening. We decided to grab a beer before bed and ended up at the Beer Lovers Club, basically a little kiosk selling beer and snacks but with music and seating. We stayed for 2 big bottles of Quilmes (115 pesos) before heading back to the hotel, chatting with Amir again before hitting the hay.

Our bus to Salta wasn't due until 20:30 so we dumped our bags, said goodbye to the day chap (owner?) who was also friendly, helpful and thoughtful. Once again we popped to the supermarket to get bread, soft cheese and some more wine to try. We spent a bit more this time and went for a blended wine after what we had heard at Wine Not about how blends are selected and made. We wandered through the park, reaching the lake before settling down for about 4 hours, enjoying the sun, food, setting, music (this time we had the MP3 player) and of course the wine. I did have to run for some beer about half way through, an easy enough task.

Before we knew it, it was time to find some dinner. First we popped back to the Beer Lovers Club, then we went for a cheap 2 for 1 meal of steak, fried egg and chips with a soft drink. We had about 30 minutes in the hotel to charge stuff up, freshen up a little and to chat and finally say goodbye to Amir. We loved the hotel and were sad to be leaving our room and the staff, especially Amir. Before we knew it, we had walked the 40 minutes back to the bus station and we were waiting to embark on an 18.5 hour bus journey, the longest we've ever done.

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