After a few days in the Atacama Desert, we decided to head back to Santiago, and fly over to Argentina, first Mendoza, for some wine tasting, then to Buenos Aires for tango, beef, and some culture. But first, remember the old Yaris we were driving? Somewhere in a pothole, far, far away, we lost a hubcap. Upon returning the car to the airport, they noticed the missing hubcap, and charged me $50!!! Only then did I decide to tell them their junker almost stranded us in the Atacama!
When traveling with no reservations, needless to say, flexibility is the key. So, after finding some cheap flights to Mendoza, and a decent rental car, we decided to use our “superior” negotiating skills for a nice hotel room. But we had no luck at the first place. So, we decided to walk into the best place in town, and make an offer. Accepted!!! And they would arrange some wine tours, vineyard lunches, and even a cocktail party next door at the casino!
What can be more enjoyable and relaxing in the Mendoza countryside? Well, these were pre-GPS days, neither of us can read Spanish maps, nor do we speak much Spanish. But we had a decent rental car, a thirst for some good food and wine, and several days.
But something unusual happened that evening. First, on our stroll to dinner, we were approached by many young Argentine ladies who wanted us to buy dinner for them. We declined. Later, back in my room, the phone rang. Thinking it was Mike, I answered. But it was the front desk manager asking if I wanted some “company.” After declining, I tried to reach Mike to warn him, but he was out walking the streets of Mendoza!
The next day, we must have driven a hundred miles in circles, around Mendoza, looking for wineries. Suffice it to say, signage and wineries do not look anything like California wine country! Arriving two hours late at Achaval Ferrer was not acceptable to them! Nobody else was there, WTH! I think the wine attendant was more upset about our tardiness than our rather lukewarm reviews of his wine.
Fortunately, we had a luncheon and wine tour scheduled at another “nearby” winery (Lagarde), again arriving about two hours late. No problem here. They seated us for lunch about 2pm, brought us some of their wine, and soon, the chef came out to provide our options for lunch. What a refreshing change from Achaval. So, after the tour, we bought several bottles of wine.
Back in town, we parked our rental car, and walked back to our hotel. We came upon a young American kid trying to help some young Argentine girls change a flat tire. Though he was wearing an unnamed Ivy League T shirt, he did not have a clue about changing a tire. So, the two country boys from the Valley had to step in and change the tire. He was so embarrassed, he left without the girls!!!
Several days of driving the Mendoza countryside became somewhat pedestrian. While the region has some interesting wines, and a very rustic charm, it is also rough around the edges with a frontier feeling. We had some decent wines, explored the area, and did not have to jump start our rental car!
Just remember Mendoza is a small town. We soon longed for the big city, so off we flew to Buenos Aires. Mr. Mike loves to walk the city streets. We needed a big dose of the city, more beef and Malbec, some excitement, and the tango!!