Mendoza is wonderful. I really liked it here. It is the centre of one of the most important wine regions in Argentina. It is also a lovely little city. It has lots of cafés, bars, restaurants and a nice park with a large lake to stroll around. It was colder here but the sun was still shining.
Me and Marianne decided to treat ourselves and went to one of the top restaurants in Argentina - 1884 Frances Mallmann. It was expensive for Argentina but not compared to the UK. It was a wonderful experience. The restaurant is located in an old winery with high ceilings and beams but decorated in a modern minimalistic way. The tables are beautiful laid out with silverware, crystal glasses and linen napkins. The waiters are beautifully presented and they have a large window where you can see the amazing chefs at work. I felt I had come home. This is where I belong not some crappy cafe with dirty seats and s*** food at low prices. The food was sublime. We started with a glass of champagne, I then had a wild mushroom risotto followed by a medium rare Argentinian steak with a potato rosti. The beef was heaven and the wine was sex in a glass. It was an extraordinary night and so nice to not be a backpacker for at least one night.
Obviously whilst we were here we had to do a wine tour. We did the luxury wine tour - decided to continue in the style we were rapidly becoming accustomed too! We were picked up by an executive minibus which basically means we had huge leather seats. The tour was wonderful. We went to 3 vineyards. The first was the largest family owned vineyard in Argentina. It was a beautiful place which had been designed in the style of a Mayan pyramid. We had a tour of the building and the cellars and then we sat on sofas whilst having a private tasting. The wine was very nice. We spent hours here. The second vineyard was where we had a 5 course meal accompanied by a different wine for each course. The meal was exceptional. Started off with a thin slice of cured belly pork, followed by a savoury sponge, then a empanada with a samosa, the a fillet steak atop of roasted potatoes and veggies in a malbec jus, finishing off with a poached pear with a raspberry sorbet. It was totally out of this world. After the meal, we walked around the vineyards and visited their aroma room. You could smell over 40 different scents. They then gave us a glass of rose and asked us to identify the scents. I actually managed to get a few. It was really good. The final vineyard was a one man operation. A little chap of Sicilian origin. He does everything from stirring the wine to putting labels on the bottle. He was a real character and very proud of his wine. We got to taste wine straight from a barrel which wouldn't be bottled for another year. It was very nice. We were absolutely shattered by the time we came back but it had been a wonderful day.
To give us a break from all this decadence we decided to do something a little bit more activity based. So we booked onto a mountain trek followed by rappelling. Talk about extremes! We drove out of the city into the mountains. The further we got the colder it got and all the mountains became covered in snow. We walked up one of these mountains. It was a steep trek and by the end we were walk in snow and scrambling over rocks. The views from the top were so worth it. Then we became our descent which involved virtually sliding down sheer slopes covered with rocks and rappelling. Rappelling is basically abseiling. So we came down sheer cliff faces on ropes and harnesses. It was so much fun. I came down so fast, it was hard to actually get a picture of me!!! I always get carried away and forget I am not in the SAS! It is fun flying down though. Once at the bottom we had lunch which to be honest was dreadful. A plate of empanadas to be shared by all. They were still cold in part as they hadn't been fully defrosted. They did take them back and they came out a couple of minutes after we had heard the microwave ping!!! Nice to know they were fresh out of the oven!!! Never mind the next stop were the hot springs - what could go wrong?? Well you can imagine my horror when we pulled over to a lay by and told to get out. We then had to scramble over a crash barrier and clinging to the steep slope we had to make our way down to the river base. Several of us slipped and a few fell but hey there were hot springs down there. Or so we thought ….. When we finally got down there, there was a small dingy pool beside the river which was the hot springs. No where to change, so when you got out of the pool you would have to get dry and change balanced on a rock in sub zero temperatures. I refused to get in. I didn't like the look of the water and the thought of exposing my body to that cold - not on your nelly. The guide was not happy. He did however crack open the complimentary wine which involved swigging from the bottle - class! Not the finest end to a tour and certainly not what we had expected. Wish it had just stopped after the rappelling!
In the evening, cooked my own tea of pasta and vegetables. It was really yummy. Followed by a game of scrabble with Andy and an unidentified Irish man. I am pleased to say I whooped them with a score of 250 compared to a combined score for them of 256!!!!. Andy reckoned it was all luck - cheeky sod. Especially since I let him have 'junks' which to this day I do not believe is a real word. Not that I am competitive or anything …...
This is where I first got my cold which unbeknownst to me would last well over 2 weeks. I felt really lousy and achy. I was introduced to Argentinian Lemsip. It was actually very tasty - a blend of lemon and honey. So on my last day I did nothing much but try and recuperate! I did manage to meet Jane Bruccoleri again!!! We had lunch and wandered around town. This time I didn't say goodbye as I have a feeling our paths will cross again!!! It was time to get back to the hostel and wait for our night bus to Bariloche.