Mendoza

We went to Mendoza strictly for the wine. It also allowed us to shorten up the bus ride from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires; which is pretty much the complete width of South America at the -35th Parallel.   

We were quite surprised when we arrived and found Mendoza city deserted.  It looked like something from a science fiction movie; city streets totally void of people, a few scattered parked cars and nothing at all moving. It sincerely looked like the plague had killed everyone in Mendoza.

It was not science fiction, it was just Sunday.  In this medium size town 6 hours East of Santiago, Sunday is a day that everyone stays home with the family. 

We got checked into the Andino Apart Hotel. It was 150 Pesos (about $50) and that we felt was  overpriced. The free WiFi interenet they promised did not work.

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Empty promises were the norm for places in South America.  We had learned to check and ask first, then if at all possible, delay payment until check-out.  That way, we had some power behind our arguments when we said, there was no hot water, or  the intenet did not work,

The next day we moved from that hotel to a youth hostel recommended in the Lonely Planet: Hostel Independencia.  It was nice and costs 76 Pesos each night for the two of us.

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Interesting; it was a Co-ed dormitory style hostel.  Each room had ten beds in them and it did not matter, man, woman or child was accommodated in the rooms.  Breakfast was included and it was pretty good. Cold cereal, bananas, toast and coffee.

Well, we were there for the wine and we only had a day and a half so the best way was to sign up for a pre-organized tour which we could register and pay for at the Independencia hostel. 

For someone who has never experienced a tour of a winery, this tour might have been interesting. But, we are not such people any more. No sir, we have been on some good tours and this was not one of them. 

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We did not see any grapes at all.  We did not even see any grape juice in the process of becoming wine. We were quickly whisked through the factory and told the basic steps in wine making. Then we were taken into the cellars with large oak casks of various shapes.  It made for some interesting photos but not so interesting for a wine tour.  I mean, after you have seen 70 or 100 oak barrels they start to loose their appeal. However, just when we were getting board with the cellars, we stepped into the wine tasting room where we could, surprise, surprise, surprise taste and BUY wine. 

Bottom line: how did the wine taste?   See photo below.

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The tour was a package deal that included TWO wineries and an olive factory.  The second winery was a bit more interesting because it was a small family owned operation. They only produce a small quantity of wine that is sold locally.  Thus, I figured they would have a higher quality of drink. They did. It was good and it was strong stuff. 

The tour was a bit better because in the tasting room our English speaking guide (thank you) gave us some basic instructions on how to taste the wine.  That was new knowledge for us.  And it helped us to act like wine snobs. Something we like to do!! 

The best part was the olive factory tour. It was ALL new to us and quite interesting.  And at the olive oil tasting room they gave us some yummy samples; pieces of bread with dried tomatoes and olive oil on them.  Ooooo good. 

One cultural thing you need to know about Argentina; they START eating dinner at 10;30 on average.  Often dinner begins at 11:00pm and lasts until after midnight. We went out on the town of Mendoza looking for a restaurant at 8:15, we could not find any place open. Once buffet restaurant opened at 8:30 so we had to wait a few minutes. We were the first and only guests until after 9:00.

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That was the end of our stay in Mendoza.  Our recommendation is, unless you are really into wine and have the time and money to do some REAL wine tours around Mendoza, skip it. There are some good tours that include lodging and food at the winery. These cost a lot but sound like a great way to spend some time in Mendoza.
We left Mendoza and took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires.  The bus company we choose was Andesmar.  NOW this is what a bus company should be. This is service. We paid the extra ten bucks to get the top class. This meant we had seats that fully reclined 180 degrees to a fully horizontal bed.  AND… AND… they served real food. Not just a box lunch of cold bread, ham slices and chocolate pudding made from Cool Whip. (They did serve that, but more followed)   The lunch box was the started then we got a HOT meal. Not the best food but, hey its hot food on a bus; thats a first!   Oh yes, of course we had wine with dinner. Later around 10pm the steward came around and served whiskey as a nightcap.    Mmmmm we slept good.   

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Beyond the food and drink they served; the steward has the real sense of service. He was good and it made a big difference. 

ANDESMAR remember that name when you want a bus in Argentina.

Sadly to say, Argentina is the ONLY country in South America that has such quality service. Chile and Brazil do offer top (or 1st) class busses but there is no service on them. In Brazil no food either.

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