Thursday, 21 November 2013

Ah, Mendoza. Wine, beef, wine, beef...oh and some pasta.

Wine tasting
Wine tasting
We had planned on popping back into Argentina to come to Mendoza all along, initially it was for 2 days but we stayed another we loved it so much.
With its wide avenues and boulevards, pretty parks and many restaurants, it is hard not to love Mendoza. Our B&B is near the centre, it's run by an older couple who treat you like one of theirs, they organise breakfast around you, give you a key if you will be out late (1am, latest of put whole trip! rock on!) and want to make sure you have a great time.

Wine tasting glasses
More Wine Tasting
We booked a full day wine tour for our first day with Kahuak, pricey but it took us on a private (no one else booked so it was just us) tour of 3 wineries; Navarro Correas, Trapiche and Familia Zuccardi. All big wineries but the latter is a bit more touristy with 2 restaurants. The best tour by far was the Navarro Correas, our guide was great - the tour we booked was a driver to take us to the wineries where we would have tours with the winery staff - it was just us and her and she showed us around the place and then sat with us and poured 3 large glasses of wine. 2 red and 1 white; Chardonnay, reserve Cab Sav and a Gran Reserve Cab Sav which was awesome, definitely our favourite, and hers too. The next 2 wineries were not as intimate, big flashy entrances and impersonal tour (felt a bit like going through the motions, but the wine was good).

We finished the day with a lunch at the pasta restaurant at Familia Zuccardi. It was good but not as good as we had hoped, the wine was great, the starters great but the pasta was a little tasteless. But after all we were there for the wine!

Bife de Chorizo
Abi & Kayleigh with bife de chorizo
The following day we decided to stay another day and just walked around the town, went to the markets and visited each of the 5 plazas in the city, interestingly built as evacuation points for earthquakes. (Plazas Chile, Italia, Espana, San Martin and the big one in the middle of town, independecia).
Bife de Chorizo
Bife de Chorizo

A couple of months ago back in in Brazil we had met Abi and Kayleigh who we noticed on Facebook were also going to be in town for a couple of days so we met up with them for dinners 2 of the 3 nights we spent here, it was great catching up on what each of us had done, we had similar routes and travel dates and had missed them a couple of places by a day or so. One of the places we ate was La Lucia (pic right and above) AMAZING. I dreamt about this steak for days afterwards and expect to for a very long time.

We really enjoyed Mendoza. The wide boulevards and beautiful buildings - the reason the streets are so wide is due to Earthquakes - back in 1861 they had a massive one which killed thousands and most  were killed by the falling rubble, so when they re-built they did so with wider streets for the people to escape into during earthquakes.

The squares are a beautiful place to sit and people watch while eating some snacks or your lunch.

The people were lovely, the wine was great and the steak was out of this world, cutting it was like cutting through butter, perfectly seasoned, perfectly cooked. 

36 hairpin turns!
The border crossing back to Chile was a little crap though, and all Chile's fault. 
When your bus arrives at the border, you get off the bus and queue at an Argentinian desk and get your exit stamp, then queue up at a desk beside this to get your Chilean entry stamp, then back on the bus and wait for the bus to move into the border building where your bags are removed from the bus to go through an x-ray. We had arrived at the border at lunchtime, rather than having shifts, the Chilean border staff stop for lunch. The minibus in front of us still had 5 bags on the belt to be checked, the border staff stopped, had lunch while the mini bus people had to wait. About 45 minutes later they continued checking the bags, then everyone from the minibus had to queue up to put their hand luggage through the X-ray machine. Then it was our turn. It has to be the most disorganised border entry we have been at, all in, including the bus queuing it took us about an hour and a half to get across the border. Chile is as strict as Australia in what it lets you bring into the country food wise. The main things are no fresh produce and no honey.

In San Pedro de Atacama we had the same process (though remember there was a strike of these border staff) but there was a French lady who's boyfriend had his bag searched for a garlic which he had forgot in his bag and they saw it on the scanner, but during the search, while she stood beside him during the search she had an apple in her hand and the border staff did not notice. 

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