Week 9: Mendoza & Buenos Aires, Argentina

Trip Start Mar 31, 2014
Trip End Sep 18, 2014

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Flag of Argentina  , Autonomous City of Buenos Aire,
Sunday, June 1, 2014

Hola Chicos!

So last Monday we said adios to Chile and took the bus to Mendoza in Argentina, which was a very picturesque 8 hour journey that winded through the Andes mountains. At one point we made over 20 continuous hairpin turns as we slowly wound our way up one of the snow-covered mountains, which is also Portillo, one of the most popular ski resorts in Chile (huge chairlifts actually running over the top of us to further up the mountain, although it's a few weeks before the ski season begins).

Mendoza is renowned for its wine region, so we expected the city to be quite small but it was much bigger than we expected. There wasn't a lot to do though apart from visit the vineyards, so we passed some time walking around the huge but beautiful San Martin park (so big it has a zoo, stadium, velodrome, and lake, just to name a few of the attractions), and got our first juicy steak and Argentinean grill of the trip (Oh it was so good! And with some very nice red wine to help wash it down). The weather was also sunny and a bit warmer in Mendoza which was pleasant!

We, of course, also visited the vineyards, taking a bus out to Maipú and hiring bikes to get around. The town itself was pretty ordinary, and we spent a fair bit of time riding along the bike lanes on the main road to get to the vineyards, but once we got off the main road and found the wineries it was much nicer! During the day we visited 2 great vineyards (Mevi and Tempus Alba), a wine store with a free tasting, and an olive oil factory which also included marmalade, chocolate and liquor tasting (also the first time we both tried absinthe, and hopefully the last). That evening we took an overnight bus to Buenos Aires.

In the huge city of Buenos Aires we stayed in the Palermo district, which is a more hip part of town, filled with many nice cafés, restaurants and bars along the cobbled, tree-lined streets. It took us about an hour to walk into the historical part of town but here we did a free walking tour, checking out some governmental buildings, including the Pink House, the (allegedly) widest street in the world, and downtown BA. Walking around the city, the European influence is very obvious, in particular, the architecture, and at times felt like we were in Europe rather than South America.

We also spent time visiting the districts of Recoleta (the wealthy part of town and home to one of the world's best cemeteries for Argentinians rich and famous, which is filled with many incredibly large and elaborate graves), La Boca (district filled with colourful houses, but unfortunately ridiculously touristy), and San Telmo (one of the oldest neighbourhoods in BA, and on Sunday when we visited it featured one massive market, with stalls lining the cobblestones streets for over a kilometre). In the latter we spent a couple of hours just trying to see it all, but the streets were also full of entertainers, including tango dancers and local bands. And, believe it or not, neither of us bought anything!

One interesting thing we noticed about this market was the popularity of a cartoon character called Mafalda, who seemed to feature on some sort of souvenir in every second or third stall. Then halfway through the markets we came across a life sized statute of her with a huge queue of adults waiting to get a photo with her. It had us baffled and once we got back we made sure we looked her up. It turns out Mafalda is a comic strip from the 60s & 70s created by an Argentinean cartoonist from San Telmo, and the statue is outside his old home. All makes sense now!

We enjoyed some great food in BA (we even had ramen one night), but none were as exciting as the grill we had on our last night. We ordered a meat platter for 2, and when the food arrived we were in shock because out came a one metre long platter covered in all types of meat. We were kicking ourselves we didn't have our camera because it was quite a spectacle. Surprisingly we got through almost all of it, and it was all pretty tasty, but left us in a bit of a food coma for the couple of hours after.

Today we departed Buenos Aires, flying to São Paulo to begin the next part of our journey - our month in Brazil for the World Cup!

Now to try and speak Portuguese... Adeus!

Mitch and Sally
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