Mendoza: Enter Crazy Drunk Parents

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So the 5 of us pulled into Mendoza and into another beautiful hotel room.  At first glance, we could see that Mendoza would be great - it is clean, lush and green with lots of nice parks and a cool vibe. 
Our first priority was - obviously - booking our wine tours.  We signed on with a great tour first thing the next morning.  It was small (us 5, a couple from Brazil and a lady from California with a big hat and a flair for picking out all those plum and essences of vanilla from the wine), and we had a fantastic tour guide.  We visited 4 amazing wineries, all staffed by charismatic and friendly guides as well.  It was a really great experience.   The first winery we saw was one of the first wineries to be established in the Mendoza region, don't remember the name but there was this old lock on the label so that must count for something.  We actually met the winery owner as well (if not briefly) but it was really nice, very classy (like us).  The next place we stopped into was much newer, more modern and had more whites for tasting as well.  Our third winery included a delicious 5 course lunch with an outta-this-world dulce de leche dessert...wowwww.  Each course was paired with a fantastic wine as well.  Finally, we went to our last boutique winery for the day.  By this point, I don't think any of us were paying much attention to what anyone was instructing us to do - we just found our own way to the bar when it was time for the tastings (which were very generous at all 4!).  Also, to back up our claim of having class,  we apparently chose the same wine tour that John Lithgow did with his wife a year or so ago.  Yup, we are movin` on up!
We found our way down to a nice street filled with outdoor restaurants and were charmed with live music passing from restaurant to restaurant.  They play a lot of pan flute down here which is beautiful - though I don't think I've ever heard `El Condor Pasa` quite so frequently....ah well!  I'm a Simon & Garfunkel fan anyway! 
The next day we explored the gigantic park that Mendoza has created - Parque General San Martin.  In this park there is a football stadium in which the games were played for the ´78 World Cup, a hill which is called ¨Cerro de la Gloria¨ (Hill of Glory) and a huge monument that commemorates the Argentine army that crossed the Andes to liberate Chile (led by who else but General San Martin) and then there is also a zoological park that has butt loads of animals in tiny cages.  We decided to hit up the Cerro de la Gloria monument first.  This monument is dedicated to San Martin, who is like a god in Argentina.  It is a giant iron and stone monument, shown on the $5 bill, with a bunch of dudes on horse back, Lady Liberty signifying victory and breaking chains and then some condors, beautiful.  Naturally San Martin is on the monument as he is the main person that liberated Argentina from Spain in 1810 and then helped to liberate Chile and Peru (always referred to as Our Liberator San Martin). 

After fully appreciating this and taking in the view of Mendoza, we headed down the hill that the monument was on to the zoo.  The zoo itself was really really sad...yes, we know, shocking.  I am not a huge fan of zoos, especially in countries that don't have sufficient human rights for the people living there, so despite the positive review that we read, the zoo had only one standard environment for all animals and very small cages for animals that were large ie/polar bears (yea it was smoking hot that day too), lions, elephants and then some cages that were overpopulated with monkeys.  I guess in a sense we condoned it by paying the entrance, so after that we all felt a little bit bad.  *Insert justification here* However, we did see some toucans and other animals we might not have seen... 

We took the rest of the afternoon real chill-like and pulled up a chair at the Hyatt right next to the massive and absolutely gorgeous Plaza Independencia - seriously, these people have central parks down flat.  Tons of space, lots of people just loving life, fountains and trees...In addition to the view, we also ended up here because no one else will feed you between 3pm and 9pm as Argentines are sleeping during this time and then finishing work - an early dinner for them is 9pm.   After a nice and cheap lunch (much cheaper than the Hyatt's in Canada) we went full out as tourists and combed the town for (mostly) useless souvenirs.  We headed first to a market shanty town sort of deal bordering the central park.  Then we headed to a main shopping street where Sarah bought some mate gourds as did I, Uwe bought a really cool felt hat and then some flashy boot spurs and I bought some bull horns and other beef memorabilia.  Good day in all.  After we all headed back to the central park to relax by the fountains again and then returned to the hotel. 
The next day we were supposed to get a flight from Mendoza to Buenos Aires, however, as we showed up to the airport and then decided to check in the clerk informed us of a strike.  Awwwwwwww Crap, a strike, nothing screws up plans more than a strike, because you never see them coming and you don't know when they will end.  So apparently the baggage handlers were having a strike probably because of pay, and the airline could not refund the money there (nor could they in the city of Mendoza, because the tickets were purchased online in Chile and all other sorts of reasons which made the refund as easy as repacking a fitted sheet into its original packaging, try it its really hard).  So, since Uwe and Marilou only had 2 weeks in the country we headed for the bus station, looked for the next bus and bought some tickets.  Our flight was supposed to be a 8am and we purchased a bus ticket that left at 7:30 that night, so we had some time to kill and decided to go to the Hyatt and try to get our money back from Aerolineas Argentina - a whole other story...   Anyways, during one of the conversations at the Hyatt with all the parents gathered I knew that no one was listing to me except for Sarah so I announced ¨Hey, did you know I am gay! ¨ and then Sarah replied ¨Yes, I do and I am also gay! ¨, this was followed by no reply so we both had a pretty good chuckle out of that, as we did every subsequent time that we repeated this knowing that no one was listening to us.  After an easy day of lounging and strolling and eating a lot of dulce de leche ice cream we headed back to the bus station for the trip to Buenos Aires.   

The bus system in Argentina is incredible; we traveled with this company called Andesmar in which all the buses are Double Decker buses in which almost all seats are flat reclining, there is a bus attendant, the food is better than most airline food and doing a 17hr. bus ride is no problem.  We also get tons of movies and also had a bus-wide game of Bingo that was awesome (*In the spirit of games, see Mendoza Trivia below).  The other thing that we noticed is that in N.A traveling by bus is almost degrading, not many people take it, the seats smell and lots of people generally frown upon bus travel. But, in Argentina it is completely the opposite - more luxury that a flight!  Made it to Buenos Aires early the next morning eager for a change of pace and ready for the next leg of our parents adventure.

Love, Us.

*Mendoza Trivia -
1.  Did you know that in the movie `Children of Men`, the parents of the youngest person on the planet hail from the city of Mendoza in the year 2027...?
2.  Did you also know that the movie `7 Years in Tibet`was also filmed in Mendoza using the nearby foothills of the Andes as the city of Lhasa and a deserted warehouse to recreate thelegendary Hall of Good Deeds in the Potala, the ancient palace of the Dalai Lama...?
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