Wine Country #1 - Charming Chilecito

Trip Start Jun 13, 2011
Trip End Jun 12, 2012

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Where I stayed
Posada del Sendero

Flag of Argentina  , Cuyo,
Monday, July 4, 2011

Our first stop in Wine Country was based purely on a recommendation from our lovely Spanish teacher, Susana. We knew roughly what direction we wanted to head in, but we’d decided not to replace our Lonely Planet guidebook for a while (after the robbery) and just see what happened - so we really didn’t know what to expect!
So after another crazy o/n bus to La Rioja (18hr, P356) - where they served us 2 ‘meals’, both consisting of a cheese and ham roll plus a cheese and ham sandwich (varied!) - and a ’collectivo’ to Chilecito itself, it felt like we had stepped back in time - and onto a different planet from B.A! We didn’t have any accommodation booked as we’d decided just to wing it, so we made our way to the main plaza, only to realise that our arrival coincided with siesta so most things were closed  - typical , but only to be expected in such an old fashioned town!).However, we managed to find a great restaurant (Robert’s on the plaza) serving delicious herby potato tortilla and Arabian empanadas, then had coffees at Oh!Santino while surfing the web for a little info on where we were
The 4 hostels we looked at in the town were genuinely horrific - dirty, damp and extremely depressing ! We really weren’t too fussy about where we stayed, but couldn’t believe the incredibly low standards - and pretty expensive too! We had seen a stunning finca nearby when we’d looked on the web, but as there were no prices and it looked so gorgeous we’d written it off - however, we asked the helpful staff at the local tourist info (just in case!) - so glad we did as it was not only available but much cheaper than the hell holes in town!
The Posada del Sendero (P200 pn) was even nicer than it looked in the photos, only 1.5 km from the centre, in a gorgeous rural setting (vineyards, horses etc), immaculately and tastefully decorated and with astoundingly friendly (but entirely Spanish speaking) staff - perfect! The brother of the owner also runs tours in the area so we even managed to organise and book that for the next day! 
Waking up to the beautiful scenery and fresh air was amazing, just what we needed after a week in a crazy city. Marcos picked us up in his 4x4 and drove us to the Florentina National Park, where we were literally agog at the views, which were so diverse and dramatic, and changed completely as the light moved over them. He took us to the cable car station (where the growth of the town stemmed from), which was once used for the transportation of the many minerals and metals found in the rich landscape. We had our first taste of ‘Mate’ (a sort of herby Argentine tea - I think it’s an acquired taste!) on a mountaintop and ate amazing walnuts in the forest with parrots flying around! There is so much agriculture as the whole area is so fertile and rich , ideal for farming nuts, olives and grapes, hence the extraordinary wines! Our drive back was brilliant, with the sun beaming through the clouds, plus we picked up a group of local kids that had fallen in the river on their way biking down the mountain - bless!
Our meal that night (back to Robert’s) was a perfect example of the abundance of fantastic quality produce - a litre of wine, pasta, steak and salad for under £18 - I think we’d both get fat if we lived there! There was no-one around at the Sendero when we got back, so we were locked out, but as luck would have it we had a pack of cards and a carton of wine - which kept us occupied until Nicolas let us in, got the log fire going and patiently helped us practice our fledging Spanish!
The next day was spent exploring some more of the history and culture  of the town, including visiting the Sámi Hausi museum, a mini Christ the Redeemer, and of course the local winery! As the tour was in Spanish we only picked up some of what was being said, but the (free!) tasting said it all - a fantastic selection of reds and whites, including the one we’d had at dinner the night before, and a special edition Raza Malbec that was out of this world!
Chilecito is a really special place, and we’ve got a funny feeling our Spanish teacher sent us there to push us forward with the language (which it did as we had no choice!), but that only added to the charm of a very real, very rustic, very beautiful place which we would recommend to anyone looking for an authentic slice of life - while still being able to enjoy the best Argentina has to offer!

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Ruth on

LMAO at Barry with Christo!!! And Lou, how do you manage to look so fab like you've just had professional hair and make up done when your on the road?????!!! lol xxx

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