Thursday, 20 March 2014


12th -15th Mar 2014

Preventiores. I wish they had.
After another comfortable 12 hour overnight bus ride, including a decent on-board hot beef supper, I arrived in Mendoza, having passed through Calcete and San Juan, at 9.00am on the dot as scheduled. More warm and sunny weather and I got a taxi, remarkably cheap these Argentinian taxis, to the Hotel Casino on Chile Plaza which again proved most satisfactory (£25 per night).

Left: The hotel foyer and dining area. Can't think why anyone would be interested in this but I took it for memory's sake. Decent enough hotel but they still couldn't manage anything but a starvation rations breakfast. Coffee and two dry croissants, not even any fruit juice.
Another curious feature in all the Argentinian hotels that I have used is that none of them have plugs for the bathroom sinks. It must be a general policy, but can't work out the reason. Reminds me of military Mess accommodation where we nicked the bath plugs to 'reserve' the bath for ourselves.

It seemed a very jolly place, Mendoza, with four tree lined plazas set about the large central one,  Plaza Independencia (right). I gathered that Mendoza is located in very dry, almost desert-like, surrounding countryside. They make a big effort to keep the city well irrigated from the nearby mountain rivers with plenty of grass and trees. I believe that the stoney dry ground, and climate, is partly the reason it is such a good wine producing area.

Left: There are lots of touristy outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the central pedestrian boulevard. I was having a very pleasant lunch at one of these and happily reading my Kindle book. There were several pesky niños wandering around coming up to the tables trying to sell trinkets. They were politely told to vamos by both me and my fellow diners either side. Eventually one came up to me with an A4 sized card containing a sewing kit. He held it in front of my face with his back to my neighbour. On being asked to bugger off he duly did so, and when I looked down two seconds later so had my Kindle! The little bastardo! So blatant and so quick. I was extremely pissed off because I was only half-way through a good book. I was told that the tourist police who are normally on  duty around this street with 'preventiores' written on their hi-vis jackets have a habit of taking a siesta at this time of day; hence the influx of the little bandido street kids.

Right: The so called 'preventiores' cops move about (when present) on these rather natty machines, a sort of three-wheeled version of the Segway. Unfortunately they are not much use at preventioring when the riders are away at lunch! (see top).

The next day I took a local bus to a recommended winery, the Vistalba vineyard, about 40 mins south of the city near the township of Luyán de Cujo. There are many vineyards surrounding the city. It took me a bit of walking finally to locate it, and it is a very smart place indeed.
The highest peak in South America, Cerro Aconcagua at 22,700ft is not far to the west of here.

There was a group of seven of us to be given a conducted tour and tasting session.
The girl guide, Maria Paz (right), was both knowledgeable, enthusiastic and absolutely charming. The only slight problem was that she spoke very fast in heavily accented English and, frankly, I hardly understood a word of what she was telling us, except when she asked 'any questions'. It didn't bother me.

Left: One of the cellars. Most of the wine they produce is from Malbec grapes. There were other varieties and even some 'Champagne process' wines which were maturing in bottles which had to be turned at regular intervals. I think.

Right: Our tasting session. We were given 6 glasses including (at a price) their finest vintage on offer. Very good they were too but I think my taste buds must have been shot out years ago because, maybe apart from the best one, they all tasted much the same to me.

Left: The winery price list if you are interested. I think you will need to click on to enlarge to view. In comparison with decent wines sold in UK outlets they really weren't too expensive.....but I don't know how to put a value on wine.

The wineries here took a bit of a hammering during the latest  serious earthquake in 2010 (I think) but have since recovered. This is an earthquake zone with hotels providing emergency instructions in the event of such an occurrence. Previous major earthquakes occurred in 1861 and 1968. I have yet to experience an earthquake, or even a minor tremor, so far.

Right: A popular traditional drink in Argentina is 'maté'. This is a tea-like infusion containing no alcohol or mind-altering substances, as far as I am aware, which is made from the leaves of a particular tree. It is brewed with hot water and supped with much ceremony through a silver straw. It has, apparently, health giving properties.
It tasted like green tea to me.
The maté cups and straws are of specific design and sold as popular tourist souvenirs. 

Left and below: A couple of pics of statues in the centre of plazas. 

The whole city centre was most attractive and 'green'.

Left: A large and pleasant park, christened with unerring inevitability the 'Parque General San Martin', in an affluent area to the west of the city, afforded a good walk around a central lake......

...with cafes overlooking it....

....and a modern sports centre featuring a full-size competitive swimming pool.

Right: Further sights in the city featured a night-time parade of vintage cars. I think they were off on a rally of some sort. This one is a 1930s 15 litre Whizzbug Firecracker...or something similar.

Left: ...and a bored looking chap with very long legs.

Right: A view of the city, mostly hidden by trees, from the vantage point of the Plaza Mirador on  top of the City hall.

A recommendation: The 'wine tasting' bar, Vines of Mendoza, near the Plaza Independencia, is well worth a visit. Great value for money and a mostly female staff of wine experts give you an entertaining and informative experience.

So, all in all, that was a most enjoyable visit to Mendoza; apart from losing my Kindle that is. I'm still a bit pissed off by that slight misfortune, but it reinforced my 'attention to protection' of my valuables. Perhaps I had become a bit blasé. I'm now in danger of becoming a bit paranoid!

Next bus trip will be over the Andes to Chile.............Santiago beckons.

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