Good times in Mendoza

What’s not to love about Mendoza? We loved the shady, tree-lined avenues, lush green plazas, sidewalk restaurants and wine- tasting bodegas, and friendly, easy going people. Especially compared to many other Latin American cities, traffic is relaxed and organized, so we were surprised to hear a car horn behind us. As soon as the car passed us, the reason became clear why: all smiles, the passengers gave us their thumbs up and waved. They appreciated our presence.

For the first days, we parked our camper in Playa Peru – a parking lot not far from the city center. From there, we could walk to the nearby supermarket to replenish our food stock, explore the city, and find some wine tasting venues – after all, that was the reason why we sought out this city. During our last wine tasting in Cafayate, we came to the conclusion that wines taste much better when accompanied with food, so nice restaurants became the focus of our attention. And there are many to choose from! The tourist office had pointed us to the right street, where outdoor seating was arranged on shaded decks above cobblestone-lined ditches that separate the sidewalk from the street. There, we chose a restaurant that looked the most popular. We picked a good one: Estantia la Florencia did not only have good food, but also prided themselves on a good malbec wine from their own estate.

Not the most attractive place, but this parking had a clean bathroom, water, electricity and wifi. But most importantly it was in the city, so you only spend your resting hours here.
Estancia la Florencia

For our next wine adventure we went to La Vieja Cava, a humble vegetarian restaurant just outside the city center. Here, the outdoor dining was in a lovely green courtyard, and their chardonnay was from a smaller vineyard, but fittingly refreshing.

Yes, I’m on the phone, taking advantage of available wifi before we start our lunch at la Vieja Cava.

On our search to find a new windshield wiper, we passed the Bodega Los Toneles: a hundred year old winery that offers tours and tastings, but is also known for their excellent restaurant. At the gate, a guard inquired about our reservations – which we never have with our spur of the moment decisions. That was again no problem since, I assume, we arrived in the shoulder season, and were the first customers for lunch.

At the still empty lot, Thijs parked with generous space in a corner. When a Los Toneles pickup truck stopped in front of us, I thought we needed to do some better parking, but Philipe, who introduced himself as the company’s wine maker, was just curious about our travels. He told us that traveling like we do is his dream – he even privately created a wine he named Giramundo (Around the World) of which he promised he’d bring us a bottle to sample.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal in the restaurant. The somelier advised Thijs to choose between two red wines to go with his (huge) steak, while I sampled a few whites for my cheese cnudis (gnocchi) and mushroom dish. As had been usual lately, the meal was enough to last us for the rest of the day.

Abrasado at Bodega Los Toneles

The weather in Mendoza had been sunny and warm, and pretty comfortable in the shade, but day by day the temps were creeping up. When the forecast mentioned 30 degrees (Celsius), it became a bit too hot for us in the parking lot, and a trip to the cool, high mountains seemed a like a good idea, so we decided to go for a ride. The road to Chile climbed gently towards the Andes peaks, and brought us to Puente del Inca, where in ancient times mineral rich thermal springs and glaciers together had formed a bridge over the Cuevas River. Beside this, the waters colored the neighboring rock with shades of yellows and browns. Just a short drive up the road, one can admire the peaks of mt Aconcagua, which is at 6,961m, (22,838ft) the highest mountain in the Americas. We did not climb to the top, or go on to Chile, but turned around and stopped for the night in the small town of Uspallata, where we stayed another day until the weather in Mendoza cooled back down.

Mendoza river bed’s sides looked like smooth man made walls
Puente del Inca
In the misty distance is the peak of Aconcagua. The snow doesn’t show white with the sun behind it.

Thijs likes tourist information offices, where normally he seeks information he already has, but sometimes he emerges with something new. In Uspallata he was informed about an alternative route back to Mendoza: route 52 would lead us through a geopark and a natural reserve with beautiful vistas. Of course we had to take this road… I was a bit annoyed that much of it was a dusty washboard road, after I thought I managed to get all the inside dust free. Our camper is not airtight: especially our entry door rattles, revealing daylight around the edges, and dust likes to come in that way. But I enjoyed the view – as long as the land was somewhat flat… Then a steep descent had me hold on for dear life, mainly because after our recent incident, when our wheel just about broke off, I don’t trust our car anymore. It may be in my head, but I hear rattles and bangs, and I feel the truck lean too much to the passenger side, especially when Thijs had to take one of those sharp turns on the narrow road. I try not to look into the abyss… But Thijs loved the ride!

This was halfway down, with the steepest mountain sides already behind us.
We’ve seen many foxes in northern Argentina

Back on flat land, we drove onto a campsite where, for the first time since Cusco, we found other overlanders: now it feels like life’s back to normal again! Although the camping is a bit far outside of Mendoza, this one belongs to South America’s better ones, with neat and clean bathrooms, well groomed shady sites, wifi, a pool and a restaurant. So we stayed a couple of days – for me to post my overdue blog, and for Thijs to check out the car.

All good things must come to an end. The truck still needed to have a new windshield wiper, and Thijs found a new address to get one. And yes, he was finally successful!

Lunch time comes fast in a land where the summer sun rises around 8AM, and you have no reason to get up in the dark. (And by 8PM it is dark!) For one last time, we wanted to visit one more bodega before leaving Mendoza. We chose Trapiche, the largest winery in the area. When told the restaurant was closed that day, we still signed up for the tour and tasting. This one was in rapid,  argentinian spanish, of which we understood maybe twenty percent. Good that we’ve experienced a few tours before; in essence the information is similar. The wines were interesting, with a limited edition chenin blanc,  and one blend of garnache, syrah and mourvèdre, a single vineyard cabernet sauvignon, and a single vineyard malbec.

We were the first ones at Bodega Trapiche, waiting for the tour to start.
Malbec grapes look like blueberries, but are much sweeter. And very tasty!
At the Trapiche museum, how it used to be done.
This place is huge! The fermentation process is done in these enormous containers.
These same fermentation containers, seen from above.
Cement eggs and oak barrels for proper aging.
The tasting room.
The wine selection. First we had the ones on the outside, followed by the taller bottles.

We ate our last lunch in the city, on a promenade Sarmiento, just off the Plaza Independencia. When we ordered, at 6:15PM, most people were enjoying afternoon coffee and pastry. We will remember their relaxed attitude. Life feels good here in Mendoza. Cheers!

Our last meal in Mendoza.
Plaza la Independencia: why get a broom, when palm leaves work just as well, and are easily disposable.

4 thoughts on “Good times in Mendoza”

  1. Wat een heerlijke verhalen om te lezen! Je kunt heel goed schrijven vind ik. Op de grote wereldkaart in mijn werkkamer volg ik jullie route. Goede reizen!


  2. Thanks for continuing to share your wonderful adventures with Thijs, Rieneke ! I always enjoy your narrative.

    Keep safe !

    Cheers, Ann

    On Wed, Apr 6, 2022 at 5:10 PM Second Time Around The World wrote:

    > rienekeleenders posted: ” What’s not to love about this Mendoza? With > shady, tree-lined avenues, lush green plazas, sidewalk restaurants and > wine- tasting bodegas, and friendly, easy going people. Especially compared > to many other Latin American cities, traffic is relaxed and or” >


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