The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind when Mendoza is mentioned, is wine. Truly, Mendoza Province produces the best Malbec in Argentina, but there is so much more to this beautiful city than wine.
Arriving in Mendoza, you would never think it is a desert town. Thanks to skilful use of irrigation, the city is bursting with luscious green parks and large trees giving a much needed shade on hot summer days.
Mendoza experienced a severe earthquake in 1861, after which, the city was rebuilt, ensuring that the new designs were stronger against any future seismic activity. As a result of rebuild, Mendoza has many squares and wider streets and sidewalks than any other Argentinian cities. Walking down those streets, a beautiful mixture of old and new buildings emerges and the city has a very similar feel to Buenos Aires, although, the atmosphere is much more relaxed.
Unfortunately, due to the time we had lost in all our previous mishaps, we only got to spend two days in Mendoza and it just did not feel enough to appreciate it or see everything we would like to see. We stayed in a beautiful, spacious apartment, provided by ‘Departamentos Artemisa’, which meant we had some privacy to relax and I was able to shop for some local fruit and vegetables to have some wholesome meals.
Most of Carls time was spent doing various things with the bike, like changing the oil and getting an additional rack fitted to prevent our bags touching the rear tyre. After all, soon we will be going down Carretera Austral – preparations have to be made.
We did find some time to have a little walk around to get the feel for the city, starting with a stroll through few of the many plazas scattered in the city centre, with the largest one being Plaza Independencia and four smaller ones – San Martin, Chile, Italia and Espana located near the each corner of the Plaza Independencia. Most of the shopping is concentrated around these areas and the shops filled with many fashionable clothes and jewellery stores would make any shopaholic go mad.
More than the places for shopping, there are many little cafes on every corner with tables spilling out on the sidewalks. No matter what time of the day we were out, there were so many people sitting back in their chairs, chatting and sipping drinks, that I wasn’t quite sure if anyone actually works in this city.
After walking through all the squares, we made our way to Barrio Civico – Civic Neighbourhood containing the government buildings of Mendoza, with the most prominent building being the Government House or Casa de Gobierno.
Our next stop was Acuario Municipal – a little aquarium, which has been open for seventy years and still provides lots of entertainment for children and adults alike, exhibiting various species of fish and sea creatures. One of the most interesting inhabitants of the aquarium was the giant tortoise called Jorge, drifting about in a massive tank and staring at everyone solemnly. Following a walk around the ground floor, where all the fish and tortoises are located, you can continue upstairs to a roof terrace, where a bunch of mean looking alligators co-habit with few small tortoises who seem to hold their own in occupying the only paddling pool in the enclosure.
For $27 a ticket, the aquarium was a good little entertainment and even Carl, who usually can’t be bothered by anything museum or exhibition like, seemed to have fun.
We might have not had time to see lots, but we certainly did spare some time to enjoy the delicious food you can find in abundance in Mendoza. Possibly, since our start in Buenos Aires, this was the first time I enjoyed food in Argentina so much. Mendoza does not lack in restaurants, cafes and bars, offering different cuisines and experiences. We certainly spent slightly more money than we usually do, but it was worth it with so many great places to choose from. We enjoyed a bottle of the famous Malbec on our first night, but did not stick to wine much throughout our stay – we had far too much of it in Cafayate.
One of my personal highlights was ‘Anna Bistro’, which comes highly recommended by many travel guides. Somehow even Carl and I randomly picked it out for our evening plans without discussing it and that is a first. ‘Anna Bistro’ offers a mixture of French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, but it is fresh, modern and with many vegetarian/vegan options. The atmosphere and the service are amazing and for a reasonable price, you enjoy very fine dining indeed.
As usual, we could not stay away from crepes and we had very decent ones in a place that was meant to be ‘Paris Crepes’, as found on TripAdvisor. Once we got down to the address, the place had a different name (which I cannot remember), but the crepes were still there, thank God!
Of course, there is only a limited amount of food you can try in two days, but at our apartment managers recommendation, you can never go wrong if you wander down to Aristides Villanueva (same street where you find the above mentioned crepe place) – one of the main spots for good bars and restaurants. Be mindful that the food is served very late, most places only open around 8pm, but stay empty up until around 10pm.
I hope I have an opportunity to return to Mendoza at some point in my life, to continue to explore this wonderful city. I was very sad to leave without seeing as much as I wanted, but our next adventures are calling and we still have many miles to go with a set date of returning home.
P.S. We also experienced a moment that will go in the history – the new president Mauricio Macri has lifted the long-standing currency controls and has allowed the argentinian peso to float in the markets, massively devaluing it in hopes to spur the countries economy and stop the black market trade. For us it just meant the hotel price going up by approximately 30 pounds overnight, because upon our arrival we chose to pay in pesos.