Part 9: South America – Argentina again.

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February 20, 2018. Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Argentina. 

After a late arrival back into Buenos Aires the previous night it was a very early start for a 6:55 am flight from Buenos Aires to Mendoza.

We were back in Argentina again.

Fortunately our accommodation, Solandes Apart & Wine, allowed us to check-in at 9:30 am, so we could have a bit of a rest before we headed out.

Mendoza is the capital of the Argentinean wine district and everything is geared towards that.

There is also skiing, mountain biking and hiking but we were there for the wine.

The area around Greater Mendoza is the largest wine growing region in Latin America. Mendoza is one of the Great Wine Capitals off the world. The others are regarded as: Adelaide in Australia, Bilbao and Rioja in Spain, Bordeaux in France, Lausanne in Switzerland, Mainz and Rheinhessen in Germany, Porto in Portugal, SanFrancisco and Napa Valley in the USA, Valparaiso and Casablanca in Chile and Verona in Italy.

Mendoza was founded in 1551 by the Spaniard, Pedro del Castillo and named after the governor of Chile, García Hurtado de Mendoza.

 

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February 21, 2018. Mendoza, Argentina. 

Thea’s technical woes continued. 

Two computers had died and now her back-up drive had surrendered to the gremlins. We were now down to one computer and one back-up drive. 

Not a good situation to be in. 

Then, due to the total incompetence of Thea’s website provider, Host Sailor, her site was shut down. 

And they hadn’t even backed it up. 

We felt very vulnerable so decided we urgently needed a second back-up drive. 

In the morning we took the Mendoza Hop-On Hop-Off Bus to explore the town.  

This was a gruelling three hours, on very hard seats. There was a wait of one hour between buses so we chose to stay on. They didn’t follow the route on the map and only about one third of the narration was in English. 

By the time we were back in Mendoza the shops were opening again, after siesta, so we went off and bought another back-up drive. 

To add to our tech frustrations, when we got back to the apartment there was a message from Kate. 

The DHL package had arrived from Buenos Aires, without the broken computer. 

Will this saga ever end?

 

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February 22, 2018. Mendoza (Wine Tour) Argentina.

Main income for the Mendoza region comes from olive oil production with wine next. 

We were staying at Solandes Apart & Wines and, as the name suggests, they had involvement in a winery and could also organise wine tours. They had a arranged for us to have a wine tour with Jorge, a local driver and guide.

Our first stop was at Budeguer a very contemporary winery with great labels and an obvious love of art and good design.

CocaCola is still widely consumed in Argentina and some of the locals do very we’ll out of it.

The Budeguer Winery was started by a wealthy sugar cane grower, Juan José Budeguer from Tucumán in Argentina. He is obviously doing very well out of selling his sugar and this is evident in his extravagant gallery and winery, both of which are run as a hobby.

Interestingly the advertising for CocaCola is still stuck in the 1950s’. Their strategy is all about putting the product on a pedestal – it’s almost a brand worship approach.

Our guide at Budeguer was Jorge’s daughter, who had excellent English and a good understanding of the Argentinian wine industry.

We then had lunch at La Azul, a winery with a pleasant restaurant under a canopy of vine leaves and set with the Andes as a backdrop.

The final stop for the day was at Salentein. This was a much more traditional winery with huge cellars and an abundance of an art in their onsite gallery, all housed in a very contemporary building.

Apart form a great experience we leant two very interesting facts on our Argentinian wine tour.

Wine fact 1: In Argentina they don’t produce champagne in the same building as their still wine.

Wine fact 2: Between tastings, don’t clean your glass with water, as the minerals effect the wine. Use wine instead.

 

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February 23, 2018. Mendoza to Córdoba, Argentina.

Even though we had a kitchen in the Mendoza apartment we couldn’t find a decent supermarket nearby. 

We did manage to get some basic breakfast supplies but they were very average. 

Providing your own breakfast can be one negative when staying in an apartment. It’s much easier at a hotel, especially where breakfast is included.

We arranged to get Jorge to take us to the airport for our flight to Córdoba, our next stop in Argentina. 

There was a small scrap of good news regarding Thea’s broken computer. DHL emailed that, for safety reasons, they had separated the computer from the rest of the package. 

Apparently it was on its way. 

We arrived in Cordoba in time to check into the Hotel de la Cañada and still do some sightseeing in the afternoon.

We were out of the old town area but it wasn’t too far to walk there.

We visited the Córdoba Cathedral, which was originally constructed in 1582 and renovated 2007-2009. Next to San Martin Square, in the centre of the old town. Then down towards Plaza España, past the Church of the Sacred Heart. Built in 1928-1932 and designed by the Italian architect, Augusto Ferrari. It is an interesting construction as it’s not made from stone but concrete.

It was then back into the old city to do the tour of the former Jesuit Block, Convent and Society of Jesus Church which was built around 1600.

Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, it contains the University of Córdoba, one of the oldest in South America.

As well as the university the area contains the History Museum, Jesuit Community, History Archive and Historical Library.

To tour the complex you have to have a guide, which was great as it gave us a good insight into the history.

One of the last pieces we came across was a tiny statue of the Virgin Mary. What made it unique was that she was visibly pregnant.

 

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February 24, 2018. Córdoba, Argentina.

Córdoba is a strange town and seems to lack a soul.

It is the second largest city, next to Buenos Aires, with a population of over 1.3 million. It was founded in 1573 by Jeronimo Luis de Cabrera and named after Córdoba in Spain. It has many historical buildings and of course the Jesuit Block.

Maybe we were comparing it to Buenos Aires, which is probably unfair, but it just seemed to be rundown and lacking character, compared to the capital.

For example Bicentennial Park, like Plaza España, was a garbage dump of tagging and spray cans. 

Lake Crisol in Sarmiento Park wasn’t much better – there was rubbish everywhere.

We were looking for some culture so we wandered into the Emilio Caraffa Museum. Entrance was free as the air conditioner was broken. 

The museum featured works from five Argentinean artists. The program even had an English narrative which was a change.

There were two painters, Aníbal Cedrón and Adrián Doura as well as a photographer, Franco Verdoia and a sculptor, David Rivolta.

The gallery was a pleasant change and the exhibition was well curated with a wide variety of styles. However when we reached the top floors of the gallery it was hot.

They certainly needed the air conditioner up there.

You can tell if you’re not in a good restaurants area, just by Googling, ‘Good restaurants near me’. If McDonalds and Subway come up on the top of the list, you are in trouble. 

We were in trouble in Córdoba, as there was nothing but bars and a huge disco near us. And of course Maccas.

Surprisingly there were 35 brewpubs in the area, so finding a good ‘pinta’ wasn’t difficult. 

Finding wine was another thing.

Córdoba is a university town and in general students are poor and don’t drink wine. Getting both wine and a craft beer was a problem. 

The women drink beer, so wine isn’t in demand, especially in the brewpubs as they cater for the younger market. 

The only students who drink wine come from Mendoza and that understandable – its in their blood, so to speak.

We eventually did find a great brewpub that served both wine and beer and also had an excellent menu as well. It was here that we got the lowdown on how Córdoba ticks from the manager, who was in for a chat.

Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest has never been more evident than in South America.  

Especially when it comes to the breakfast buffet.

It’s a battleground.

They push, they shove and when they eventually get to the buffet, they pile their plates with Andean size mountains of food.

Then they come back for more.

 

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February 25, 2018. Córdoba to Iguazú, Argentina.

We had almost an entire day, after checking out, before our flight to Iguazú. 

And it was raining. 

What else do you do on a wet Sunday but visit a shopping mall. 

Patio Olmos was originally built as a boy’s middle school in 1909. It was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1977, then redeveloped into the mall in 1995. 

There is over 25,000 square meters of retail space, which includes a cinema run by Hoyts. 

I thought that it was strange that the Australian cinema chain would be running a shopping mall in Argentina.

Then I did some research.

Hoyts is actually owned by the Wanda Group, a Chinese multinational based in Beijing. It is the world’s largest property developer and owner of the world’s largest cinema chain.

 

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February 26, 2018. Puerto Iguazú and Iguazú Falls, Argentina.

After getting the public bus to Iguazú National Park we bought our day tickets to explore the Argentinean side of the falls. 

They wanted to know our nationality at the ticket office. When we got our tickets we found that they thought we had said we were Austrians, not Australians as we were even greeted with ‘Guten tag’ when we went through the gate. 

We took the train to Devil’s Throat Station and walked from there to Devil’s Throat. We weren’t the only ones as there we hundreds walking along the path with us.

Devil’s Throat is a spectacular section of the Iguazú Falls and the lookout puts you right over the edge.

The first European to record the existence of the falls was the Spanish Conquistador Álvar Núñez de Vaca in 1541.

He must have been overwhelmed.

Between Niagara, Victoria and Iguazú, I think Iguazú Falls are by far the most impressive. 

Victoria Falls maybe larger but it’s the views that you get from all the vantage points that sets Iguazú apart.

After spending many hours at the falls we took the bus back into town and then walked back to the Three Borders Lookout, which was jut near our hotel. This is the spot that you can see both Brazil and Paraguay while standing in Argentina.

Our hotel, the Raices Esturion, was a fair distance out of down so we were confined to the area surrounding it. On our first night we couldn’t be bothered looking around so ate at the hotel.

It was a buffet, even though the booking.com blurb proudly boasted an À la carte menu.

On our second night, determined not to eat another ‘buff’ we discovered the Amerian Hotel. It was right next door and did serve À la carte, which was excellent.

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