In my mind, I have been trying for weeks to put this place into words. Most of all, I have been trying to figure out how to explain these feelings that I’m suddenly overwhelmed by. Argentina, my joker, the country I had no plans of visiting, and here I am, falling in love with the people, the culture, the customs, and the beautiful city of Mendoza. So what is it that makes Mendoza so special? In this article, I give my 9 reasons for my new found love.
1. Mendoza City
So where did this love for Argentina and most of all Mendoza begin? It might already have started on my second day in Mendoza when I joined a walking tour, and got introduced to the beautiful city with all its amazing restaurants, wine bars, and trees, which at this time of year are covered in orange, yellow and green leaves.
The strange thing is that the city is actually placed in a desert, but during hundred of years the Mendocinos have implemented a water system bringing water from the mountains to the city, and to all the trees, and wine fields. I am still afraid I one day will find myself ending up in one of these drains. Considering my luck, and my many trips to and from the wine bars, it could easily happen.
2. Food & Wine of Mendoza
In Mendoza, there are enough good restaurants and bars to keep you entertained for years. Sadly, my budget doesn’t allow me to go nuts. But when I do treat myself to something good, it is worth every penny (or should I say peso), and I have already discovered my favorite restaurant and wine bar. At María Antonenta in Belgrano street, I get served the most tender steak at small tables set with checkered tablecloth, while I at Chinitas for only 300 pesos get a tapas plate together with a tasting of four different wines where each of them makes me forget all the worries of the world. And if that wasn’t enough, the food and wine are served by the passionate owner Marina who’s knowledge is amazing. Marina soon becomes a friend, and Chinitas becomes one of my most visited places in Mendoza. I come here both on a regular night, but also for their cheap wine tasting where each night is dedicated to a certain winery in the area of Mendoza.
If I am seriously in the mood for meat (I am in Argentina after all), I make my way down to the street Las Heras where you can find loads of restaurants serving parilla which is a very typical dish consisting of a big amount of both beef and pork, cut out from all parts of the animal (some of it, I still find too weird to eat, like the kidneys and other guts but the rest is tasty).
3. Night Life & Dancing
After such a big amount of meat, the best thing you can do is to go dancing. Luckily, Mendoza got some good options for that. On my first night out, we start our night at Arístides Villanueva which is a street loaded with bars and restaurants. Later, we end up at La Reserva which is a gay club famous for their dragshow, and it’s not before the break of dawn I find my way back to the hostel.
At other times, I will join a reggae party at N8 which is a place for live music, or I will make my way to Maipu and the popular Black Jagger which in the weekends gets completely crowded. A place filled with well-dressed Argentineans ready to shake their hips to the sound of reggaeton and cumbia.
If I am serious about the dancing, I will join a tango lesson with Ana and Luis’ tango school. My luck is that my French colleague is willing to join me. But we will probably never become real pro during this lifetime. Tango is difficult! I can still hear Ana’s voice in my mind saying “bloque“, “bloque“! Meaning that, we have to bloque our posture. No movement of the hips, only straight legs and my eyes fixed on Victor’s chest – never look down! You have to feel the movement of your partner. He has to lead you! Poor Victor…
4. Wine & Wineries
It could be that my love for Mendoza evolved during my visits to the many bodegas (wineries) and wine fields in the areas of Maipu, Uco Valley and Lujan de Cuyo. There is nothing like riding a bike or a motorbike through the wine fields which at this time of year, like the trees, got these beautiful autumn colors. Red, orange and dark green, and then with the left over of the grapes who escaped the harvest of the season. It all looks stunning in the autumn sun. And there is nothing like enjoying a good lunch at a place like the terrace of Mevi Bodega with its gorgeous views of the wine fields and the snow covered mountains in the background.
The truth is that my interest for wines only gets bigger for every winery I visit. From La Rural, to San Lopez to Caelum, to Familia Zuccuri. I love hearing about the process and production of these wines; how they proces the grapes, and keep the wine in huge barrels, and how they take samples from the barrels every week to see if the wine is breathing. If not, comes the horror story. Apparently after emptying the barrel, someone has to climb in to the barrel through the smallest door, I have ever seen, and from the inside clean the small openings that ensure the oxidation of the wine. Just hearing the story makes me claustrophobic.
5. Park San Martín
Coming home from the wineries with the bag filled with wines, the best thing you can do, is to have a picnic in the park San Martín which is a park I get to love. It’s only placed a couple of blocks from my hostel, and it’s huge. There is a big lake, loads of palm trees, and a viewpoint called Cerro Gloria which makes for a perfect trekking tour. This park becomes my little oasis.
6. Olives, Olive Oil & Olive Trees
If I had enough of the wines (even though I don’t think I will ever get to that point), there is always the option of visiting one of the olive oil factories in the area of Maipu. Together with my Hungarian friend, I do a tour to a factory called LAUR. And even though, I am not a big fan of olives, this turns out to be an interesting visit.
After learning about the process of making olive oil and vinegar, we get a tasting of six different olive oils, three balsamico, and a plate filled with olives, tapenade, sun dried tomatoes, and bread. The truth is that I actually never liked olives, and I have been practicing for years trying to get use to the taste, so it is kind of ironic that I end up at a tasting at an olive factory. To my big surprise, this gets to be the day where I am enjoying the taste for the first time which must be a sign that I am getting older, and my taste is developing. Big applause to that!
7. Hiking & Riding in the Mountains
Maybe I fell in love with Mendoza during a horseback riding tour at the foothills of the Andean mountains. Or it could be that my Argentinean crush happened during my hikes in and around the beautiful mountains surrounding Mendoza. There is the beautiful and more less easy half day hike to Cerro Arco which is a smaller mountain that you climb. The views from the top are stunning. From there, you really get a feel for the area and city of Mendoza.
Then there is the area of Cachueta near Lujan de Cujo. Trekking in this area will reward you with amazing views of the Andes mountains and the border to Chile. After the trek, there is nothing like letting your body soak in the warm waters of Las Termas de Cacheuta which are hot springs placed in a valley with beautiful mountain views.
The good thing is that you can do most of these hikes on your own. You don’t need a guide. The sad thing is that there are plenty of other hikes that can be done in the area, but because we are getting closer to winter time, most of the treks are closed due to snow. My dream was to do the base camp trek to Aconcagua, which with its 6.961 meters, is the highest mountain in the Western and Southern hemisphere of the world. But I guess, I will have to wait.
At a reggae party, I get to meet Luis from Mendoza who I end up spending a lot of time with the next couple of months (I know, there is a guy too, which doesn’t make it easier not liking Mendoza).
On our first date, he takes me to Villavicencio which is a big mansion placed in the mountains. Here they produce the mineral water that I see everywhere in Mendoza. Our trip to Villavicencio, is followed by red wine and an Argentinean asado made by Luis in the middle of the nature (a big amount of the most tender meat). To my big enjoyment, Luis takes out his guitar and more or less, sings me Spanish love songs the rest of the day. The Argentinean guys really know how to woe a girl, that is for sure. Other times, Luis will take me trekking, invite me for a picnic in the park or at the beautiful lake Potrerillos, or maybe take me for a night out with music with his band.
9. A Culture for Sharing
One thing I surely get to love, is the Mendocinos’ way of sharing everything. There is such a social culture which somehow, goes straight to my heart. I love the social aspect of drinking mate which is a form of tea. Consuming mate is something that you rarely do alone, instead it is done with friends or family where the cup will pass from person to person.
Another big social ritual, is the Argentinean asado (barbecue) where a fire is lit in the garden or in the middle of the nature, and a big amount of tender meat is placed upon. The asado is accompanied by a good red wine, and maybe some bread, or salad. If you ever go to a mountain, or anywhere with a view, you will see the smoke coming from various asados in the horizon, which will give you a feel for how mportant these asados are to the Mendocinos.
But it’s not just the mate and the asados that the Mendocinos love sharing. More or less everything is shared. What is mine is yours, must be the best way of describing the mentality of the Mendocinos.
Somehow, it feels as though I fit in. I feel it when I am hiking in the beautiful mountains surrounding Mendoza, when I am sharing a mate or an asado with friends and colleagues, and when I am gathered around the dinner table at my hostel with all the people. I can’t help thinking, is this the place for me to settle down? Or will my restless soul get the better of me in the end? I guess time will tell…
Read more: Mendoza’s Best Bets: Food + Wine