Week 4: Weekend in Wine Country

Week 4 started off with a very special day: my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend, Sean! Since we were apart for our anniversary, we planned a virtual date night. Being that I’m in Argentina, I found a steak recipe a couple of days in advance and shared it with Sean.  On Monday, I went to the butcher, had a nice conversation with him in which he suggested a cuadril, a good cut of meat for asado (barbecue), and picked up a side salad at my local grocery store. Sean and I got on Zoom (like Skype, but better quality here), cooked together, talked about our days, and cheers’d with red wine (this is Argentina, after all).  Nights like this make a long-distance relationship still feel meaningful and fun, and I highly recommend planning date nights to anyone in a similar situation. Something as simple as cooking together can turn into a bonding experience.

On Tuesday night, we had a “girl’s night” on some of the Remotes’ rooftop, which had wine, cheese and lots of silly dancing and general rowdiness. It was nice to catch up with some of the ladies I hadn’t seen in a few days, though I bowed out early when they headed to Kambaku bar to meet with the guys (who had been having guys’ night at the same time). From what I hear, watching Magic Mike XXL at girls’ night built up some interesting energy, to say the least. There was a lot of PSA-style apologies going on in our Slack channel the next day.

Wednesday was my last Spanish class. After meeting at the Spanish school, we went to Parque Texas, sat on a blanket, drank maté and ate goodies that our teacher Nati brought of us. We talked about Argentine customs, and even played the Spanish version of Taboo (Tabú). It was one of my favorite moments – sharing stories, enjoying the beautiful weather, and learning some new phrases along the way. One fun word: esposas. Not only does it mean wives, but also handcuffs. Interesting, right?

Thursday was the day of memory in Argentina: a day to commemorate the victims of the military coup of the late 70s-early 80s. The city was largely on holiday, in preparation for the parades, marches, and concert for the evening.  After work, I played tennis with Johnson, one of the Remotes in my group who actually plays tennis. He kicked my butt, but I had fun trying. Then I was off to dinner with my PTY crew – the people I’ve known the longest on this trip, ever since our Panama City layover. We went to a restaurant called Tribeca, which looked like it belonged in the Meatpacking District in New York and had some delicious cocktails and ceviche. We had a fantastic meal and a lot of fun catching up after not seeing too much of each other for the last three weeks.  The plan is for us to get together monthly and relive our bonding from 20 hours in Panama. We stopped by the festival for the day of memory for a bit before turning in for the night.

Friday night I packed and headed to the bus station to catch the overnight bus that around 15 of us were taking to Mendoza, Argentina’s famous wine country. The first class buses here have fully reclining seats, dinner and wine service, and get you to your location rested (supposedly). I didn’t sleep very well because the road was bumpy and I kept getting woken up, so arrived in Mendoza at 7am feeling a bit like a zombie. We found a hotel to have breakfast and change, and after a much-needed café con leche, met up with our guide, Javier. He had organized a tour of three wineries for us, and we got on the road quickly. The wineries were in the Lujan de Cuyó region, one of the first areas in which vineyards started cropping up. The first vineyard, Bodega Benegas, was older and had all the charm of antiquity: old wine-making machinery on display, a collection of wool ponchos hanging on the walls, lots of oak and a huge fireplace. We tasted four different wines, ranging from $20-$80 per bottle. I’m not sure if it was the wine or the time (around 10am), but they tasted too acidic for my palate. Afterwards, we went to Bodega Matervini, a modern vineyard that had just opened for tours a month ago. The weather was gloomy, so we sat inside a modern glass building with comfortable tan leather couches, enjoyed a few wines, and had a lot of laughs. Finally, we went to El Enemigo, where we had a lunch set up for us. A group of Remotes had gone on this same trip last weekend, and had great things to say about the lunch, but I didn’t think it was anything too special. The empanadas were delicious and the wine was good, but the main courses left a bit to be desired.

After lunch, we checked into our Airnb, which was in the center of the city and happened to be in the first story building in Mendoza. It looked like a mall, so we were surprised to find our apartment on the top floor. The apartment was cute and comfortable, and I immediately lay down for a two-hour nap. Waking up a bit more refreshed, we got ready for dinner. We had made reservations at 1884, a restaurant owned by Francis Mallman, a world-famous Argentine chef. Everything is made over open fire in a few different ways, and the chefs work in the courtyard where the visitors can come watch them work. We sat in a private room set for our large group, and four of us decided to share several dishes so we could try a bit of everything. We started off with lovely rosé, a gloriously fresh heirloom tomato salad, burrata with grilled pear, and the best grilled octopus I think I’ve ever had. For entrees, we split delicious butternut squash ravioli, baby goat, rabbit, and lamb. All of the dishes were phenomenal – even Miranda, the recovering vegan in our group, enjoyed all of them. We split an incredibly rich chocolate mousse dessert, and then enjoyed after-dinner cocktails out on the patio. A couple of guys from the original Remote Year group (which is on their last leg of the year!) happened to be in Mendoza at the same time, so we got to know them a bit better at the restaurant. They seemed so nonchalant about travel and all the experiences we were having, whereas we came off as super excited newbies. It made me really interested to see how this year would change all of us, and our perspectives on travel. This is our new normal…

A few of us got dropped off in the area of Mendoza with a lot of bars, but after walking through the main street, decided to go home after all.  A good nights’ sleep later, we met up at Maria Antoinetta, a brunch place in Mendoza. Again, we shared all of our meals and got to try a great kale salad, a sizzling egg pan,  more burrata… It was so fresh and almost as good as dinner from the night before, so it’s safe to say we spoiled ourselves with food this weekend.

After brunch, we picked up some wine and headed to the main park in Mendoza. We intended to go for a brief walk and up a hill to see views of the Andes. This turned into a half-day hike, in a dress and sandals. We took a break in the middle to sip some wine and chat about music on a grassy field in the park, before continuing on. The hike wasn’t challenging, but we were definitely unprepared for it, attire and otherwise. Getting up to the top and seeing the Andes mountains was a cool experience, exceeded only by being able to (after some trouble and lots of Spanish conversations) find a taxi home. Once at home, we cleaned up, packed, and walked over to Bute, a café near the town center. I got a real Caesar salad and a beer, and caught up with a couple of Remotes that had gone to thermal spas instead of our hike. It sounded amazing, and I look forward to one day returning to Mendoza just for that!

The bus ride back to Córdoba Sunday night was uneventful, largely because we asked to not be woken up for breakfast, and I got much better sleep on the way back.

Now on to the last week in Córodba…

 

 

 

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