Soooo, I ended Part Uno on route to Mendoza – aka Wine Town. Mainly Malbec – my brother’s favourite tipple. The journey was with Andesmar and OMG it was in a different league completely to the three other coach companies we had travelled with. There was hot food, blankets and pillow, leather reclining seats, free wine AND bingo. Lord, this was the dream. However, bingo was done in Spanish numbers which naturally I didn’t understand so the lovely James translated for me! Ha. Sadly, Grandma’s bingo luck was not on my side – this time!
So we arrived in sunny Mendoza and it is a very pretty place. I have heard stories of travellers who come here and never leave – this was not us. I guess it’s about the people you meet but when we tried to PARTY – there was nada. NADA. South America definitely does not want me to party! And I would spend so much as well. Humph.
So we stayed in another apartment booked through Air B n B which again was lovely although I took to the owner more this time! There was no ill looking dog. We mooched around the town and no matter how much I tried, I could not navigate myself around it for the life of me. Even on the last day. So I was pretty much like ‘James.. Where are we?’ the whole time.
During our trip, we decided to scratch the traditional bike tour in Maipo Valley and go with the owner of our apartment’s recommendation to visit some vineyards she knew of. A tad classier than drunkenly riding through some vineyards. Shame. But I like a bit of class every now and then 🙂
So we booked this for the day after and decided to pass some time by hiring a bike through the local park. ‘Don’t ride through this area unless with a group’ was the warning from the owner of the bike hire shop referring to a large section of the park we wanted to ride through. Ok. I did not bring my phone. Obvs.
It is quite surprising how safety is an issuevhere – it seems as though I am warned on a daily basis about muggings and perhaps worse. Even the houses all have bars on their windows and doors -like South Africa. Again, I take it for granted in the UK. Although there are definitely shady areas I wouldn’t venture down like any City – it seems more prevalent here. I can’t image us having bars on our windows and doors. However, whenever I go to a European City I am always warned about pick pockets and touchwood the only place I have been stolen from is in the UK. Nonetheless, one did not want to tempt fate and I had no intention of crossing this boundary.
Bike riding was um interesting. It was HOT. And James basically lives on a bike – he rides to work and back daily. So trying to keep up with him, ride the thing and not burn in the sun was quite challenging. To sum up my experience, James said ‘Tara, I am worried you are going to fall into the lake with your bad balance’. I have made a resolution to get fit when I get back to the UK. However, I feel I should be applauded for the fact that I have ridden a bike twice in a week when before this it was not for about ten years!! Clearly, I am more adventurous in South America 😉
So we did this and then went out for lovely food. This is pretty much how the time has gone since I finished the tour – walk around during the days and eat lots. It’s wonderful.
Because James and I loved Buenos Aires so much, we decided to go back a day earlier than planned. We felt that we would get more out of Buenos Aires than hanging around Mendoza so cue trying to change our coach tickets and accommodation. Naturally, going to the tour shops was impossible as English was unknown. Reallllllly!!? In a tour shop with tourists!!??? Man.
So we called the wonderful Andesmar and JOY someone spoke English – back to Buenos Aires the next day after our wine tasting we were. A small sum incurred.
The next day bright and early we were met by our driver and orf we went to le vineyards. We got there a tad early (10am) for the first one and they were not ready for us so the director had to show us around. He was half Italian and half French but referred to himself passionately as Argentinean. He even gave his opinions on the Falklands – ‘I pray we’ll rightfully get it back one day’!!! Huuummmmmmm…….I mean I don’t mind if that is his opinion (everyone is entitled!) but it was a tad uncomfortable saying it to us on a tour of his winery. Cue uncomfortable silence.
The winery itself was amazing but a small one. Not mass production. He showed us the mechanics of it all and that for 2 months of the year they would work solidly on processing the grapes. ‘We’ being Bolivians. ‘Why Bolivians?’ James asked – because they are cheap. Of course. I loved his bluntness and quite had a crush on him – he looked a bit like George Clooney.
Anyway, we were then explained about the storage process – the different durations of storage for the wine and different types of barrels used. We were then left in the aroma room. This was fun – I have never smelt TCA before – the smell that means the wine is baaaad. Professional aroma smeller moi?! Perhaps.
Then for the best part – the tasting!! Hmm, shame is country is big on its red wine – I have not been able to drink red wine easily since I got exceedingly drunk on it when I was 17 years old. The smell of it still makes my stomach go funny. So James was in heaven trying all the Malbec and I tried a nice Malbec Rose which I brought 🙂 I also brought my brother and Nicole a bottle of Malbec as they don’t sell this in the UK and James said it tasted really nice. That was good enough for me as I thought they all tasted a bit strong. Sauvignon Blanc until I die. Classy I know.
Due to the amount of time this visit took, we were unable to visit the next winery and had to go to straight to the third one. I didn’t mind too much, I was feeling a tad tipsy from drinking rose at 11.30 am.
The next winery was a mass production one and lordy, the size of it! We had lunch first – a classy 4 course type of thing – with fizz and wine a plenty. Gosh I was not used to drinking so much so early in the day! This was a very sophisticated affair and I questioned what type of holiday I was on as I was sure I was backpacking and therefore on a budget. Hmm.
We then did a tour but not before I made friends with the cutest dog!
Wandering around these places I must say that I love the scientists in their lab coats carrying out tests on the wine with their test tubes and chemical whatnots. What an awesome job! How does one get into this line of work!?
This tour was not that great as the guide’s English was somewhat lacking (although I feel bad saying this since my Spanish is awful) but luckily we knew pretty much all about the process from the last visit. So more wine was drunk and by this point, James was quite drunk. Hahah, he might object to this! We also met a couple of people from the states who had visited 9 wineries over the last three days. My thats a lot of alcohol. One of them was hung over from the night before which cant have been too much fun. The price you pay I guess…. Hahaha!
So drunk and filled with wine, we then headed back to our apartment to get our bags for the coach ride back to Buenos Aires. Every time I think of Buenos I smile. People have said that this was a wonderful place but I didn’t really believe I would come to like it so much. Especially as half the inhabitants want to take my phone….
So back on the Andesmar bus we were and this time, it was even better. I would go as far to say that this was the best bus ride I HAVE EVER BEEN ON!! EVER. Yeah, I am going to throw that out there. Why!? Wellllllll…… firstly, the bus attendant was sooo nice. Then as I started to have a wine nap, he started the bingo IN ENGLISH!!! How exciting – so I started playing and….. I WON!!! Yay!! Clearly Grandma Woollett’s bingo skills had passed down to me! I won a bottle of wine which was ‘ironic’ (not sure if this fits here, I can never use this word correctly) as I had purchased three bottles of wine from Mendoza and was quite weighed down by then). Then I got given another. I looked a bit like a struggling alcoholic with my four bottles and backpack.
Anyway, back to why this was the best journey ever; we got dinner which included MASH POTATO! I had been moaning to James about how much I wanted mash potato since our visit to the Evita museum where in the restaurant the waiter said my meal came with mash but actually didn’t. I wanted to point this out to him so as to save crushing disappointment for others in the future butndecided perhaps no one else would care that much.
Moving on – it gets better folks – they showed the film Captain Philips in English which I loved (curiously I find the whole piracy thing very interesting) and then… for the grand finale – I got to watch an electrical storm from the bus window. This was sooooooooooo amazing. The whole sky repeatedly lit up every few seconds and there were lightning bolts everywhere. It was sooooo awesome. I watched this for about two hours listening to my awesome playlist until the storm was on top of us and I got a bit scared as the rain pelted down. I tried to photograph it but couldn’t 😦 I was also worried about holding up my electrical items whilst the storm was above us. SO BEST JOURNEY EVER 🙂 James was sleeping throughout most of this due to his excessive wine drinking! Hahhahaha.
Dens after all that excitement, we arrived back in Buenos Aires and stayed at the same hostel in San Telmo.
We also visited the famous cemetery where Evita – amongst many others were buried. It was a very extravagant place and the tombs were naturally eerie – especially as you could see some of the coffins and some tombs had stairs that led underground.
‘Tonight James, we are going on a pub crawl’ – which was also an arranged tour – I instructed. Hmm, James didn’t look too impressed as he imagined a bunch of Brits getting drunk but I (as a Brit) wanted to get drunk and dance!! So after a day of sightseeing, we got dolled up and joined like minded people in pursuit of alcohol.
The guide was weird. ‘I LOVE SKINS, ITS SO AMAZING, ALL MY FRIENDS LOVE IT, and WE WANT TO STUDY IN ENGLAND’ was the initial introduction. Hmm, I have never really watched Skins but I am pretty sure it’s all about alcohol, drugs and sex. Not quite what happens here (well not completely) but I didn’t like the impression she had of us English! Then there was supposed to be free food which had gone. I was a tad worried as we had not had time to eat before coming out and as previously highlighted; my alcohol threshold had diminished after not drinking much since leaving the UK.
So drinks were had and upon entry to the next bar, alcohol was poured into our mouths from the bottle – like something you see on that TV series Kavos. I was quite ashamed and worried I might catch something but James’ thought was not quite like mine ….. ‘IS THAT ALL!?’ was his initial thought. Moving on…..
I am not quite sure how but we managed to get quite drunk in this bar as I don’t really remember too much after the entry! Like exactly what happened here except at one point James saying he felt ill and needed to go home.
I was not happy with this at all as I wanted to party so was debating whether to contact this guy I had met in Bariloche on my Dragoman tour. His name was Facundo and he told me he lived just outside Buenos Aires. Would it be inappropriate to text someone you met once and ask if you could party with them!? Well sober I might have said yes, but drunk I did not! So off texting Facundo was I. He said he was out locally with his friends and he lived half an hour outside of the city. Hmmm, should I get a taxi to meet him?! I am in a foreign land with no recourse to the spoken language and my phone battery was dying. James said to go (thanks James). Again, sober I would have called it a night with a sigh, but drunk I was like ‘I am coming’!! James thinks I have a split personality when drunk as I seem turn into Tara the Brave which is completely the opposite to when I am sober. Is it worrying that I am more decisive and carefree when drunk?!
So it turns out Facundo offered to meet me somewhere in the City (not in his home town as I had thought) and then he drove us back to his local area where his friends were partying. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in the club due to the time we got there so he showed his local area called The Tigre (or the Delta….). This was not quite the partying night I wanted – fate was just not in my favour on this trip – and I felt bad for Facundo as it also meant he did not get to party. I got a raised eyebrow from James as came in at 7am ish. Ha. Well at least I had an interesting night out. I fear my mum and brother are going to have a heart attack when they read this – ‘you met a random guy in Argentina and went off with him!!!?????’ Si. Tara the Brave. And perhaps stupid.
The next day, James and I went for an 11AM walking tour (after my arrival back to the hostel, I would say that I was a tad sleep deprived) and it was all I could do to stop myself falling in a heap on the floor. Naturally Buenos Aires decided the sun would come out that day! Heat, a hangover and sleep deprivation does not make for a pretty Tara. ‘You look well rough’ was James’ helpful comment to me. Sometimes less is more I think!
The tour was very interesting but we had encountered most of it from the previous bike tour. Such as the building with Evita’s face on both sides – one was smiling and the other was shouting in a microphone. The smiling side was facing the poorer districts of the city and the shouting side was facing the richer parts. Self explanatory I think. We also saw a house built on a building and walked over the biggest avenue in South America. Brazil tried to beat this by building a bigger avenue but the Portenos (local Buenos Aireans) noted that this was not actually an avenue but a highway. Ha!
That evening James and I went for dinner in the newest district of the city – the port area called Puerto Madero. This was lovverrrrrly. So new and shiny. Also mosquito infested (of course) and dinner was sat largely in terror as they proceeded to eat us. Buggers.
We then bumped into a pair we had met on the pub crawl and went for a drink with them. The guy was ok, not very chatty but the girl was lovely. She mentioned she had fallen for said guy as they had met travelling. James said he thought the guy was HOT and gay. I was confused and still pretty tired from the night before. So I asked James if we could stay for one drink and go home which I regret as I wasn’t going to have this moment again. But tiredness had momentarily (I say momentarily because I later changed my mind) set in and I wanted to sleep so much.
Once we got back to the hostel, ready for bed I was. Due to the coach journey and the night before, I hadn’t slept in a bed for two nights. Howeverrrrr, fate had other plans as Facundo whatsapp’d me to ask if I was out as he and his friends were going……CLUBBING IN BUENOS AIRES!!!! He must have picked up on my need to party! Darn it. Dilemma. Extreme tiredness but CLUBBING IN BUENOS AIRES…. I had not done this yet. So despite the fact I had to meet them in an area I didn’t know and James didn’t want to come, off I went to dance. Sober. Again sorry Mum and Darren.
I met Facundo (who was apparently very drunk at this point) and we went into a club. You know how when others are all energetic and smiley and you are not… this was how I felt. However, tiredness would not stop me from partying – plenty of time to sleep when you are dead as ‘they’ say. So off to le bar I went – Vodka and Coke please. Apparently no one drinks this combination here?? I was confused… this is the BEST drink in the world – how can they not drink it here? Where AM I?! After this initial shock and raised eyebrows from the bar staff, I was downing my drink and boy did I need to for what came next. DANCEATHON.
Facundo’s friends were lovely but he and one girl in particular decided I needed to perhaps loosen up and dance. Now if you have ever seen a Zumba class, this is how they dance here. So energetic and arms/legs moving everywhere. Lord. I was sober and tired. This did not stop them trying to ‘teach the poor English girl’ how to Zumba like dance. I felt like how I imagined a dad would feel when his teenage kids were trying to show him how to dance and he looks sooooo UNCOOL. (I have now signed up for Zumba classes – I will master this way of dancing if it kills me!!).
So after a mortifying couple of hours trying to pretend I knew how to dance like Shakira and was in fact not an uptight Brit, Facundo said it was time to leave. Darn, just as I was getting into the moves. Not. But I was enjoying the club and my Vodka and Cokes.
Another night of little sleep and I missed James on my return as he went off to visit the presidential palace and take a tour of this. Drat. However, I looked and felt a mess after three nights little sleep. James returned (raised his eyebrow again) and we went to San Telmo market which is full of lovellllly items. We brought my best friend Hannah a birthday present and again the sun was out. WHY SUN!?? Why, when I am hungover, do you come out but when I am fine, you leave!? So in the heat I stumbled around the market as it was James’ last day here so I didn’t want to spend it in bed. Well actually I did want this very much but that would not be very nice at all. We then got back to our hostel and I passed out for a ‘cat nap’ until we went out for our last supper.
We went to a lovely Italian restaurant and ate looooads. I felt sad that James was leaving me too. This was a good evening and we took a long walk home through the city. I also think I encountered an attempted mugging as a motorcyclist collided with me and made a grab for my bag. He failed. Thank god. This was also the night that I slept in a bed for a full nights sleep in three days and it was soooooooooooo good. I can see James’ raised eyebrow…..
James then left and I was alone again. I had booked to stay in a hostel back in Palermo – the nicer part of town that we had initially stayed in so I got a taxi over there. It’s quite a drive – the city is so big. I must say the taxi drivers were always lovely – even though they didn’t speak English and one even gave me chewing gum during my 3AM drive across town. Result.
The hostel was lovely and I made friends with a guy from Germany and a girl named Sara from Taiwan. I had never really thought of going there but she made it seem so lovely I think I will one day. She was so nice and had just started her two month trip – the opposite of me and I felt so envious of all the adventures she would have. She was flying to Ushuaia in a few days – where I started. So Sara and I pondered around the lovely Palermo neighbourhood and I took her to this awesome burger bar James and I discovered. I missed him.
That evening, I sat in the hostel rooftop bar chatting with the German guy (I can’t remember his name!), Sara and a girl called Lucy from the UK who had moved out there one year ago. Hmmmm.
I then got a message from Facundo who was teaching water skiing to a group of Russians the next day and asked if I wanted to join him. water skiing!!??? YES. Also I did think he was lovely!
So the next day, Facundo’s friend picks me up from the hostel (9-9.30am but in Argentinean time this means an hour later) and off I head to the Tigre Delta for a day of sun and water skiing.
It was soooooo funny watching the Russians get more and more drunk, sing songs and generally get merry. I had a lovely day laying in the sun, reading, watching Facundo give his lessons and getting chased by this persistent bee. I think Facundo is quite the ladies man here. Nonetheless, I get free drinks too – whoop!
Then it was my turn for my lesson and lord I was a tad terrified. What if I drowned!! But alas, I did not and it was SO MUCH FUN. The instructions are a tad overwhelming as you pray you remember what to do but having someone do it with you makes it better. Especially when they know what they are doing! We then went for a drink to this gorgeous bar area by the Tigre (or Delta?!) and sat on the water front. We then went to Facundo’s friend’s house for dinner which was a nice way to end my trip here. Although their pasta portions were a tad large and rather than eat this I drank more wine. Drunken Tara. Si.
For my last day, I met Sara and we pottered around Palermo again taking lots of photos and eating. We also planned to go for dinner that evening to have steak and wine. My last supper! We did and it was a perfect end to my stay here. As well as the hotel I booked into 🙂
And so that was that and my trip to South America came to a close. With great sadness.
I chatted to the taxi driver again (who actually spoke English!) and asked him what people generally think of the English here. ‘Cold and mean’ was the general impression. Not his though – he quickly added. Well on that note, ciao Chile and Argentina. You have both been amazing and I have had the most super duper time. I have already decided I will come back at the end of this year because I love it so. See my next blog.
And thank you for reading my blogs 🙂
I appreciate that they have been exceeeeeeedlingly long but I hope that they have been a bit interesting and made you want to come to these wonderful countries. And maybe meet a Dragoman bus, Marion, Nam, DJ, lovely german couple, Juan and Facundo along the way – amongst many lovely others! 😉