After our laid back time in Bariloche, it was time for us to move on to Argentina’s wine country: Mendoza. This was a destination we were looking forward to for a couple of reasons.
First off, as mentioned, Mendoza is smack in Argentina’s wine country. We lived a few years in the Okanagan Valley and loved hopping from winery to winery to taste delicious local wines or enjoy a nice meal at restaurants overlooking scenic vineyards. Living the last few years in Toronto made it inevitable that we tried out what the Niagara Region had to offer. I enjoy wine, but find visits to actual wineries to be the real treat, so there was no way we would miss touring some wineries in Mendoza.
Secondly, we were meeting up with a friend who will be our travel companion for the next month (so get used to his mug – he’ll be lurking around blog posts for the next while!).
Mendoza was a pleasant enough town for us to explore for a day. What did we do? We tried our darndest, with zero success, to exchange our American dollars to Argentinean pesos (note: if you come to visit Argentina, American cash is better than gold…banks offer you the current listed exchange rate, but you can get a much better exchange at the ‘Dolar Blue‘ rate – based on our experience it apparently takes a bit of seeking out and negotiation. The whole thing felt very sketchy). We explored the General San Martin Park. We went to our first parilla and had DELICIOUS Argentina steak. We caught a super enthusiastic crowd celebrating a Buenos Aires football (soccer) team win the Argentinian league.
And then we had a day trip to Maipu for a self-guided wine tour by bicycle (and yes, Maipu was the source of many jokes that day…it’s rare you go tasting wine in ‘My poo’). We chose the self-tour because we weren’t interested in being shuffled around at someone else’s pace with a ton of other people, and plus those tours seemed to be quite expensive.
It turned out to be a great choice; the sun was shining, the weather wasn’t too hot and it was great to plot out our own course. We hit three wineries, including enjoying lunch. And if I haven’t mentioned it before…I love vino!
If you want to do your own bike tour, it’s quite simple. Take a bus (route 10 on either 171, 172, or 173) from Mendoza to Maipu which is about a 40-45 minute ride. There are a couple of bike rental places in Maipu. We went with Mr Hugo and were happy as we only had to pay a rental fee (80 pesos each or about $8-11 depending if you got the above mentioned ‘dolar blue’ rate), we got an explanation in English along with a map of where to go, coupons to get discounts on tastings and food, and a very welcome warming from Mr Hugo himself. Being that I am a shortie, I was a bit anxious about getting a bike that would suit me, but Mr Hugo has a ton of bikes and there was no issue finding a smaller bike for me to ride.
What I liked:
- The bike rental company was excellent, easy to find and well-priced. I would highly recommend them.
- We did our trip in Argentina’s autumn. The weather was perfect, not too hot or too cold, and seeing the fall colours with the vineyards as a backdrop was quite stunning.
- We noted the apparent lack of other tourists along the route, I imagine it would be far busier in different seasons.
- The wine! I am a big fan of Argentinian Malbec!
What I didn’t like:
- Part of the wine route had separate bike lanes which was very comforting, but the rest of the time you were cycling right next to traffic in very skinny lanes with no shoulder. Argentinians drive super fast whether there are cyclists or pedestrians around, and so I found myself hyperventilating a few times since it’s been a while since I’ve been on a bike. Also, on one side of the road there is a big ol’ ditch right next to the bike path separated by only a small curb. It is a disaster waiting to happen.
- The first winery we went to. The staff seemed a bit abrupt and cranky to all three of us. While we ultimately did enjoy some nice wine at the tasting (after almost an hour after arriving at the winery) we felt we got some sub-par treatment.