Our journey to Mendoza from El Calafate started with the van picking us up and our host Karina, handing my 4 sets of boarding passes all the way to Mendoza. Then arriving at a very empty check-in counter, she walks straight through a very "staff only" looking door and appears with check-in agent and a baggage handler. We are tagged and whisked away before you can say "overweight luggage". A quick stop to pay the airport tax and nothing to do but wait.
Arriving in Buenos Aires, we actually had to leave the airport and come back in again to catch our next flight (i.e no internal transfer method). So back upstairs and queue for security. Camille having forgotten that I am still in possession of a 1/2 empty water bottle then madly scrambles out of the line to dump the water so I can then go and buy more 30 seconds later after having passed security.
Having some time to kill we grabbed a quick bite to eat and of course a glass of wine. With still plenty of time, having finished lunch, we casually strolled to our gate to wait for our next flight. They finally call for boarding and I ask Brian for the boarding passes, getting the blank stare and the "i don't have them, you have them" statement I go through annoyed, worried and panicked in record time. Louise then mentions that she say them on the table when we left the restaurant. No time to lose...i drop my bag and mildly assured that since we are checked in AND our baggage is on board, that we will not miss the flight but envisioning a rather complex resolution, I run a top speed back to the restaurant and head straight to the kitchen where our waitress casually hands me my boarding passes. I give her a big kiss on each cheek, with a hearty Mucho Mucho Gracias, to the hearty laughs of folks observing this and dash back in time to leisurely board the flight as if nothing happened. Hopefully, that will be the only glitch of the trip.
Arriving in Mendoza after 8pm, we are the only aircraft landing. A quick peak to ensure that our driver is waiting, our baggage is expeditiously dispatched and we are away. Well, not so much. The curious habit of sending your luggage back through security x-ray before leaving the airport is not overlooked in Mendoza. Quickly a queue is forming and the waiting begins....did i say grrrrrrr yet! But all is good and the drive through Mendoza city at night is magical. Arrive at our hotel, confirm pick-up for our wine tour tomorrow check-in and meet back in the lobby for an appropriately timed dinner of 9:30pm. We head to a sidewalk restaurant just around the corner and get to speak to the many waiters in Spanish, English, French and Italian. Back on terra firma and a big day tomorrow we head off to our beds.
The wine tour was fun with two medium sized wineries (about 1 million litres of production annually), the first doubling as the consulate for the Finish government! Then second was about the same size but with massive room for expansion, having planted less then 40% of their lands to date. We were surprised with a horse drawn tour of the estate and a visit with the llamas that "provide" fertilizer for the vineyards and wool that the workers can sell to help supplement their income. Mendoza is truly an arid region with one of the most complex irrigation systems in the world. Totally fascinating to see and hear about. Our last stop included a wine pairing lunch which we opted to partake in first. On retrospect, may not have been the best idea as we never did go on the actual tour afterwards. Five courses and all the wine you could drink and none of us was in a position to take any position more challenging than sleeping in the back of the van for our return journey to the city. Stumbling into our hotel we confirmed meeting in the lobby at 8:30 to meet Ann and Richard and her cousins. Hoping for a quick nap, then a shower and some wifi time on the travel blog, Brian woke me at 7:30 and said that I should probably get up to get ready for dinner!!!!
We were originally planning an assado - a traditional argentine BBQ - but discovered that facilities were inadequate for a large group. They decided on a typical restaurant near the hotel....which turned out to be the same one that we went to the previous night. Now in the hands of a native, I looked forward to some more adventurous dinning. I was not disappointed. Argentinians have long practiced "nose to tail" culinary style. We dined on all "other" parts first, which were surprisingly good. The second course had more traditional beef ribs, roast chicken and pork chops. Unfortunately, this part was all over done to the point of not being able to cut it! For someone that loves anything tartare and orders her steak blue, it was an almost total pass. Not wanting to break off the great conversations and the burgeoning friendships, we opted to stroll a little to digest and find a coffee bar. A few cocktails later we bid our hosts buenos noches. Tomorrow is scheduled as a day of rest, but the gang decided that a walking tour of the city was in order so arranged to meet up with our guide at 11am. A least we get to sleep in a bit. I begged off, as I was pretty saturated and felt a little alone time would be therapeutic.