A Visit to Mendoza

Mendoza was a nice enough city but I admit we never got along for the simple reason that I kept getting lost in it.  This is rather embarrassing for me to admit because after so many strange cities I never get lost- least of all in something as benign as a city with a grid layout- because I have orienteered enough in strange cities that my sense of cardinal directions is really hard to mess up.  In Mendoza, however, there were no obvious landmarks visible from everywhere in the city (you can’t see the mountains in town) except, this being the middle of the desert, the sun.  And when you set out in the middle of the day instinctively supposing the sun is in the south without stopping to consider the fact that you’re in the southern hemisphere, well, you typically don’t end up where you wanted in the first place.

So sorry, Mendoza.  I’m sure you’re a lot nicer than I’ll give you credit for, it’s just you were dealing with an over-confident astronomer who didn’t stop to think about how terribly far from home she really was.

Anyway, when not wandering around in circles or on a daytrip to the wineries or the Andes (more later!) here’s what I saw in Mendoza during my few days there-

For starters, while Bariloche was certainly nice to visit I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was in “real” Argentina again in Mendoza- the city’s a little shabbier but people are out on the streets living their lives, filling cafes and stores unless it’s time for the all-important siesta.  Like the shoe-shiners everywhere: what impressed me most wasn’t so much that there were so many of them but rather the fact that they got so much business!

Mendozans are also proud to tell you about how many parks they have- I confess I didn’t get to the major one on the other side of the city from where I was staying but they did have some green squares liberally sprinkled through the place.  On the weekend these squares were seemingly overtaken by junk dealers (who I’m sure are offended that I didn’t call them antiques) which were kind of interesting in a “look but not buy because I’d have to take it home” sort of way.  Don’t get me wrong as I did do some great shopping in Mendoza, it’s just I won’t say more because most of it was for a certain major holiday approaching!

Another important activity in Mendoza, the sampling of the ubiquitous cafe con leche– essentially similar to what we call a latte in the USA, but rather impossible to pass up when hundreds of people are out and about enjoying one everywhere you look!

I also have to say that the Spanish/Italian influence means that Argentina has perhaps the best cafe culture I’ve come across, and I say that without having visited Buenos Aires.  Countless cafes all around you with waitstaff who don’t try to actively shove you out (if anything they’re too hard to find when you want to pay the check!) and for cheap! As someone who gets her best work done in coffee shops, let me just say that if I ever became a writer there would be a sore temptation to spend a few months in Argentina doing it.

Anyway, exploration done it’s time to head back to the hostel in a rather roundabout way due to my now-sub-par navigational skills to the best part of my experience in Mendoza, Hostel Lao…

Now I have stayed in many a hostel in my life- it can’t be much shy of 100 different ones, and they were certainly spread over six continents- but Hostel Lao might be the best out of all the ones I’ve ever stayed in.  First and most important they had free wine in the evenings- an exciting prospect to be sure- but in addition to that they had an amazing backyard oasis filled with a pool and hammocks and just about anything you’d want for some R&R just before flying back to wintertime in North America (Mendoza will regularly hit the upper 80s temperature-wise this time of year, so the pool was certainly enjoyed).

The loveliest members of the hostel team though were easily the hostel dogs, Astor and Bambina, who were experts at training new guests into playing with them.  Astor is above in the middle of a game of “leaf,” aka an elaborate version of fetch, which was prerequisite payment for quality time in the hammock (if you didn’t play he would start pushing the hammock with his paw, then eventually jump in, and that’s not exactly what you want from an over-friendly German shepherd).  Bambina on the other hand would go around the rooms at check-out time to see whether anyone was still sleeping in the bunks, nuzzling those on the bottom ones and whining at those in the top ones he couldn’t reach.  He certainly earned his keep!

Also, the last great thing the free wine certainly didn’t hurt was I met a lot of lovely people to hang out with in Mendoza, which at the end of the day is really what makes and breaks a hostel.  Here we are on my last night in Mendoza, where we went out to a fancy steakhouse so I could have a proper sendoff to reality-

My farewell steak with mushroom sauce, done rare because after experimentation requesting “rare” in Argentina will result in something resembling medium in the rest of the world.  Perhaps one of the best steaks of my life, certainly so big you could never finish it, complete with shared avacado and apple salads and several bottles of wine for the table, and generous tip, came out to 100 pesos which is ~US$25.  And this was one of the best steakhouses in Mendoza!  How could you not love this country?

And with that, I’ll leave you with that lovely dinner to rustle up some of my own…

7 responses to “A Visit to Mendoza

  1. Thanks for sharing colorful highlights of Mendoza and the beauty of Argentina’s culture! Enjoy your travels in South America. And yes, your steakhouse dinner is making me hungry.

    ~cheers, hiptraveler

  2. Great info about Mendoza and excellent tips for visiting the zone. In the surroundings you can discover Las Leñas , with amazing landscapes and one of the best places to practice winter sports. Regards!

    • Hi Mariel! I got very close to Las Lenas actually earlier in my Argentine adventures when I was down south in Malargue for some work at the Auger Observatory- did not have time to head up there this time around unfortunately. Ciao!

  3. Hi Yvette! Nice post! My name is Valentin, I live in Mendoza. I manage the twitter account @mdzrentacar. We love to share the experience that visitors have in Mendoza. Thanks for posting your time around here! Its a shame that you got lost here! Its easy, and simple jaja. You should visit the Parque General San Martin next time, it is gorgeous!
    We tweeted the post on our twitter, check it out!

  4. Half the fun is getting lost I think. Every place I landed in so far in Europe has left me lost for a good hour just trying to find my hostel. Give me a couple of days and I’ve managed to work my way around and use the shortcut’s found getting lost to my advantage 🙂

    • Hey Chris-

      An hour, ouch! If I were you I’d start writing directions down more faithfully. 😉

      As I said in the post, getting lost to me was kinda strange because the more you travel the less it happens, at least in the very fundamental WTF sorta way where you have genuinely no clue where you are. Uneasiness about knowing exactly where I am, sure, but you sorta get used to that quickly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s