Known best for its wine, Mendoza, Argentina is the largest wine producing area in Latin America and home to more than 1,000 vineyards. This bustling city is celebrated for its cosmopolitan cafes, trendy restaurants and lively, eccentric food scene. An area best known for it’s Malbec and food- Mendoza is growing astronomically in popularity and is quickly becoming South America’s version of Napa Valley. The flight in was absolutely breathtaking. We considered making the five hour drive to Mendoza to take in the breathtaking scenery, but decided to fly due to time constraints. The birds-eye view of the Andes was an unbelievable experience- flying over Aeoncagua, the highest mountain in the Western and Southern Hemisphere, required the pilot to hover closely over the mountains and offered us an incredible view of the untouched, snow covered mountains. Although the two main industries in Mendoza are wine and olive oil, travelers come from far and away for the adventurous sports including hiking, rafting and skiing in the winter.
When we arrived the weather was overcast, but we decided to grab lunch and check out a few wineries. Most people suggest hiring a driver or taking a wine tour, but we of course, decided to rent a car and explore on our own. Warning: sometimes you should listen to the tour books– Mendoza is not known for street signs or accurate maps and is a recipe for disaster for the directionally challenged or unknowing tourist. After driving around aimlessly for an hour we stumbled upon the Trapiche winery. Their Malbecs are widely available in the U.S. and growing in popularity. Unfortunately, the vineyard was closed but we stayed long enough to snap a picture and headed back to the city to regroup over dinner.
After a frustrating and somewhat disappointing drive, we were pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large festival that had just begun in the park outside our hotel. Unbeknownst to us, it was Chile’s independence day- local vendors had set up shop offering a variety of food options and the party was just getting started. Our adventurous spirits weren’t quite adventurous enough to sample the street fair, but the grilled meats and paella looked amazing! The party and loud music raged on through the night and offered some insight into the local culture and cuisine of Chile, our final stop in our South America adventure.
Dad loved the slow cooked meat and got a little photo happy (he took more pictures of the meat than he did on the entire vacation).
With all the fabulous restaurants in Mendoza, we struggled to find the perfect place for dinner, but thanks to the always handy TripAdvisor we decided on a quaint little bistro called Florentino. This cosy hidden gem was reminiscent of an old 1920′s house, decorated with imaginative antiques. After a week of heavy eating we were ready for something healthy and light. We decided to split a salad, roast chicken with vegetables and a spinach baked pasta dish. Of course, after finishing our relatively healthy dinner we had to reward ourselves with dessert… The decadent chocolate treat paired with a local port was the perfect ending to our first day in Mendoza.