Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Mendoza, Argentina

I have been spending the last five days just hanging out in Mendoza, which is a really nice small city, the center of wine production for Argentina (which makes it a really nice place to "just hang out"). When Darwin was here in the 1830s, he said "to my mind the town had a stupid, forlorn aspect". I´m going to go ahead and disagree with you on that one, Charles. Of course, Mendoza was completely destroyed by an earthquake and fire about 30 years later, and had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Like almost all Argentine cities and towns, it´s built on a grid system, with wide streets lined with tall plane trees, which is in fact really reminiscent of Aix-en-Provence, France, where I spent my Junior Year Abroad. One funny thing is that many of the streets have the widest, deepest gutters I have ever seen. Gutter isn´t actually the right word, they are more like trenches, or moats. Some have to be nearly 4 feet deep and two feet wide. You really have to watch out, if you´re not careful you´ll fall in and break an ankle or chip a tooth on the other side. I´m surprised they don´t occasionally lose small children or dogs to the rushing waters which flow through some of them.

I took a really interesting wine tour the other day, where we learned how the grapes are grown and where the flavor and body (tannins) come from on the grape. Then we learned how to taste wine, what you look for in the way the light shines through it, and how to swish it around your mouth like a pro. So watch out, no more box wine for me, only vintages with a sophisticated bouquet.

Mendoza is also really near the Andes (and was used as a base for Jose de San Martin, when he crossed them to liberate Chile and then Peru from Spain, thereby having a street named for him in every single town in Argentina, along with statues, plazas, parks, etc) and today I am off to see the tallest mountain in South America, Aconcagua. Tomorrow I leave early for a horseback riding adventure with real gauchos! I´ll be back in a few days, hopefully with some nice photos of the adventures.