Mendoza, at The Bottom of The Andes

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Mendoza, at the bottom of the Andes. Another major city in Argentina we had never visited properly; we only stopped briefly (briefly as in “for a cigarette break”) in 2002, on our way from Santiago to Buenos Aires.

The airport tarmac offered the first stunning view on the mountain range. I loved it. I grew up by the sea, mountainous landscapes are exotic to me. But despite the snowy peaks in the distance, it was brutally hot, like in Córdoba. However, we soon discovered that Mendoza had long and large avenues bordered by rows of large trees that provided shade. For once, we were not baking under the sun.

Our hotel room was small, but clean and functional. Of course, it turned into a crime scene two days later but at first glance, we were relieved. No cockroaches, no stained carpet. Mendoza should be easier than Córdoba. After all, this is a touristic place with people from all over the world coming to enjoy the wine and mountain climbing—and hopefully not both at the same time.

Like I often say, each city has its own little quirks. Compared to most Argentinian cities I’ve visited, Mendoza had almost zero bakeries and empanadas were not a popular food. I did find delicacies at the Mercado Central, but that was it. However, there were restaurants and normal-size supermarkets (supermarkets in Córdoba were barely bigger than your average convenience store). I sighed. Okay, I’ll skip the medialunas for a couple of days.

The second quirk we discovered was a bit more surprising: the city basically shut down completely between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Absolutely every business closes but the main big supermarket, a few convenience stores and fast foods. At 5 p.m., the city wakes up again for a few hours and closes for the night around 10 p.m. I understand the logic of resting during the hottest hours of the day but this is one long siesta!

The days were long and hot for us. Sunset is only around 9 p.m. and there wasn’t much to do in the afternoon during the long break since the city was deserted. On the second day, we decided to escape to the Palmares shopping mall in Godoy Cruz, a close suburb, just to enjoy the air-con and stroll around for a few hours. Unfortunately, as we discovered when we arrived, it was… an “open-air mall”, so no air-con but expensive stores (the exact same one as downtown) around a pedestrian square. Ah. The things you learn. The mall was also strangely empty for a Saturday afternoon and we wondered where everybody was. I guess tourists take tours to the nearby vineyards and locals stay home or are at work (but how do the shifts work for those who work at places that close for most of the afternoon?).

Argentina can be puzzling for foreigners. The country seems to be a case of “if it’s broken, let’s not fix it”. The coin issue, for instance. There are not enough coins in circulation apparently and businesses beg you for a one-peso coin when needed. If you don’t have it, the cashier will disappear for five minutes, get a manager and come back with the precious coin, sighting. I find it hilarious because this is the kind of scene you would see in Canada or in France if you were trying to pay with a large bill, where checks would be made to made sure it’s not counterfeit. If there is no coin to be found, you will be offered a piece of candy. Mark is now addicted to candies.

And then, there is the inflation issue. The currency was devalued again last December as the new president Macri let the peso crash. As a result, prices increased quite a bit and even as a foreigner, I found some stuff were overpriced. ATMs are often empty and the cambio guys, the black market currency exchange, are back in the street. Many businesses don’t accept credit cards or give discount if you pay cash. Who will ever fix the country’s economy? Can it be fixed? Yeah, I know, easier said then done.

After the air-open mall, aka just another shopping district, we decided to walk back to the centre, an adventurous challenge considering the distance and the fact that dark thunderstorm clouds were looming over the mountains. It turned out to be a relaxing walk though, as we followed a bike path and discovered dozens of murals along the way, and it didn’t rain.

The last stop was at the barber’s shop, where Mark got a haircut. It’s just too hot for thick messy hair.

With Mendoza, we got a taste of the Andean culture, far from Brazil’s beaches and Buenos Aires’ cosmopolitan feel.

Time to see the other side… across the Andes.

Landing in Mendoza, the Andes in the background

Landing in Mendoza, the Andes in the background

Landing in Mendoza, the Andes in the background

Landing in Mendoza, the Andes in the background

Coffee (and temperatures on the newspaper, 37C!)

Coffee (and temperatures on the newspaper, 37C!)

"Nobody is normal"

“Nobody is normal”

Ceiling of one of the pasajes

Ceiling of one of the pasajes

Coffee...

Coffee…

... and juice

… and juice

Mendoza wines

Mendoza wines

Yerba mate at the market

Yerba mate at the market

Empanadas at the market

Empanadas at the market

Empanadas at the market

Empanadas at the market

Jam and dulce de leche

Jam and dulce de leche

Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche

Empanadas

Empanadas

Pascualina (spinach and egg pie)

Pascualina (spinach and egg pie)

Facturas

Facturas

Facturas

Facturas

Alfajores

Alfajores

Facturas

Facturas

Sandwiches, sandwiches de miga and alfajores: local treats

Sandwiches, sandwiches de miga and alfajores: local treats

Museo del Área Fundacional

Museo del Área Fundacional

Museo del Área Fundacional

Museo del Área Fundacional

Trees and large avenues

Trees and large avenues

Mark getting a haircut

Mark getting a haircut

After the haircut

After the haircut

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Terraza Jardín Mirador with the Andes in the background

Newsstand in Mendoza

Newsstand in Mendoza

Ice cream... plural

Ice cream… plural

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Godoy Cruz, la ciudad de los murales: walking from the close suburb back to Mendoza centre, following the many murals and the bike path

Metrotranvía Mendoza

Metrotranvía Mendoza

Metrotranvía Mendoza

Metrotranvía Mendoza

Mendoza

Mendoza

Souvenirs of Mendoza

Souvenirs of Mendoza

Souvenirs of Mendoza

Souvenirs of Mendoza

Convenience store

Convenience store

City alive again after the siesta

City alive again after the siesta

City alive again after the siesta

City alive again after the siesta

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About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.

2 Comments

  1. Martin Penwald on

    Where do you go after Mendoza? I guess around Santiago in Chile. Do you take the bus or a plane? Have you ever considered to rent a car (if possible) and drive to there?
    From what I see on gogole view, the RN-7 doesn’t look that bad, we have the same road in British Columbia across the Rockies.

    • We bused through the Andes once. It was a great experience but… flying it was. Funny, none of us feels like driving around here. We are happy to take the bus, boat, train or fly. We did rent a car in Australia, bought one in New Zealand and rented in Mexico when Mark was a baby. But to me, backpacking is busing around.

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