We woke up with 15 minutes to spare of our hostel’s free (yet mediocre) breakfast which means we were already running a bit behind today. We had signed up for a 10:30 free walking tour and now had 45 minutes to eat, shower, collect our things, check in for our sunset horseback ride, and get to the actual tour. And we managed to do just that!
We made it to be greeted by our guide in red (whose name we also forgot) who would then proceed to give us a fairly uneventful tour of the 5 main plazas in downtown Mendoza. To be fair, this would probably have been a more worthwhile tour had we not already walked the plazas ourselves. We started in Plaza General San Martin in the northeast which features a giant statue of San Martin himself. We learned that he was the general who helped Peru, Chile, and Argentina gain their independence by rallying troops in those regions and now you can see his name pretty much everywhere in Argentina (and we are expecting Peru and Chile as well).
The group then proceeded to the central Plaza Independencia which has a statue honoring Argentina’s independence and hosts a various festivals and shows throughout the year. In the northwest, we hit Plaza Chile which contains a statue of both General San Martin and General O’Higgins, the man who assisted San Martin with Chile’s independence. From here we walked south to Plaza Italia, which was originally to be named Plaza Peru, but the city felt that they should, instead, highlight their ancestors history with Italy. Now Peru just has a street name. And lastly, we visited Plaza Espana, taking in all the tile-work once again. So far the tour was so-so and we had completed roughly 85% of it.
After Plaza Espana, we made our way south to Mendoza’s city hall for the highlight of the tour, a 360 degree view of the city and the surrounding mountains. From here you could take in some of the snow covered peaks and appreciate the large number of tree-lined streets in downtown (especially now that we were on a roof without any shade). It was a picturesque end to a sub-par 2 hours, to say the least.
We parted with the group shortly after and made our way down Avenue Colon to find some lunch, eventually settling on a place solely because they served milkshakes and Doug could really use one. To go with his chocolate milkshake, he ordered another Chivito sandwhich, only to be a bit let down once again. They seem to be missing something major and we’ve decided that that thing is hot sauce.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon roaming the deserted neighborhoods of Mendoza and enjoying a promenade along the lake in General San Martin Park (see, we told you so!), all the time discussing what it was about Argentina that wasn’t quite exciting us. It’s a blend of both Latin America and Europe, but not enough of either one to be culturally exciting or unique. However, we realize that a lot of our opinions are likely due to the fact that we have been traveling for 4 months and a lot of things you can see and do here were seen or done elsewhere. Had we come here directly from Texas, we likely would have a very different opinion. But, we do agree that Argentina is serving quite well as our stepping stone into the rest of South America.
… and we wrote this before we had a seriously delightful time this evening. After having a relaxing siesta, we took off for our next tour – an evening in the Argentinian countryside, riding horses as the sun sets behind the Andes, listening to live Spanish folk music, eating more asado steak, and sipping glass after glass of Malbec. It could not get any more picturesque. Our gaucho guides even had a delightful costume that has now inspired Doug to be one for Halloween this year. Oh, and we saw a tarantula… just walking… in the riverbed… terrifying. Lynn’s horse was very wary of its surroundings but they were able to build a solid bond by the end of it and Doug’s horse had a habit of biting the tails of the other horses in front of it. It was magical (not the spider, everything else) and the barren but surprisingly rich terrain made Mendoza seem like a distant thought. Point taken, Mendoza – the next time we visit you, we will stay in the countryside.
Daily Walking Mileage: 10.0
- After an earthquake leveled Mendoza in 1861, the city chose to rebuild with wide avenues and plazas. The wide avenues would be used to collect the rubble and the plazas would serve as evacuations points.
- Throughout the city you see irrigation ditches running along the road. The ditches are not only used for rainwater drainage, but also for irrigation of the trees that line the streets. The water that runs through it is from the mountains nearby.
- We’ve noticed that they have somewhat unique and very impractical garbage collection here. Every so often, along the street you will see a metal cage on a pole with the top open (imagine a grocery basket). These are their public trash bins. They seem a bit ridiculous for a few reasons. First, the holes are big enough for small bits of trash like gum wrappers to fall through. Second, when the truck collection happens there is no means to lift up the cage and toss its contents in the back of the truck. Instead the collector carries cardboard boxes on the back of the truck that he or she removes at each stop, brings it over to the cage, and using his or her hands reaches into the cage to transfer the contents to the boxes which is then emptied into the back of the truck.