Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Another day of early class followed by time at home to 'descansa' before FINALLY heading out to Spanglish. This is a conversation practice event I've been meaning to try out since my first week in BsAs. It takes place from 7pm-9pm, which is right when I get back from volunteering with the kiddies... but this Tuesday, I was committed. And to top it off - I went stag. Bold.

A quick subway ride followed by a colectivo bus ride and I was at the bar. The event takes after speed dating. Every is assigned a table based on their language - Spanish or English. We then rotate tables to meet everyone at the event and spend 10 minutes chatting: 5 in English, 5 in Spanish. It was fun! I met a lot of people and clicked with a girl who just got here from Chicago. A very interesting character (brought back memories of girls at the University of Iowa) but fun nonetheless. The woman who started the whole thing is an ex-pat from Downers Grove herself!

Carrie met me at the bar after the event to catch up. She and a friend spent the weekend in Mendoza - my favorite haunt. Another great start to another week in BsAs...


Monday, June 29, 2009


Dear Chicago,

Monday was my first day of school at the GIC center. I changed my program for two reasons: classes are during the morning and they are also 4 hours instead of three. The idea was more spanish and more free time: So far, I'm doing fine on both. The extra hour of class is nice and while my new Prof Alania is very strict, I am learning.

A lot.

Of grammar.

Fortunately I've been supplementing with conversation partners. Agustin met me at a cafe near my apartment for a conversation hour that went really fast. It was great to meet another new person and learn their take on the city. He was helping me practice as a favor to a friend who bailed on me, which was nice (though I don't know if he really wanted to be there). His job sounded tough - he divides up 401Ks when people who work for Exxon get divorced. Interestingly, he does this mostly for couples from the US (and Exxon makes a killing on the salary they pay him vs. his US counterparts).

Another great Monday and a great excuse to enjoy more time in a cafe. Class early tomorrow!


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sculpture Garden - Bellas Artes

Mujer de Museos

Dear Chicago,

Today my mission was to see the rest of the Museo de Bellas Artes and find a new museum Cristina was raving about. Bellas Artes is like the Art Institute of Chicago - huge and hard to see in one visit. (It is also free...) I spent the morning on the upper floors of the place learning about Argentine art and artists. These people have been through so much - the art is intense, to say the least. The sun was shining as I walked through the sculpture garden to the Museo de Arte Decorativo.

The Decorativo isn't listed in any of my guidebooks and it opens only in the late afternoon. I stopped at the museum cafe to wait for the opening and I am SO glad I did. This city, much like Paris, forces me to slow down. The cafe experience is as much about waiting and enjoying the surroundings as it is about that sip of warm coffee. The cafe here is officially my favorite in the city. I sat on a terrace in the sunlight and enjoyed a cafe and a ham-and-cheese croissant. There is a beautiful garden and fountain and the whole area is a fenced in part of the museum property. The finishing touch - instead of little cookies, my cafe was served with candied and sugared orange peel. Adorable and delicious.

Now for the museum - one of 5 left in the city designed by French Architect Sergent. It has served as a family home for years and is completely preserved with original furniture and everything. The Bosch-Alvear family were major power players at the turn of the century and the palace/home reflects it. The dining room was constructed to fit the dimensions of the renaisance era tapestries that would hang there... I could go on. Every room, chandelier, painting took my breath away. Fortunately I snuck some pictures:

Music Salon:

View down the black and white staircase of my dreams:

Great Hall:

One of the most amazing things about the house was the giant fireplace. I couldn't sneak a picture of it, but the homeowners had comissioned Rodin (yeah, that Rodin) to design a mantlepeice. He did but it never materialized due to World War... unbelievable. The whole time I was there I kept thinking how much K and Mom will love this place! I can't wait for their visit.

Saturday night was the most random yet. As elections are Sunday (and voting is mandatory), no alcohol was served at the bars. The girls and I managed to find a tiny little restaurant that found a creative way to bend that law - we were served beer in coffee cups! It was hilarious and very, very random. Two girls from the program with their drinks:
Another fun night downtown in Buenos Aires.

A quick thank you to everyone who actually reads these posts - Grandpa, I'm glad to hear you're connected to the 'red' ("web" in spanish) -- we really are world wide!

Ciao - Tess

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Dinner Party

Dear Chicago,

With the monthly turnover of students and weekend adventures of other friends, I found myself home on Friday night without any plans. My senora Cristina always has her daughter over for dinner on Friday, but this week we were joined by son-in-law Ferr and a friend of the family's daughter as well. The quiet Friday night I had expected never arrived - we had a great time! The five of us spoke in Spanish for a 3 and a half hour dinner. I held my own well as we discussed the upcoming elections, travel, shopping, boyfriends, weight gain and smoking. I had lots to say and enjoyed the conversation and food - individual pot pies for everyone. Ferr is hilarious and I clicked with the girl who joined us. I may road trip with her to Lujan de Cuyo next weekend - proud town of the only basilica in Argentina the Pope visited. It was an evening out of a movie and I had a great time. Cristina is so wonderful to make me feel so included, and I learned more Spanish that night than I would in class. Good food, good friends - a very good Friday.



Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pico Iyer -- #1 and #2

Dear Chicago,

The day before I left for Argentina, I came across an article in Real Simple Magazine. Pico Iyer, a famous travel writer, composed "10 Things Every Traveler Should Do". His list applies to camping trips as well as trips to the other side of the globe, so I ripped out the page and brought it with me. I have to say that my personal list will look a little different than his, but I'm writing about each of his suggestions as I go. In the following days, I will present my list of the 10 things I've done and what I experienced along the way. To start:

#1. "Savor every moment of your first few hours". I knew this one would be tough to remember, so I wrote in my journal as I took a taxi from the airport to La Lucila. I was very calm as I arrived in Buenos Aires, so I really was able to savor everything. As my Dad had described, the city buildings looked tired and worn. It was wonderful to have a long, leisurely drive down avenues through the city, and it was a gorgeous warm day. Arriving to Liliana's house I was met by an equally warm Ani. The sun was shining and I began to practice Spanish right away. My first hours in Buenos Aires were simply delightful.

#2. "Embrace the Prospect of Being a Tourist" This one was a little tricky, as being a tourist in this city frequentley means getting robbed or ripped off (or kidnapped). However I have been met with only much patience when I mangle the language and have always been pointed in the right direction to find a subway. As always, I'm not missing a single museum or landmark and have graduated to seeing famous cafes and tango halls.

More of Pico Iyer's tips and my take on them later. After letting rush hour fly past my cafe window, I'm back to the subway after another stint volunteering. Tonight I will have dinner at the house and hopefully, have a whole night of exploring ahead of me once again.

Ciao, Chicago!


Feliz Cumpleanos a vos

Dear Chicago -

I made a big decision to switch the type of class I'm taking in July. While I loved my time at the University of Buenos Aires, I haven't been practicing aloud as much as I had hoped. My conversation partner has helped, but I'm now switching to the private Spanish school my program offers. I'll have class 4 hours a day instead of 3 and it will be in the morning, allowing more time to explore the city with the visitors I'll receieve for the last 2 weeks of July. Its a bit risky, but I think it will be better for my language skills in the long run!

All of this to say that I spent Wednesday morning coordinating such a change. From there it was class, and from there, volunteering with LIFE! I finally arranged to go out for a birthday party. We bring cakes, presents and games for all of the kids with birthdays that month and have a giant birthday party for the villa. We had a bit of a time crunch as the kids came late, but I've never made so many balloon animals in my life! It was great. Hard to forget that we were in a cement shack without heat or windows, illuminated by an old fashioned light bulb that pulsated light without really casting any. Difficult to look past the line of 4 year olds with empty pitchers, in line at the comedor for powdered milk the women were mixing with dirty water. As much as I felt like I should have been helping in another way, the room was somehow still filled with lots of laughter, squeals and smiles. The kids faces were glowing as we served pieces of cake.

It feels good to be helping - I feel like this city has already given me so much!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Dear Chicago,
Another busy week in Buenos Aires! I took full advantage of the sunny morning on Tuesday and took a few subways and a bus to San Telmo, one of the cities oldest neighborhoods. Its very interesting because it used to be the neighborhood of the city's rich and famous. When yellow fever hit at the turn of the century, the wealthy fled north and their gorgeous homes were abandoned. These mansions were quickly filled with squatters and immigrants and the neighborhood now has more character than most other areas. It was a great walk before class and an antique lover's dream.

I stopped for a quick cafe in a famous coffee shop on the Plaza Dorrego - straight out of a novel. Dark, dingy, only the sounds of glasses clinking and faint tango music playing in the background. It was delightful and my cafe came with little cookies.

From there I was off to class. Class was long. I am not gifted with innate ability to use the subjuntive conditional tenses in Spanish. I do get an A for effort.

After class I was off to another cafe - this time I picked another 'destination cafe' from my guidebook. It is called "El Gato Negro" - the black cat. The building is a tiny storefront on the busy street of Corrientes but walking in was like time traveling. Its a huge old refectory and smells like every tea and spice you can imagine. It was a great cafe con leche and alfajor break.

From drinking coffee we turned to drinking wine at my 3rd wine tasting class. It was delightful as Augustin taught us how to compare wines, taste for different levels of oak and pair with different styles of meat and cheeses. Another success!

I RAN home from the tasting to change for Carrie's birthday dinner. Cristina was so kind and ironed my dress as I threw on makeup and got ready. I was out the door in 15 minutes to meet the girls in Las Canitas, a cute neighborhood 'down the hill' from Belgrano. We found a restaurant and 10 of us dined well on steak, cheese and red wine. I had squash stuffed ravioli, as I can never turn down "calabaza" (squash). It was delightful. From dinner we walked through the neighborhood to a fun 'theme bar' called Soul Cafe. We were the only people (it was a Tuesday) but it was great and I enjoyed the company and the drinks. The ceiling lights of giant die were my favorite part -

I was exhausted!! Another great, busy day in Buenos Aires.

I love it here.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vista de mi vidrio

This is the view from my bedroom window before my morning run.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Conversation y Cafe

Dear Chicago,

I've finally connected with my first conversation partner. The program I registered with promises each student a local person with whom they can chat and practice Spanish. After a series of unresponsive matches, I finally met Sergio today. He lives in my neighborhood and today I hopped a bus to meet him in a cafe.

The espresso was great and Sergio was very nice. He's a funny, nerdy porteƱo (local) working at the University of Buenos Aires language school for residents (I attend the one for foreigners). He was very helpful and corrected my grammar as we spoke about travel and language. We spoke for an hour and a half! He has been to various states in the US and it was very funny to give him examples of how the Chicago accent differs from a Boston accent.

I've now contacted 2 more language partners and I'm hoping to meet someone every morning to share a cup of coffee and have a chat (as if I've ever needed a reason to talk!) After class, the girls and I went to a cafe to plan the upcoming weekend. We've got 4 days off and I'm hoping to get out into the country again, though trips are looking to be around 20 hours on a bus and much more expensive... we shall see!

This week I've got final exams and a big birthday dinner tomorrow night for a girl in class. Volunteering Wednesday and Thursday as well.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feria de los Matadores

Dear Chicago,

I write in a Havana cafe on Cabildo street, warmed by a submarino hot chocolate and tired after a long weekend! The original plan for this Sunday was to spend it meandering an area of the city known as "La Boca", a touristy strip full of things to see and a famous part of the city. Because the Boca's Junior futbol team was playing, we were advised to stay far away from the area! Instead, the girls and I roused ourselves after a late night out (I got home at 5:30) and met in the subway tunnels to head north. With help from an information booth we figured out the local bus we needed to take to get to the 'Feria de los Matadores'. An hour's ride seemed very long to head to a Sunday market, but I was up for something different and the weather was mild. The girl who put this together had no idea where to get off the bus - not a very relaxing way to travel! As Grandma Terry would have said, "you're never lost if you have a tongue in your mouth" so I enlisted a local to help us find our way.

The first bit of the market we saw was a pathetic little stretch of tarps and used clothing... but when we finally found the market it was awesome! Hundreds of stalls radiated out from a center stage where tango singers played milonga songs and gauchos sang cowboy songs from the pampas. It was so much fun! There were crowds of local families out for Father's Day. I dove right in and enjoyed a 'lomopan' - giant slices of steak on bread. We doused them in chimichurry sauce and ate standing around in the sun with locals speaking spanish. It felt refreshingly authentic.


After a few hours of strolling, we had worked up room for dessert - freshly made crepes slathered in an inch of dulce de leche. Carrie and I split one, because even MY sweet tooth couldn't handle that much pure sugar. The picture acurately captures the gooey, sticky goodness we ate al fresca:

Another successful Sunday. It was great to get out of the city again and see a new part of the province. Successful shopping for K and J, too! They will be happy to see what I picked up today. I wish you were here, pookies! Today would have been a lot of fun with you both (everything else, too, of course).

Planning a busy week with

Villa Ocampo & San Isidro

Dear Chicago,
I have to be honest. After an amazing weekend in Mendoza, I didn't want to be stuck in Buenos Aires for a field trip. Fortunately, the trip to Victoria Ocampo's mansion was WELL worth the travel and the time! My classmates and I met up at the University building to take a private bus north. On our way we passed by Dr. Liliana's house, the home where I enjoyed my first week in BA. (It feels like that was ages ago!)

Victoria Ocampo (1890-1979) was a wealthy socialite who went against the conventions of her day and lived a fascinating life. She is famous for creating and editing "SUR" magazine and hosting world famous artists and writers in Buenos Aires. She spent most of her life in her family's giant summer home, the house we visited on Saturday. It was an unbelievable house. Every facade was designed with architectural elements from various countries and periods, and there were giant bouganvilia growing around every doorway, to provide a perfume to anyone entering the home. The property was originally 10 hectares, with huge gardens and a view of the Rio de la Plata. My pictures don't do the home justice. Victoria had most of the wood painted white during her interest in the modernist movements. This woman knew everyone - notes and pictures from Charlie Chaplain, lots of the rugs in the home were made by Pablo Picasso. It was really, really neat to see such an unbelievable house and learn about a woman that people remain so proud of. I have been a fan of Silvia Ocampo's work since I started studying Spanish in Iowa, so it was that more interesting to learn about her sister Victoria.

After visiting the Ocampo mansion (part of which included a very detailed tour by a man who could not speak spanish slowly!) we took a walk around downtown San Isidro before heading to a train for home. The town was gorgeous - one of the cities oldest historic neighborhoods. The town was settled in the 1600s and provided produce by train to neighboring Buenos Aires. For this reason it was a great town for summer homes because of the slightly milder climate and the trains. The cathedral is beautiful, as is the Rio de la Plata at night.

Another great side of Argentina I was very lucky to see!

Ciao Ciao-


Friday, June 19, 2009


Dear Chicago,
I've finally figured out a volunteer schedule for my time left in Buenos Aires. The organization I'm working with is called LIFE, which stands for ' Luchemos para Infancia Feliz con Esperanza' or ' We fight together for happy childhoods filled with hope'. The group goes into the different villas of Buenos Aires that are so dangerous they remain unserved by other charities. These are unofficial neighborhoods made of shacks and dirt paths, frequently identified only by a number for the region of the city they occupy.

Once a month, LIFE hosts a giant birthday party for every child who celebrates their birthday that month. I spent Wednesday morning slicing giant day-old birthday cakes into layer cakes and spreading cream and dulce-de-leche in between the layers. We added powdered milk to the dulce to give it a little nutritional boost. I had to run to class but it was great to finally help out a little bit.

On Thursday after class I was picked up for my first volunteer session out in the field. Its been difficult to coordinate shifts, because the vans with volunteers head to the villas at 3:30pm, while I finish class at 4:00. It worked perfectly to get picked up and head out to the highway with the group. We were dropped off around 4:30 and I was joined by four girls to wait for our 'contact' person. I felt relatively safe there, but we had to be escorted through the villa by a local so as not to cause any trouble with people in the neighborhood. It was also a crazy maze of dirt paths and alleys, so I doubt we would have been able to find the Comedor! We were at a comedor - literally 'feeding place' called Horas Felizes. Every day at 4:30, LIFE goes in to this place with a big box of ... worksheets!! It was a throwback to Twin Lakes Mom would have been very proud of. We did math worksheets with little kids for an hour and a half!

These kids were adorable despite being hungry, dirty and very, very cold. I was in layers AND a winter coat and was very cold in the unheated building, and the little chicos were all in short sleeves and flip flops. The Comedor served food to the community at 5:00PM. Out of nowhere almost 30 kids ran in for a snack- plain bread and hot tea. It was a sight to see, but we just kept helping with worksheets! Pablo,9 and Hernan,6 were my favorites and we added and subtracted our hearts out for an hour. Pablo reminded my of myself and got very frustrated when he couldn't read some of the 'big words. After everyone finished a few worksheets, we pulled out the arts and crafts. We helped make signs for Father's Day. 'Feliz dia de papa'. It was a humbling day and I can't wait to go out again.

One interesting thing about the neighborhood - its marked by an abandoned hospital. Peron started a giant military hospital that was abandoned during the regime change. The skeleton of the building towers over the villas. Really glad to be seeing a different side of this city!

Ciao - Tess

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


This adorable little quiche with a crust on top was filled with chard, spinach, and half a hard boiled egg. I had decided to treat myself to a hot lunch in a cafe with my laptop (not that I don't love my little ham and cheese sandwiches during the break at class. It was beautiful with clean flavors despite being a relatively heavy food. How much did this delight set me back, you ask? 12 pesos. THREE DOLLARS AND FIFTEEN CENTS in the US!!!

And I wonder why I meet so many Americans that never leave...

Cuisines y Vins 2009

Dear Chicago,

This one is a bit out of order but I had to include it. Last Thursday, Carrie (classmate and fellow GIC student) and I took our sommolier's recommendation and went to the Cuisine y Vin event downtown. The event was an expo of Argentinian wines and artisanal cheeses. Admission was 2 for 1 on Thursday. We couldn't have had a better time! This annual event is an exclusive tasting party in the wine community so we were lucky to have the invite from Augustin!

Over 50 bodegas gave generous tastings - I had Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranilla, Chardonnay, Sauvingon Blanc. We ran into Augustin, the sommolier, who was so glad to see us. The space itself was unbelievable - Palacio Paz was an old estate of a wealthy family and now serves as a private military club - here called a "Circulo Militar". Only after telling my senora about it did I realize how lucky I was to get to see the inside of such an exclusive building in the city. I perceived it to be like the palace of Versailles - giant gold ornaments and crown moldings around massive mirrors and long corridors. For the event, it was decked out in modern sculptures with hot pink lights everywhere - one of the best venues I've ever experienced!

Syrah Salon

Malbec Salon

Me, Carrie& my new boots!

Salud, Chicago!


Mendoza: Day Three: Asado at Hostel Lao

Dear Chicago,

It was no surprise that Sweeney and I were tired after a busy weekend! It was almost a blessing that everything in Mendoza was closed for the National Holiday, because we would have been hard pressed to fit in another day of museums and sight seeing. We instead took a long walk into downtown Mendoza to see their 'central park' - Parque San Martin. It was well worth the hour walk each way:

After the long walk we got back to the hostel in time for the big Sunday afternoon asado, which took place on the holiday. I couldn't have imagined a more lovely event - the tables were set for about 25 people, which included the hostel guests, hostel owners and their parents, siblings and a little two year old nephew. I got the recipe for Proveleta (provolone) on the grill, a rustic way to serve hot cheese and bread. Delicious. The group of us sipped wine from Mason jars and snacked while the meat cooked over a hot wood fired open oven:

The meal began at 1:ooPM. 20 bottles of red wine accompanied salad, bread, grilled sweet onions and half a dozen different types of meat! We had ribs, flank steak, a soft meat marinated in lemon and garlic. There were big bowls of rustic olive oil and mixed spices to spoon onto everything - the salad, bread, meat. It was unbelievable. The hostel owners were an adorable couple named Mike and Celeste. I sat near Celeste's parents and heard funny stories about the family. I was also seated near a funny guy from Estonia and girls from New York who had just come from Colombia. All had amazing stories to share. At 6:30pm, lunch was still going strong. Sweeney and I had to excuse ourselves to go catch the bus!

During our meal:

The aftermath:

It was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. I could not have imagined a better time spent over more varied experiences. I was so content that I curled up for the long bus ride home. Woke up once: I had to have a peek out the window to see what the stars looked like over the central plains of Argentina... unfortunately, no words to describe those, either.

Muy Contento Tess

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mendoza: Day Two: Caballera in the Andes

Dear Chicago,

Those Twin Lakes trail rides don't hold a candle to the day trip Sweeney and I took on Sunday. Late Saturday night we decided to book a full-day horseback ride in the region. It seemed a little expensive at $250 Argentine pesos but it came highly recommended and we felt we could spring for the $70 US. Sunday morning we woke up before the sun to dress in warm clothes (I was brilliant in packing ski gloves, scarf, hat and long underwear - hard to believe in June!) and pack snacks for the day. Our ride came right on Argentine time - an hour late! We piled in a bus full of other American students and some Brits and were off.

The bus ride alone would have been worth the fee:

From the bus we got on our horses and were off! It was a nice slow trail ride through big fields of dried grasses at the foothills of the Andean mountain range. We were about an hour from Chile.

The ride was easy at first, chatting with our fellow riders and following a little path. About half an hour into the ride, we were cutting across fields and going into little ravines and through streams. It was gorgeous and I felt like I was really riding a horse, not just following the one in front of me! We took a break to rest our horses after 2 hours. At this point I made new friends - ever the snacker, I pulled out a bag of dried fruit from Trader Joe's. Everyone huddled in a circle eating raisins and joking in Spanish as we took in the view and our horses ate and rested. It was such a peaceful afternoon - the only thing I could hear was the rustling of our horses legs through the grass, the sound of their horseshoes clinking into stones and a few eagles and hawks flying around the fields. We saw two giant hares bolt through the grass when we passed them - I've never seems rabbits so big! The day got very cold very quickly. Our guide explained that a 'sondra' was rolling in over the mountains. When the Chilean wind hits the Argentine mountains, the air gets very cold, the water evaporates and as a result it becomes a dust storm. In less than an hour our gorgeous panorama became a hazy field - I would never have been able to tell there were mountains! It was so lucky that our day started so early.

On the ride back to the ranch the group was joking around and we got to know each other better. There was a cute couple from Manchester, England, an Argentine couple and a strange old expat who went riding every weekend with this guide. We were a random group but had a blast trotting and galloping through the fields as the sun started to set. I've never gone so fast on a horse before!! Our last task was to drive home a herd of horses back with us to the stable. We were literally herding horses! There was a hole in the fence, so unfortunately our efforts were in vain.

We rode into the ranch for a big asado lunch, the typical Argentine barbeque the countryside is famous for. The group of us saddled up (pun intended) to plates of empanadas, salad, grilled ribs and grilled skirtsteak. Warm fresh bread and big pitchers of dry red wine took the chill out of everyone. The entire group spoke in Spanish and I got details out of the guide about the types of birds we saw and the specific towns we were in. Sweeney and I told the story of a day in Spanish class - our profesora had asked everyone what compliments the men shouted at them on the streets. All of the girls immediately chimed in "bella" or "chica" or "bonita". The only thing anyone has called me was "naranja" - orange! It got the table laughing and our very funny guide Rodrigo presented me with a fresh orange for the bus ride. It was a gorgeous day of fresh air - after a long bus ride home, Sweeney and I both napped. Dinner was at a fancy pasta restaurant that came highly recommended - but I have to say I liked the barbeque much more. It was, so far, the most memorable way to spend a Sunday I've ever had!

Ciao Ciao (no one here says 'adios')


Mendoza: Day One: BienBebidos a Wine Country!

Dear Chicago,

This weekend I traveled with a classmate named Sweeney to the western part of Argentina. Our bus to Mendoza left the Buenos Aires bus station at 9:30 on Friday night. After a champagne toast and hot meal, we slept in fully reclining seats for the 12 hour trip to Mendoza. The ride was great and we arrived relatively well rested to the city of Mendoza in Mendoza province early Saturday morning. Our hostel was only a few blocks from the station and we were greeted quite warmly with a free breakfast and storage for our bags. By noon we were on a local bus to Maipu, a tiny town about 15 miles outside of Mendoza. We were hoping to see the bodegas (vineyards and wine houses) of Maipu on our own and skip the bikes-and-wines tourist route we'd heard about. Our arrival in Maipu and a consultation with the bike people brought us to another conclusion - vineyards were all about a mile apart, and the bike rental was about $9.00US. Suddenly the bikes seemed like a great plan.

Sweeney and I spent the entire day pedaling old bikes down one main road that lead to half a dozen vineyards. It was chilly but the sun was out and we could see the snow capped Andes mountains the entire day. The first stop was La Rural, a cute vineyard with its own wine museum. A bit touristy, but the glass of cabernet sauvignon at the end of the visit was very, very good. Later at dinner, we saw their wines on the menu. After our first stop we pedaled all the way to the end of the road, in order to work our way back by the end of the day. It was about an hour ride on both busy and quiet streets, difficult because of the old bike.

La Carinae was my favorite vineyard - I loved it as much for the wine as the people and their stories. A French couple were vacationing in Mendoza and fell in love with the place, bought an abandoned vineyard on a whim and have been making award winning wine for the past 5 years. They were adorable and I bought a Malbec Rose to take home. It was very good and very inexpensive. It was fun to have a great story behind the bottle. Next was La Leur olive oil farm across the street. The tasting alone was worth it at this place - a quick tour followed by: a big platter of bread, olive oil, tapenade and sun dried tomatoes. Delicious and a cheap, rustic lunch!
From the olive oil factory we were off to ride farther down the path to our next vineyard. Vina del Campo was a little cheezy, seemed to be the Disney of the Argentinian wine country if that makes sense. We saved our pesos and pedaled onwards to an adorable little chocolate shop. Family run, family owned, we saw how they make chocolate liquors and had a GREAT tasting: flights of homemade chocolate and a shot of dulce-de-leche vodka! It was a cute set up and a good way to end the day.
We pedaled back to downtown Maipu as the sun was setting, just in time to catch a bus back to the city of Mendoza. The region is doing well as recent investment in vineyards and tourism has increased greatly, but like most of Argentina, many people are still reeling from the economic crisis of 2001. Poverty is a fact here that lead to our desire to get back to the hostel before dark. We suceeded and took the hostel staff recommendation to get dinner at El Palenque, a local barbeque place. It was another unbelievable Argentine meal - I went all out and ordered steak with sauteed mushrooms to go with the bottle of Malbec we split. Another memorable meal as Sweeney and I recounted a surreal day. Gorgeous vistas, great flavors, good language practice and good company.

That was only day one! Day two: the horseback trip of my life. Story to follow!

Ciao Chicago - Tess

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Into the Interior...

View Larger Map

Tonight I leave for my trip to Mendoza! I'm joined by a classmate named Sweeney, a great girl from Florida. We're on the same page with our travel style, which makes this trip even better. I'm looking forward to a 12 hour bus ride tonight - it actually should be great experience. We bought 'ejecutivo suite' seats - the most expensive fully reclining seats with 2 hot meals, an open bar and movies --- $120 round trip! Tomorrow we're hoping to tour a few vineyards and bodegas in towns outside of the city called Maipu and Lujan de Cuyo. I want to get into the Andes mountains during the day on Sunday - either hiking or by horseback. We'll have Monday to continue exploring - its a three day weekend in the country in celebration of Flag Day.

I'm going to see the Andes mountains!!!


Estoy Caminando a Clase - Views on My Walk to Class