We had another air bnb studio in Cordoba and while comparisons were never going to live up to Buenos Aires, it was still total perfect for our needs and air bnb seemed to be the only viable option to match our budget through Argentina. Our host was about the same age as us and helped talk through a city map with some recommendations- our favourite of all though was for an empanaderia which was just around the corner from our place and came highly recommended. We had tried our first empanadas in Colombia a few months previously but did not know how much of a staple part of the Argentinian diet they were! We set off to get night snack and see what all the fuss was about…cheese, chicken and meat options were insanely good seeing as it was probably similar to getting fast food at home! The Spanish owner of the empanaderia because our pal over the next two days when he served us the cheapest dinner option we could find in Argentina and made our way through his various flavours!!
The following day we did a self guided walk of Cordoba visiting two of the main attractions, the Cathedral of Cordoba which is the oldest church in continuous service in Argentina, and the very impressive looking Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón.
We also visited the bus terminal and booked up our final buses. It seems so crazy that it’s nearly time to leave South America but planning has been a bit easier for the last bit as the end is in sight so it’s more structured. We were way more excited than we should have been when we got two mini complimentary Easter eggs for booking! It turns out they were disgusting but that’s definitely not the point. We are very easily pleased on the road-especially by free food.
From Cordoba we took a 12 hour bus to Mendoza, the home of Malbec and the wine making heart of Argetina, where we would spend Easter weekend. Bearing in mind the last bus we took was the 18 hour stint to Buenos Aires where we were served champagne along with everything else, you can imagine our horror when there was no food, no drinks, no tea, coffee, cookies, ham and cheese rolls, hot meals…..nothing served on board!!! We joked about it for a while until we realized we just had crisps and toffees for meal options. It did the job and we arrived safely and on time into Mendoza 12 hours later but it was definitely a step down from where our expectations had reached on the buses so far!
We had planned one day to explore Mendoza before taking a tour of the vineyards the following day. Our accommodation was located about 15 minutes drive from the city so our air bnb host kindly accompanied us to assist with the public bus system. You need a “red bus card” for public transport-it is a no cash system. However because it was Good Friday, the offices at the bus stops where you purchase the cards were all closed. After a few minutes of Spanish communication between our host and the other people at the bus stop the plan was that Gavin would accompany a very friendly senior citizen onto the bus as a free guest on his pass, and I would pay a stranger 8 pesos (50cent!) in cash to tag me on the bus on her card- NEVER a dull moment. Our host had also informed the friendly senior citizen, the stranger who tagged me on, and the bus driver that we needed to get into the city and we didn’t speak Spanish. All of a sudden we had a community of strangers basically escorting us into the city. We even tried to get off at one point as Gav had been mapping us, and they all protested that the bus would continue and bring us closer….I often wonder what I would update in the blog if none of this stuff happened to us 🙂
As I mentioned it was Good Friday so the majority of places were closed and the city was very derelict. However we enjoyed a nice lunch at a highly regarded but reasonably priced place called La Marchigana, to make up for our lack of food the previous day!
After a bit of research we were ready to explore some vineyards the following day and had decided that we would use public transport again (so much fun the day before and we had managed to buy our own red bus card this time!!) and rent bikes to travel the area. This was about a quarter of the cost of a private tour. There are three main wine regions in Mendoza – Maipu, Lujon de Cuyo, and Uco Valley. We chose Lujon de Cuyo based on reviews matching what we were looking for. I think we were both really surprised when we managed to arrive there off the bus hassle free!! We rented bikes from a company called Baccus Bikes who deserve an award for customer service. It was €10 for our bikes for the full day, and a customized map with reservations made for us at our chosen vineyards, and when Gavin got a puncture it only took ten minutes for Diego to arrive with a choice of two spare bikes- so good!
We started with a vineyard called Nieto Sentenier and this set the bar extremely high for the day. It was the first time for both of us to visit a vineyard or do a wine tour so we had no expectations. Our tour at this vineyard was free because Baccus Bikes had made a reservation for us, and this included 4 tastings-amazing. We visited three vineyards that afternoon, and paid for the other two but Nieto was by far the best and our favourite! We were welcomed with a glass of their sparkling rose before a tour of the vineyard and processing plant explaining the process from grape to bottle!
This plant was established in 1888 and built in 1905- with the original building still in use today as the processing plant. At the tasting we were first introduced to a Chardonnay, followed by a mild Malbec, and finally a strong Malbec with a blend of three grapes from three different types of vineyards. I’ll not pretend we had a clue what we were at but we learned so much in such a short space of time there and basically we have notions that were connoisseurs now! We learned to examine the wine through sight, aroma and taste!
During our cycle to the second vineyard it began to pour rain and we we covered in muck, and then Gavin got a puncture!! It wasn’t very glamorous like the vineyard had been but it only took ten minutes for the owner of Baccus bikes to come with replacements! I was then secretly delighted about the puncture because Diego also dropped us to the next vineyard in his van because we had missed the start time of our tour. Out of the rain-win win!
It was 150pesos ($10) each for our stop at the second vineyard, La Garde but this just included a tasting and not a tour like the first one. We had planned to do a wine tasting and food pairing lunch here but it was fully booked so we bought a bottle of their signature sparkling wine instead because we loved it at the tasting! We were a bit concerned about transporting it to Chile as we had such an extensive search on our initial stop into Chile from the Bolivian border but we took the risk (it was fine!) and we were saving it for a toast to the end of our South American trip in just a few days time!
The third vineyard of the day, Pulmary, was an easy cycle and back to the village of Chacras de Coria where we would return our bikes. This was a much smaller and family run vineyard in comparison to the other two and it also produced organic wine so it was interesting to hear about the different features that entailed. Here we did a tasting session for 80 pesos ($5) and that included four tastings. All the tastes here were Malbec and we learned why it’s such an important product of Mendoza, as it is one of few places in the world with the conditions to grow the grapes for it.
The vineyards were a lovely experience in Mendoza and ended our time in Argentina too as the following day we would take a bus that would take us across the border into Chile.