Mendoza Mazes and Madness!

For our last 3 days in Argentina we decided to go off to Mendoza for a little bit of R&R, the City of Gauchos, vineyards and scenery (my definition). We arrived after a very comfortable 2 hour flight on a plane with more leg room than premium economy seats on Virgin, we flew with Argentina’s domestic airline. Checking in to our hotel, the other half asked what we were classed as under ‘status’ on the check in form. Unsure what he meant I said ‘argumentative’ to which he replied, ‘ok I’ll tick married then’!

I found this hotel by accident on booking.com. A bit like accidentally booking a little bit more time away than we had originally planned for this trip! The wine estate that had been recommended to us to stay at hadn’t yet released it’s prices (my best holiday planning tip is always book as far in advance as you can, as you get the best prices). The Algodon Estates Wellness Resort is actually 3 hours out of Mendoza rather than in the City Centre, so we had to change our flight destination to a different airport and also our planned activities. Luckily I found this out before we left the UK. The resort was very ranch like, a lodge containing 8 bedrooms, all named after grapes in their vineyard.

We were in Malbec (of course), a gorgeous corner room with en-suite bath (unusual) and shower room. There was also a Cabernet or Chardonnay further down the corridor. Our very own terrace with hammock, the other half challenged me to try and get in the hammock whilst he filmed me, I wondered if this was the 50yr olds equivalent of a sex tape?! The whole estate is very tranquil. Lots of birds tweeting, when I asked my other half what birds they were he either replied Custards (as in the yellow saucy type) as he knew I’d be none the wiser if I didn’t get the joke, or Tara birds to which I fell into the trap….. ‘Really?’ I asked, ‘Yes’ he replied ‘because they’re really annoying and don’t stop squawking!’ For any twitchers out there they were parrots!

The thing I didn’t like about the resort was the nubile South American girl who joined us at the pool one afternoon, her bottom in full display and not a wobble on it. ‘Should I get a nice bikini like that to get maximum tanning effect’, I wondered to myself for a mini, micro, nano second. Then immediately reminded myself who I now was and how old I was!

They eat very late in Argentina, we arrived at the restaurant after donning our ponchos and keys to the golf cart, around 9pm, nobody there, at around 10.30 lots of people started to arrived, we were served copious amounts of wine from the estate, a Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and many Malbecs, had our very own wine tasting every night, the food was delicious, he ate steaks I ate pastas, one waiter serving 25 covers and not a moaning, complaining person in sight. How refreshing.

When deciding what to do here, I got some suggestions from the hotel and internet. Told him indoors what the options were and the best ones that had been recommended. So being him, he chose the other one, that not many had done so there were few reviews. The first day we spent a lovely few hours in a Borgo with a labrynth and restaurant. We did the labrynth in 20 minutes and not one argument, amazing. Then we sat in the outdoor bar area and ordered some snacks at the bar. We were handed a divine little picnic basket, wine in one side, obligatory checkered picnic table cloth, cutlery and glasses in the other. I love, love, loved this touch, watching everyone lay their tables out waiting for their food to arrive, we had the most delicious bottle of Malbec Reserve and a few empanadas, a salad and some water. The whole bill came to around £11.50! In fact on check out in our hotel, the extras bill on our 3 day trip including all food, wine, soft drinks and golf buggy was a grand total of £140. I once remember paying £20 less than this for a few soft drinks and sandwiches in the Blue Lagoon cafe in Iceland, so it really is very reasonable out there.

The second trip was a 9 hour trip to some natural warm thermal spring and the remnants of a 1958 hotel which had apparently been used by the Nazis as a hide out after the war. What we didn’t realise was that it would take 3 hours to get there, one hour on a lovely normal road and the balance on something I can’t call a road, more like a Rocky Road, (maybe this is where the ice cream was named after, although there was no ice cream or marshmallows where we were going). Luckily we had a monster truck to take us there, it was very bumpy and very loud for 2 hours with nothing to be seen for miles except, and this was the main highlight for us, miles and miles of The Andes in the distance. Constantly changing vista, small lakes, different coloured mountains affected by the minerals, animals, birds, lagoons, wild horses taking a wash and sleeping in the sun, and the 2 hours passed rather quickly.

Once out there it was too cold to get in the warm spring, but amazing to see. Our guide drove us to a secluded picnic spot under some trees for a light lunch, Malbec and mini quiches, cheeses and fruit. And then returned from whence we came. Trying to have a snooze on the way back was like trying to sleep with a small child next to you constantly shaking you to wake up! To take this trip I would say you need to be happy to be on a bumpy ride, happy to converse with your driver in one word sentences, with hand gestures and a little bit of Italian thrown in in order to have some form of understanding and communication about what it is you’re seeing, and finally and most importantly happy to do your thing behind a small bush on a few occasions. There were no facilities anywhere! Having a driver/ guide afforded us the luxury of enjoying a day trip into the unknown without bickering about which turn we should take, which direction either of us thought was the right one, with only extinct volcanoes and mountains as signposts, and took away the anxiety of stepping into the unknown territory of the Andes! No doubt one of us would have ended up on the wrong side of the Andes, I did however have visions of the book I’d read (and I think film I’d seen) about the plane crash in the Andes where everyone ended up eating each other because nobody came to rescue them, but that’s just me and my usual anxieties!

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