The first time I went to Mendoza I was 7 months old and teething. I mention the teething because a normal side effect of a baby’s teething is they cry a lot and they have diarrhea. And well, all my life I’ve heard the story of how my parents were trying to have lunch at a restaurant in Mendoza but I wouldn’t stop crying, my father was holding me and walking up and down seeing if I calmed down when all of a sudden a thick warm gooey brown substance exploded from my diapers and all over his shirt and onto the floor…. Yeah, that’s right 7 month old me had a case of explosive diarrhea that the diapers couldn’t contain and it happened in the middle of a restaurant!!! I can only imagine my parent’s distress and embarrassment.
Although, as my parents always tell me the argentine love babies and instead of being even mildly disgusted or angry by the situation they all (other customers and the staff) proceeded to reassure my parents that it was quite alright, not to worry, that those things happened, and they ushered my dad with me to a bathroom to change me and even provided a clean shirt so my dad could change!!! Anyway, after all the cleaning and diaper changing I of course fell asleep which allowed my parents and other customers to finally sit down calmly and enjoy their meal. But wait, the story doesn’t end there, the staff at the restaurant not only turned off their music but they asked the vendors outside to keep it down because the baby was sleeping!!! My dad says that they would do so for any baby, that the Argentines just really love children. I think they were just afraid to wake me up and have me start crying all over again!
The second time I went to Mendoza I was 32, on a road trip with my cousin, and thankfully my experience was quite different (can you imagine if it hadn’t been?).
Mendoza is 400kms from Santiago but it felt like a different planet. Sure, they still speak Spanish (albeit with a very different accent) and the city itself has the same grid structure centred on squares that all Spanish cities (ex-colonies included) have. But what really sets it apart is the climate. We arrived in Mendoza sometime in the late evening and the first thing I noticed when we stepped out of the car was how warm it was! It was glorious!! (You have to understand I hate the weather in Santiago, where the days are too hot and the nights too cold). Mendoza reminded me of Maputo, where nights are warm (between 20 and 26C) and humid, where walking around in flip-flops and a summer dress at night is perfectly normal. So yes, weather wise I was in heaven.
Ok, fine, this was summer, which also means low season for Mendoza. Why was summer the low season? Well, apparently some people prefer snow (can’t understand why) and in winter Mendoza is known for the snow it gets, which basically means that the surrounding mountains are full of ski resorts… I personally think snow is beautiful but will always prefer warm sunshine and the ocean…
The second thing I loved about Mendoza was breakfast and their croissants or “media lunas” (half moons) as they call them. Not sure what the historical reason is but the Argentine have adopted the croissant as their national “sweet bread”. You can find awesome croissants for sale everywhere, at a fancy coffee shop or the corner’s petrol station. In fact their sweet, dainty, yet wholesome goodness became both my staple breakfast and snack while I was in Argentina.
Thirdly, if you love reading and all things book related and can read Spanish then you are in heaven. Argentina is the biggest publisher of books in South America and according to Wikipedia it is the 15th in the world. Add to that that the Argentine publishing industry is self-sufficient – the entire chain of production from paper manufacture, writing, illustration, design, and printing can be taken care of domestically – and it all translates into very cheap books! I bought a good quality paperback of Bram Stocker’s Dracula to give as a present and it was only 3 usd!!
Another thing worth mentioning is their HUGE park in the middle of the city. Its called “San Martin” and it covers an area of 394 Ha (Central park in Manhattan has 341 Ha). The park is gorgeous, it has a lagoon and plenty of tracks that most mendozians (is that how you call people from Mendoza?) use for exercise, you will see people jogging, skating, etc all the time. If you are not the exercise type of person don’t despair, you can still enjoy the park. I strongly recommend anyone visiting Mendoza to spend a lazy afternoon there. Have a picnic, read a book, or simply lie back and listen to the birds. I promise you will come out a better person, relaxed and in tune with yourself and nature 🙂
Because we are talking about relaxation I have to add that Mendoza is in the centre of Argentina’s wine region. I personally don’t drink but everyone assured me the “malbec” wine they produce is fantastic. Regardless of whether you like wine or not, it’s still a grand idea to spend a day exploring the surrounding vineyards and their wine museums.