We had two days of errands and much needed rest in Mendoza. The city is laid out with a central park (Plaza Independencia) and four smaller parks laid out in symmetry. Of these, Plaza Espana is the most ornate, with ceramic tiles inset everywhere. We are told the idea behind the parks is that they are places to go in case of earthquake. Mendoza lies in a fault zone, and there are only a few colonial buildings left.
The highlight of our stay here was an invitation on Monday evening to a parrillada at the house of the family who had given us their contacts in Portillo, near the top of the pass. I solicited the advice of the hotel man on what to take with us, and vino tinto (red wine) was the definitive answer, so we set out to the big chain store, Carrefour, to be faced with an overwhelming choice of wines. We solicited input once more, this time from a knowledgeable looking gentleman who was also perusing the well-stocked wine shelves. It is good to be able to communicate more easily than we were able to in Asia. The culture feels much closer to our own, which also helps communication.
Flora (20) and Federico, her boyfriend, picked us up at 21:00, and we were taken to Flora’s parents’ house. There we were greeted by parents Alejandro, Marcela, and younger brothers Ignacio (17), Augustin (15) and Alejo (7). Alejo was a soccer fanatic, busily kicking a ball around. The whole family were keen mountain bikers and the parents competitive in various endurance sports. Alejandro is an ironman triathlete and has also done La Mision Race, a three day 170 km mountain run, for the last three years.
The large brick oven had been lit, and after nibbling picadas (hors d’oeuvres), various wood-grilled cuts of meat and types of sausage appeared, each one more tender than the last. What a special evening! I hope we stay in touch.
On our second day we met up with Eric and Al for relaxed coffee, and in the evening tried to get an early night in preparation for an early start. Early nights are difficult here, where everything stops on the afternoon heat and life only starts again just as it gets dark.