Mendoza was one area I really, really wanted to visit when I found out that I was awarded a Fulbright to Argentina, so I took advantage of the long weekend right before out regional seminar in Montevideo to go visit with Gillian, Carolyn, and Anna, all of whom are doing their Fulbright ETAs there. Alex Gibson also came all the way from Bahía Blanca to join in on the fun.
By some miracle of timing, all of us showed up at the bus station in San Martín (where Gillian is teaching) at around the same time on Friday. We went to Gillian's apartment, which was fantastic. Then, that evening she made us pizzas. Note: that girl can cook. We're talking spice racks, homemade sauces...the whole thing. It was around this point, I think, that we realized all of our initials together spelled GaGa (Gillian, Alex, Grant, Anna), so therein began the magic of the trip.
That evening, Gillian had some friends over to drink and play games. Lots of beer, and lots of good times. The best part, though, was when we went to get panchos. Now I believe you know my stance on panchos (hot dogs) as the Argentine go-to drunk food, but these redeemed all panchos everywhere. The hot dogs were wrapped in dough a-la pigs in a blanket, and then cooked that way. Then, the entire thing is split in two and the sauces go in the middle. My mouth didn't know how to react to all the flavors. That, and I was drunk, so it was especially hard. Anyway, the point is that it was fantastic.
Once sufficiently drunk and fed, we headed to a bar in San Martín called Mama Africa. Yeah, it's safari-themed. Let's just say that I wasn't nearly drunk enough to enjoy the festivities, but everyone else did have quite a nice time.
Saturday was the start of the Mendoza Capital part of our journey. We stayed in the Monkey Hostel, which is a story in itself. To begin, we were all given bright orange wristbands like you would get at the carnival to wear. As if walking around and speaking in English wasn't enough to mark us as tourists...The wristbands had the hostel address, phone number, and our name, which, as we'll see soon, was more useful than I could have realized at the time. There were 4 of us and we had booked our reservation in a 5-person room, supposing that it would be unlikely that we'd have a roommate. Wrong. When we got to the hostel (around 2PM), there was a burly man under the covers in the center bed (the layout is two bunk beds, our beds, on either side of this bed). Later we found out that he was Danish, and his name was Michael. That last bit didn't matter. From then on, he was The Dane.
Shortly after getting settled, we toured a winery called Clos de Chacras. I got to see a real bodega, complete with the giant wine tanks and storage cellars. Oh, and there was a $4 wine tasting with cheese and raisins. Beat that, USA. I bought a map of the wine regions of Argentina and a 2008 Malbec for my papá.
That evening was just as rewarding as the afternoon. To start, we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Though overpriced, it did give me tacos, a kickass margarita, and an exceptional mojito, so all is well.
After that, we went to a brewery where I could actually get good beer on top. The brewery was called Antares, and I later found out that it's based in Mar del Plata. I had the Stout, and it was wonderful to drink something that wasn't the yellow water that is Quilmes. By this point, alcohol and I had become very good friends.
The final chapter of the evening took place in some random boliche in Mendoza. All I remember is being pretty intoxicated and adamant about finding girls for Alex to meet. Eventually, though, I realized that my wallet had but two pesos left, so I knew it was time for me to head home. I said goodbye to some of the others (Anna, Brad, and Carolyn were still in the club with Alex), and made my way back home (it was only a block or two, and I knew how to get back). As I'm walking, I hear someone coming up behind me. I turn around, and it's Anna. I find out that she followed me after I left, and Brad and Carolyn had already headed out. Even inebriated, I knew that this meant Alex was alone in a boliche without knowing how to get home. However...I headed to get panchos with Anna. She said he would be fine, and I believed it. Besides, I wanted food. Come to think of it, I have no idea how I paid for those panchos.
Well, wrapping up, Anna and I get back to the hostel to find some random person in the bed below me (the bed which was Alex's), so I assumed he'd already made it home. Later, I found out that that person was some whiny French girl who had been crying on the stairs earlier. Apparently, Alex got tired, went outside, and then used his wristband to get home...in a cab. When he got in everyone woke up (except me), and the French girl was...asked to leave from his bed. After that it was sleepy time and everything was great.
Sunday I went back to San Martín with Gillian, since I was catching my bus there. The day was mostly spent sleeping, playing on the computer, and listening to music.
So much fun, so much wine, and such a GaGa adventure.