Normally a 13 hour overnight bus ride would fill me with dread. But in Argentina it’s something to look forward to, especially if you go first class.
A first class ticket on the bus line Cata gets you a big seat, foot rest, blanket, pillow, newspaper, curtains to section off your seat and a personal tv. You also get your own personal garbage bag which doesn’t sound like much unless your husband has a cold and is going through a lot of tissues.
Soon after the bus started out we got served this sandwhich with either water or coke. My first thought was, “Nice, but this is not going to hold me for 13 hours.”
Ham item #1
It turns out this was just the appetizer. The second thing we were served was this plate of assorted mini ham sandwiches.
This course came with it’s own mini bottle of wine.
Then came the main course, breaded meat, potatoes all covered in ham. It looks weird, but was strangely delicious.
We had the choice of coffee, tea, water or champagne with dessert. It was so tempting to get champagne because when do you ever have the chance to drink champagne on a bus? But, I went with water. I wasn’t sure how champagne would taste with flan.
Then it was movie time. We had the choice between two different movies, both in English with Spanish subtitles. Once the movie was over everyone pulled their curtains around their seats, lowered their seats back and put up their foot rests. The seat turned into a fully horizontal bed.
The best part besides the fully reclining seat, wine, and garbarge bag was that for the entire night the rest of the bus, all 18 other passengers were silent. No cell phones, talking, kids crying, nothing. Just pure silence. We both actually got a pretty good night’s sleep considering we were on a bus.
The next morning we were served orange juice, coffee, and a plate of assorted cookies, no ham. If we weren’t leaving Argentina tomorrow I’d take a few more buses. It was that much fun. But, then again I do amuse easily.
With less than a week left to go in Argentina, I realize there is no way I can do it. I was very eager early on, but then as I ran out of the popular cuts and was left with lots of organs, I lost my appetite. When faced with the choice at a restaurant – the best, most tender rib-eye steak you’ve ever had, or kidneys, it was not a hard choice.
So, I continued to eat lots and lots of beef but stopped trying to eat all the parts. I did recently add one new part of the cow to my list, and a scary part of a pig.
First the pig, no it’s not a pig head.
I love sausage of all types. But, there is something disturbing to me about blood sausage, it’s not even the name or idea of blood sausage. It’s the color. Blood sausage is really dark, almost black. I think if it was bright red it wouldn’t be so disturbing.
So when our friends Nati and Frankie came over for an asado (Argentinian barbecue) with blood sausage, I knew now was the time to try it.
Jeff cooked it up and left it on the fire until it sort of split open.
And then I tried it. Here’s the thing, blood sausage is amazing! It doesn’t taste like blood, it is soft and slightly sweet. I’m not sure what it tastes like in other countries, but in Argentina, cooked over a wood fire, it’s incredible.
Mollejas are also known as sweetbreads or the thymus gland of a cow. When our friend Leandro came over for an asado he brought all kinds of meat including mojellas. One last thing to add to my cow list.
I have to admit, they didn’t look pretty raw.
He doused them with fresh squeezed lemon juice and salt. Once on the grill they started to look better.
And then, when we actually ate them, they were really good. The texture is a big weird, sort of spongy, but they taste great.
So, that’s it for the cow eating on this trip. I plan to eat several more pieces of cow between now and when we go back to the US, but they will be my favorite cuts bife de chorizo and bife de lomo. Not only will I not be eating an entire cow in one sitting, I won’t be eating an entire cow in one country. The rest of the parts will need to be eaten on other trips.
When we planned a day of wine tasting in Lujan our goal was to taste a lot of wine. We achieved our goal and learned the meaning of the saying, “too much of a good thing.”
Lujan is only thirty minutes from Mendoza, or ninety minutes if you get lost, end up in a traffic jam, get lost again, then end up behind a horse.
Our appointment (all wineries require appointments) with Kaiken was at 9:30. We didn’t get there until 11:00 which is just as well. 9:30 am is a bit early for wine tasting, even for us. There was already a tour scheduled, but they were super nice to let us tag along.
The first taste was straight from the tank. If I knew how much wine was coming later in the day, I would have skipped this one.
The following tastes were really good and plentiful. Kaiken has some really great wines.
I must have already been tipsy at this point because I insisted we buy two Kaiken wine glasses. I’m sure two fragile wine glasses won’t be too hard to pack in our already stuffed suitcases.
By this point it was good we had already agreed that Jeff would be the designated driver all day. Jeff was completely sober before getting in the car, all day long. The same could not be said for me as a passenger.
Next stop was Ruca Malen for a luxurious five course meal. The lunch cost $100 US for both of us. In Argentina that is a lot of money and for us on this trip it’s a lot. We debated for days prior if we should do it or not.
You would think this was a government facility instead of a winery with the amount of security they had. A security guard had to radio someone to confirm our reservations before opening the gate.
Once we got there and saw the view, we didn’t have any doubts about lunch.
There are certain things I like in a market – produce, meat, local specialties, interesting people, and gross stuff. The Mendoza market or Mercado Central has the perfect mix of all of these things. I was able to shop, buy stuff for dinner, see cool stuff, and freak out at gross stuff.
The Mendoza market had just enough of everything. This was different than the Salta market which had way too much gross stuff for my tourist eyes to take in. Jeff wasn’t over the trauma of the Salta market either.
When I changed the name of my blog to Sounds Good on Paper, I didn’t expect the very next thing we did would fall into this category. But, wine tasting in San Juan became one of those things that sounded so good on paper. Sometimes things sound good on paper, turn out differently and are even better than planned.
And sometimes they just suck. Wine tasting in San Juan turned into one of the sucks days.
On Paper: rent car, drive through beautiful countryside to city of San Juan where we would wine taste lots of amazing wine.
Reality: Spent way too much money on a rental car. Spent 9 hours driving, 8 of which we were lost. Got to one winery, tasted one wine.
First thing that went wrong was the car rental. We had reserved a nice, cheap but safe car online. When we got to the office, all they had was a tiny, very unsafe no airbag cars. There are eight car companies in Mendoza, there was only one rental car in all of Mendoza with air bags, and it was twice the price.
But, we paid and were off. Second problem, we could not find our way out of Mendoza, even with our GPS. Jeff drove through dodgy intersections around and around, while that damn GPS lady kept “recalculating.”
But, then we were on the open road, ready to explore the province of San Juan. I will admit, this was pretty…for the first fifteen minutes. This one continuous mountain got a bit old 2 1/2 hours into the drive.
We finally got to San Juan and after spending another hour lost, we got to the first winery – Graffigna. The winery tour took an hour. Jeff got to stand in a room made out of a wine barrel.
Then it was finally time for a tasting. The one malbec we tried was good. If we knew it would be the only tasting of the day, we would have asked for a refill.
Then it was off to Callia. This was one of the main reasons we went to San Juan. We’ve been drinking and loving their wine since getting to Argentina. We called in advance, they had tours at 9, 10, 11, 12, 2, 3, 4. It was 2:00, more than enough time to get there.
We got a bit lost, and then drove in circles, then we found the correct road and it was closed off for repaving, then we drove around in more circles, and then we almost threw our GPS out the window. But, we finally made it there at 3:22. A guard at the winery gate greeted us and we had this exchange in Spanish:
Guard: Sorry last tour was at 3:00pm.
Jeff: But, we called the last tour is supposed to be at 4:00.
Guard: Yes, but not today.
Jeff: But…is today a special day?
Guard: No, every day the tour is at 4:00. But not today.
Jeff: Can we come in and buy a glass of wine.
Jeff: Can we come in and buy a bottle of wine?
Jeff: Can we come in and just see the winery?
Sheryl (yelling from the passenger seat): We just drove here from friggin Mendoza. Can you just let us in for a minute to try your damn wine?
Jeff: Can you tell us how to get to another winery?
Guard: No, it’s complicated.
Jeff: Can you tell us how to get back to town?
Guard: Go to your right, it’s faster but is complicated. Go to your left, it takes longer but is easy.
We took the long way. By the time we got into town all the rest of the wineries were closed. That was OK through. We found a wine bar. We sat down, a waitress came over, told us they didn’t have wine by the glass. In fact, they didn’t even have a bottle of the wine advertised on the tables.
So then we just went to another restaurant sat down ordered a big bottle of wine and drank it.
Then I saw these great mannequins.
After walking around town for awhile it was time for the 2 1/2 hour drive home. First we spent an hour getting lost on the way out of town. But then we drove the 2 1/2 hours without incident. Back in Mendoza we stopped for gas. The only station open had a 30 minute long wait.
We left our apartment at 8:30am. We arrived back at 11:30pm. While we didn’t do much wine tasting. We did get in some good wine drinking. Although it wasn’t the day we had hoped for, I’ve decided every day of travel is good, even when it sort of sucks.