Tag Archives: Argentina

Is Mendoza dangerous?

Is Mendoza dangerous? The answer is yes, no, maybe and I hope to never find out.   If you listen to everyone around us, you would think this is the most dangerous city we’ve ever been to.   The warnings come at us from everywhere, landlords, doormen,  expats, travelers, tourist offices, locals, Jeff’s cycling friends, everyone has warned us about the dangers of Mendoza.

After many questions and inquiries I think these are the dangers.  They seem similar to all big cities.

1. Bad areas – we’ve been warned against certain streets, neighborhoods, towns and country roads.  We’re not supposed to ever enter some ares, some only in the day, and no park at night.   Jeff is not supposed to ride his bike in certain areas at all, and some never alone.

2. Muggings – we’ve never seen any, but it sounds like if you’re careful with #1 you should be OK.   I hate this one, not because it’s so scary, but because I find myself looking over my shoulder now all the time. But, better safe than sorry.

3. Pickpokets – we shouldn’t leave anything in our pockets or unattended.  This one is obvious everwhere, but never a bad reminder.

this translates to, don't leave your stuff unattended

3. Home invasions – this one is the scariest to us.   We are in a giant apartment building with a 24 hour doorman, so we feel secure.  We’ve heard some horror stories that makes us understand why houses have so much security.

gates, bars, spikes, and security window shades

this is no different than a garage I guess, but looks heavy duty

Is the danger real? Overblown? Is everyone paranoid or just overly careful?  It doesn’t really matter. It’s hopefully something we’ll never be able to answer since the only way to know for sure is to be a victim.

I hope that with caution, luck, and common sense we’ll avoid the above dangers.    Not to make light of this, but I have come up with my own dangers and fears that I think could cause me more harm on a daily basis.

1. Fear of tripping

This fear I have all over the world.   I have been known to trip on my own two feet, air, dust, and carpet.  Here in Mendoza the tripping hazards are real.  The sidewalk often goes up, down, slants, or disappears altogether.

 

random step up

2. Fear of Jeff tripping

I’ve gotten really good at looking down while I walk, but Jeff isn’t so used to falling onto the ground for no reason.   He doesn’t study the ground, so I do it for him.  I’ve come to add warnings into my normal conversation.   For example, “So for dinner why don’t we fry STEP UP chicken and add some veggies to it and HOLE then make some brown STEP DOWN rice and open that bottle of BROKEN TILE malbec.

3. Fear of falling into a hole

All the many trees in town are watered by the irrigation ditches that run along the side of every street.   Love seeing the trees, live in fear of falling into the ditch.   One too many glasses of malbec and I think I’d be spending the night in one of these things.

balance beam curb

 

4. Fear of seeing a rat

These ditches look really cool when the water rushes through them. But, if you look closely you might see a rat, like I did one night. Now, I’m doubly afraid of falling in.

imagine a rat running around in here

 

5. Fear of empanadas

I absolutely love empanadas.  But, after many many tries, I find that when I eat them, the next day…let’s just say I have stomach distress.  I find I can’t stop eating them, but I do have a healthy dose of trepidation before scarfing them down.

6. Fear of taxi doors

The taxi drivers in town all seem pretty nice unless you slam their taxi doors.   Then they freak out.  The taxi doors even say “close with love” or something like that in Spanish.   The cars all look sturdy, so I don’t understand why you can’t slam the doors. You can’t even close them forcefully.  You’re supposed to lightly close them.  How poorly are these cars made that slamming the doors will break the car?   I try and try to remember, but I’ve been slamming car doors for over 30 years now it’s a hard habit to break.

—————

As much as I fear the above six things,   I will happily eat an empanada while a taxi driver yells at me, as  I trip and fall into a hole with a rat in it over ever getting mugged.

 

 

 

 

Bus challenged in Mendoza

We’ve been in Mendoza for two weeks. We’ve been doing quite a bit of in city wine tasting.

this one's good, better have a third glass

But, the real wine tasting to be done here is in the country at the actual wineries.  Or so we’ve heard. We haven’t actually been to any yet.

Why you ask?  Mostly, because we want to take a bus.

We know the bus – #173. We even know how to pay – with coins or a bus pass. But, it’s taken 2 weeks to actually get the means to take the bus.

Forget coins. You know that jar of change you have sitting on your dresser? Well they don’t have those here.  No one gives out change. We’ve been saving up. After two weeks we have enough for one of us to go one way.

This is not going to be enough.

We even stopped in the nearby casino.  I put a paper bill into a slot machine expecting change to come out in coins (and maybe some winnings).  Out poured tokens (no winnings) which I ended up using to gamble.

If you can't take a bus, might as well gamble.

But, that’s fine.   They have bus passes here.  They even have a website in English explaining how to purchase the card.  Check out these FAQ straight from the site.

 

The card is called  “Red Bus.”   They are sold at kiosks. That is a fabulous thing because there are kiosks everywhere.  There are two to three kiosks on every block, and they are open all the time.  Early in the morning, after midnight, on Sunday, you can always find an open kiosk.

On our first day in Mendoza, Jeff went on a bike ride and I ran out to get a Red Bus pass.    There was a kiosk half a block from our apartment.  I figured ten minutes tops.   Two hours and nine kiosks later I still didn’t have a bus pass.

Every day,  Jeff went out riding and I roamed the city looking for a kiosk that sold a bus pass.  No one sold them. Everyone would shake their head and point down the street to the next kiosk.

After almost two weeks I decided to take my video camera and Jeff on my quest.   I planned out the video. Jeff would ask for the card while I video taped the person saying no. How funny would that video be of person after person saying no they didn’t it have the cards.

Can't wait for them to not sell us the card.

We got to the first kiosk.  I went in with Jeff, video camera ready. Jeff asked for the cards. I giggled as I waited to see the customary shake of the head and hear “no.”    But, instead, the very first guy sold us two cards  It took about two seconds.   I’m not sure if there was a city-wide shortage that ended yesterday,  luck, or Jeff has magical powers. But now we have our Red Bus cards.

Of course the wineries are all closed on Sundays and we move apartments on Monday.  But Tuesday is the day. We will finally go wine tasting at the wineries.

I’ve also learned an important lesson. Always take Jeff and a video camera on all errands.

 

 

 

An asado in Mendoza

When our landlord talked to us Thursday night I heard, “blah blah blah BBQ blah blah blah Sunday.” Jeff, who actually speaks Spanish heard, “What are you doing Sunday, I’m having a BBQ, why don’t you come.” I can’t help but worry about everything.  What if he misunderstood?  What if she really said, “Hey, I’m having a BBQ on Sunday. Can you please bring your drying laundry inside and keep your obnoxious North American voices down.”

By the time Sunday rolled around I had almost convinced Jeff we weren’t invited. We lurked inside our apartment (which is in her backyard) while she set up tables, got the grill going, and brought out chairs.    This is where traveling is hard for me.  I’m adventurous enough to go to an Argentinian BBQ, but not confident enough to crash an Argentinian BBQ. Finally we migrated outside onto our porch and were quickly invited to sit down, introduced and cheek kissed by everyone.    Either we had been invited all along, or they were extremely welcoming to party crashers.

 

We sat down and were showered with food.   First it was chicken and salads. Next was ribs and chorizo sausage. Then came pork and more meat.       As food was ready off the grill it was like a meat auction.  Mario, the asador (griller) would take something off the grill, hold it up.  “Chorizo? Chorizo?”  Then if you wanted it you’d hold up your plate.  I tried to pace myself in order to have enough room to try everything.  It was all so good, it was hard not to just keep eating.

It’s funny how some things are the same and different. Watermelon for dessert seemed so North American to me. But then it was brought out “upside-down” to my USA eyes.

I was concerned that we would be served something really weird that I wouldn’t be able to eat.  But, the most unusual thing I saw was a glass of malbac wine, ice, and diet coke. My favorite part of the day was when they toasted with  “to family”   It made me miss my own family.  But, as I clinked glasses with our new Argentinian friends I was  thankful that they included us in their family for the afternoon.

After desert everyone broke into song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Viz2btwkXmI

 

7 things to love about Mendoza (besides wine)

We love wine – buying it, tasting it, seeing where it’s made, and most of all drinking large glasses of it.

That is why we came to Mendoza, because it’s the heart of wine country in Argentina.  But, we’re planning on staying awhile because it’s just so nice here.     Tranquil, pleasant, livable – all words used by guidebooks to describe the city. So far, they have all been correct. The wineries and vineyards are out of town, so the only wine we’ve tasted so far has been at wine bars and restaurants.  It’s been really good. But here are other things I love about the city.

1. wide sidewalks –the sidewalks in Mendoza are wide, wide enough for everyone to be able to walk around, even in a crowd.  No more playing chicken with oncoming pedestrians.  I no longer get stuck behind a slow poke and have to veer out into a busy street to get around them.  No one has stepped on my foot, accidently punched me in the side, or almost blinded me with a cigarette.  You can either stroll or stride and not get in anyone’s way.


2. couches on sidewalks – the only thing I like better than sitting outside at a table drinking wine, is sitting on a comfortable couch outside drinking wine. I hope this is a trend that is sweeping the world.

3. trees –  the architecture of Mendoza is pretty tame compared to Salta or Buenos Aires. But, you can’t see any building because there are so many trees lining each street.  I love how every street feels like a park and the park feels like a forest.

4. stop lights – I’m still afraid to cross the street, but having stop lights help. There are still left and right turners, but the traffic so so mellow compared to other places in Argentina.

5. weather – I am a baby about weather. It was too humid in Buenos Aires, too rainy in Salta, too hot in Cordoba, too windy in La Serena. But, the weather here really is just perfect.


6. restaurants – there a lot of restaurants here, fancy, casual, traditional, and trendy.    We could eat out every night for the rest of our trip and not hit all the places we want to try. And, with the exchange rate to the US dollar, they are all a bargain.

7. taxis – taxis are cheap and plentiful in Mendoza.   We are currently staying a bit out of the center of town, but for about $2 US you can get almost anywhere in town.   The buses are even cheaper, but we haven’t figured out where to buy a bus pass yet.

These are just what we’ve noticed about the city. Tomorrow we head out into the country to see about the wine.

Mendoza – happiness is a new dish towel

We’ve made it to  Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is know for it’s amazing wine, good food and being close to the Andes.    But, forget sight seeing, wine tasting, white water rafting, horse back riding, the only thing I want to do right now is find a dish towel.

this paper towel is not that absorbent.

Our Mendoza “home” is a furnished tourist apartment, the 5th one on our stay so far.   We’ll be staying here for a week to two months depending on

  1. How much we like Mendoza.
  2. How much we like the apartment.
  3. When and if we can buy a dish towel.

Except for several nights, we’ve stayed almost entirely in furnished temporary rental apartments. These apartments are set up for tourists and can usually be rented by the day, week or month.  They’re perfect for us because they’re big enough for all our stuff and have kitchens so we can cook. They also have the internet because we make sure to only stay in ones that do.  There are some beautiful ones out there and some not-so-nice ones.  We stay at the best ones we can afford on our travel budget. Depending on the city, that can sometimes be great and sometimes worse than the worst college apartment you ever lived in.

We’ve got the move in routine down pat.

Prior to move – secure apartment online. Marvel at beauty of apartment in photos.  Dream of our new temporary home.

Arrive in town by bus or plane – race to a ATM, withdraw rent money.  Stuff bills into our money belts.  Look like we’re doing something very weird in ATM booth with hands down our pants.

Taxi Stand – use spacial reasoning to access which taxi can fit Jeff’s bike suitcase.  Fit rest of our luggage around it, sit in back  on top of suitcase with luggage piled to car ceiling if necessary.

Schlep luggage from taxi to new apartment, pity new landlord – our new landlord is always waiting for us at our new apartment. He quickly  hides his look of horror as we pull up with our luggage. They all paste on pretend smiles as they help us drag it all in.

Frantic apartment once over – Jeff distracts landlord with idle chatter as I race around behind the scenes and check out – are there towels, sheets,  hot water, pots, pans, working toilet?

I should have asked what the knobs are for. The flusher is on the top.

internet password confusion – as Jeff runs out of small talk, I boot up my IPOD and check wifi.  Ask landlord for password, try, retry, ask again, have him write it down, have landlord call friend to reconfirm it’s correct, try again. Try one more time.

rent payment – hands back down pants to get money out of our money belts.  Careful sorting, unfolding and counting of rent money. Detailed receipt issued by landlord.

key handover – landlord hands over keys which look like they last unlocked a 15th century monastery.   Wonder how these will ever fit in our pocket.

landlord goodbye kiss -sometimes kiss, sometimes shake hands, sometimes kiss by accident.

moment of panic – we sink into stained couch, broken dining room chair, cracked lawn chair, or sagging bed and try not to cry.  This looks nothing like the photos.

moment of acceptance – And then we pull it together. We’re in Argentina for God sakes, it’s not so bad, in fact, it’s awesome.  Who needs daylight, an oven, towels, working toilet.  What’s a few bugs, so what if it smells so bad you have a migraine, the bed sags so much you won’t be able to sleep. The pots and pans are rusty? We’ve had our tetanus shots.  Who needs to sit on that couch, we can dry off with an old sock.  We can fashion window screens from mosquito netting, we can build our own desk out of wood.

moment of thankfulness that we carry a small kitchen with us – dish towels, cutting boards, sharp knives, cheese grater, skillet, salt and pepper shakers, spices, spatula, wine opener, measuring cups, can opener.

things from home
things we've bought and take with us from apartment to apartment

moment of sadness – when realize we’ve left half those items  behind.  That beautiful dish towel, shiny cookie sheet, the green pasta strainer, all left behind in the last rental apartment.

scavenger hunt begins -all we need are a few things to make this livable – dish towel, soap dish, bath mat, towel hooks, utensil holder. That can’t be hard, I’ll run out and get them.

city map in hand, ready to find that dish towel

Then the hunt begins.  Time to go buy a new dish towel.  Where would they sell such a thing? Yesterday I looked at a big supermarket (where I bought the last 2 in other cities), street market, bathroom towel store, and kitchen store.  None of them had dish towels.   But today is a new day.  Somewhere out there between the wineries, vineyards,  fancy restaurants and the Andes is a dish towel just waiting to be purchased.