Tag Archives: cycling

Wine tasting without Mr. Hugo


Everyone in Mendoza loves Mr. Hugo.    I’m sure Mr. Hugo is fabulous. But, we decided to wine taste without him.   It was a hard decision, one with many concerns.  Could it really be done?

Mr. Hugo rents bicycles in the town of Maipu, which is near the city of Mendoza.  He rents bikes, gives out a wine map, bottle of water, and drink at the end of the day.   So many people rave about him, I assumed it must be all hype, until several different friends that live here year round also recommended him.

Who wouldn't want to rent from Mr Hugo? (photo from Mr. Hugo website)

We would have rented from Mr Hugo except for two things.  I am terrible on a regular bike and Jeff is too smart to go wine tasting with me on a tandem.   He knew that after my first sip of wine I would have refused to pedal and he would have had to drag me all around town.    But, could we do it without Mr. Hugo?  We didn’t know.

In Mendoza we called a taxi to take us to the first winery.  Even he was dubious of doing this without Mr. Hugo.  He pointed out Mr. Hugo’s storefront as we drove by just in case we changed our mind.   For the equivalent of $15US  we arrived at the first winery.

This is easy.

 

Our first stop was the winery Trapiche.  We’ve seen this label in the US, so we were excited to try their wine.

Two of Mr. Hugo’s rental bikes were parked in front, taunting us.

You should have rented us.

There were four Mr. Hugo riders on our tour.   They ignored us older taxi-riding wine tasters.

Hey cool kids...wait for us.

In the tasting room, Jeff was able to engage the youngsters in conversation while I became fixated with the world’s fanciest tasting room bathroom sink.

fancy!

After the quick tour and tastings the Mr. Hugo riders rode away while we waited for a taxi.  The winery called us the cab, but we had to amuse ourselves while we waited for it to arrive 30 minutes later.

practicing my fancy arm movements
practicing fancy dance moves
harvesting some snacks

When the taxi showed up I was dubious since it didn’t look like a taxi. But, for the equivalent of $6 US he took us to the next winery.

Tempus Alba had even more Mr. Hugo bike renters.

The winery was beautiful with a self guided tour, vineyards overlooking the Andes and a fabulous patio with a wine bar and restaurant.

If you really look hard you can see the Andes behind me.

We were the only non Mr. Hugo renters and also the only people over the age of 22.    I haven’t seen this many college kids trading travel stories since 1989 when I was one of them.  Although lacking the youthful exuberance and travel bravado of the youngsters, we did have something they may not have, money to spend on wine and good food.   We went wine tasting crazy.

7 glasses between the 2 of us? No prob we don't have to ride a bike back.
this baked brie went really well with wine.
this carmelized onion quiche also went will with wine.
pork, sweet potatoes and onions in malbac sauce doesn't look like much, but was one of our best meals of the entire trip.


After a very long and lavish lunch, we decided to walk to the next winery.    The walk itself was really nice along a shaded street with views of the vineyards and mountains.

Unfortunately, a city information guide had told us earlier we might get mugged in this town. So, although there were bikes, police cars, trucks and cars whizzing by, I was sure we were lost and about to be attacked.  We weren’t.

This third winery was just OK. The wine was good, but there was a strange vibe inside (not to mention about 30 Mr. Hugo bike renters).  Unfortunately, instead of doing the tasting outside it was in a weird smelling basement like room.

 

 

We skipped the tour and went back outside and waited for a bus home.  The bus cost the equivalent of 30 US cents.  And, best of all it dropped us off  at a bakery.

Would I recommend Mr. Hugo? Sure, everyone looked like they were having fun, the bikes looked good and I’ve heard nothing but good things.  Would I suggest still going by taxi, walking and bus if you don’t want to bike? Absolutely!

Staying in Salta

I’m relieved and happy to report that we really love the city of Salta and plan to stay for awhile. After dragging all our suitcases onto the wrong bus to Salta, I really don’t want to go anywhere else for awhile.

Here is my top ten list of what I love about Salta:

1. Beautiful City – there are colonial buildings, parks with palm trees and mountains in the distance.

2. Amazing apartment – I’m sure hardcore travelers/expats can live anywhere, but we’re not hardcore.  We need a nice place with the internet, a couch, and big bed.   We got so lucky with the apartment we’re renting. It has all those things and an amazing deck with a jacuzzi.

view from our apartment

3. Nice people – the people here are super friendly and patient with my lack of Spanish.   The cheek kiss is popular. I find myself cheek kissing 2-3 people a day. (not including Jeff).

4. Small city feel. There are 500,000 people here, but horse drawn carts still go down our street. This one unfortunately had a megaphone.

5. Empanadas (and other delicious foods)

Humita - tamale-like corn dish

6. Good cycling for Jeff -Jeff’s found a great group of guys to ride with.

7. Yerba Mate – we see the gourds everywhere and bags of it sold at the grocery stores. I bought some in tea bags to start.  Tastes good but leaves a nasty green ring in the cup.

8. Interesting cultural stuff – honestly, we haven’t done anything cultural yet.  But here’s a guy just hanging out in a full gaucho outfit talking to someone on a bike.  I’m sure he’s dressed up for a tourist activity, but you have to love the pants.

9. Wine – The town of Salta is in the province of Salta which is known for high altitude wine.  So far all the wine we’ve tried from this area has been good.  We’re hoping to do some trips out to the vineyards soon.

10. Three alfajores for a peso –  How can you not love a town where the bakery down the street sells 3 alfajores (two shortbread cookies with dulce de leche in between) for a peso, the equivalent of a quarter.  And, the nice older couple that own the store talk to me in Spanish every time I go in.

What I don’t like about Salta:

1. Rain – turns out January and February are the rainy season.  Seems like we left Seattle’s rainy winter to go to Salta’s rainy summer.  Ironic isn’t it?

2. Lack of Veggie Variety – this idea of eating what’s local is great until you actually are in a place where you can only get local vegetables.  I dream of  a produce aisle filled with vegetables shipped in from all over the world, carbon footprint be damned.

3. Lack of good coffee – there are lots of places to go out and get good coffee, very hard to buy good beans in the grocery stores.  Instant and robusto beans yes, Arabica not so much.

Luckily, the dislike list is short, and who knows, dislike #3 might just get us to switch to yerba mate full time.

Cycling in Salta!

The Journey

Coming to Argentina with my bike was a gamble. Were there going to be roads that would be well paved? Could I get out of the city on the bike safely? Would the bike make it to our (semi) final destination?

Turns out the answer to those three questions was yes! I packed my bike in a specially design bike carrying case (plastic shell with small luggage-style-wheels for rolling it) and checked it on the plane. Got it onto the plane, off the plane, into a taxi, to Buenos Aires, back into a taxi, back onto a plane and into another taxi (actually it took two taxis that time!) to Córdoba and onto a bus to Salta, a city up North. That’s about 7600 miles in total.

Jeff's Iron Case travel bag

I searched “ciclismo Salta” on Google and got a contact email address and from there was able to arrange a ride with some local cyclists. I rode out to the meeting point, thinking I would likely see only a few riders, but was surprised to see about thirty cyclists with modern race bikes, riders varying in age from 15 to about 60.

I could tell this would be a fun group to ride with in that there was a lot of excited chatter, joking, and thankfully, interest in what I was doing there, where I was from, and–as will happen with any group of cyclist–questions about my bike.

Taking a Coke break

Turns out they ride just about daily and are a rather experienced, fit bunch of riders.  Some have been riding for over twenty years. I chatted with most of them during our 50 mile ride, one of them put his hand on my shoulder as we rode handlebar-to-handlebar up a long climb.

At the end of the ride someone asked if I wanted to stop for a Coke with them. The American equivalent of this would be either all stopping at Starbucks for a coffee or perhaps at a gas station where everyone would buy a can of pop etc. Here in Salta it meant sitting down in a shaded area in town where two riders could run to buy several 2 liter Cokes to fill everyone’s cycling water bottles. Being the day after New Year’s we toasted with our Coke filled bottles making sure to “clink” every single bottle in the group. Again lots of chatter and smiles, and also more interest in me and my journey.

Cycling in Salta

I’ve ridden with these guys several times since, and am looking forward to many more rides and routes.

For anyone coming to Salta you can see two of my rides on the website “Map My Ride”

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/26782092

http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/26781386