Argentina 2017-2018 (part 1: prelude)

As always, we try to find someplace warm to spend the time after Christmas until around New Year’s Day. This year, we decided to return to Argentina, which we last visited in 2013-2014.

We began our vacation with family — first mine on Christmas Eve, then Virginia‘s on Christmas Day. So we begin after that.

Tuesday

We started very early, knowing this was going to a be a “nothing but travel” day. Our itinerary started with a flight to Houston at 7am, where we waited about an hour until our next flight to Panama City. We arrived there mid-afternoon with basically enough time to switch gates for our final flight of the day: Panama City to Santiago de Chile.

Thankfully these all went with minimal, if any, bumps. We ultimately landed in Santiago around 12:15am, where we sped through passport control and customs to exit the airport. Fortunately, there’s an Holiday Inn literally across the road from the international terminal, so we went there and collapsed.

Wednesday

We woke up with one flight left. We took advantage of the breakfast option to fill up (quality was fine but nothing to write home about). We walked back across the road to the airport early enough to check our luggage and go through security without any time worries. In fact, we had time to visit the Admirals Club for coffee and a quiet seat before our flight to Mendoza.

IMG_0134
The Andes from our plane.

The flight is both short (1.5 hours) and picturesque. Basically, the plane takes off, hops over the Andes, and lands. Incidentally, Mendoza’s airport has been significantly overhauled in the four years since we last visited. They closed the airport for three months in late 2016 so they could expand runways, gates, and other facilities.

Once we landed, we cleared passport control, picked up our luggage, and met the rental car representative to pick up our car for the trip. We hadn’t rented one last time, but we had stayed in Mendoza City then, so a car wasn’t necessary. This time we stayed in the Uco Valley, about 90 minutes’ drive south.

But first, lunch. Virginia had reserved us a table at Club Tapiz, a resort/restaurant associated with a winery we’d visited in 2013. It turned out to be a great way to start the trip:

  • Virginia: cured trout with spicy radish and cucumber, rabbit ravioli, iron chocolate
  • Me: egg yolk confit with peas and beans, steak with potatoes and salad, biscuit with almond ice cream and pears

The food came with wine pairings, of which I sampled lightly so I could drive the rest of the way to our hotel.

An hour after leaving Club Tapiz, we arrived at Auberge du Vin, our hotel and base camp for the next five days. Getting there included driving for about 10km on rocky dirt roads, thanks to Google guiding us ever so slightly off. (We learned later that the dirt road on which we drove ran parallel to a paved road, which we then took every time thereafter).

By the time we arrived, we needed to stretch out our bodies, and then relax. The first was accomplished by working out in the extremely small and hot gym space; the second by enjoying a leisurely dinner:

  • Virginia: tagliatelle in tomato and olive sauce
  • Me: pear, blue cheese, and peanut salad; salmon with saffron risotto

A bottle of a local Viognier worked reasonably well with everything, and we retired to our room to get ready for lots of wine and food in the following days.

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