At Miguel’s suggestion, we spent the morning driving through the Andes foothills to Potrerillos. From our hotel, it took maybe two hours, mostly on dirt roads. (As a side note, the Ford Ka we rented was quite a reliable car, given all the dirt and gravel). We don’t own a car, so we’re not used to taking long drives like this. I have to admit this one was lots of fun, and the landscape was breathtakingly beautiful.
After arriving at our destination, we took a look around and then immediately headed back in the other direction. This time, we took the paved roads, both to save the car a little and because we had a lunch reservation at Siete Fuegos, the Francis Mallman-led restaurant at the Vines of Mendoza resort. Incidentally, Vines of Mendoza was co-founded by a family member of Bodega Gimenez Riili, which is located in the same vicinity. We had a little trouble locating the restaurant once we entered the property, mostly because the signage was seriously lacking. We finally found it way back from the road and headed inside for lunch.
Which was magnificent! Virginia had a mushroom salad, followed by roast lamb with potato gratin, and ended with the largest profiterole I’d ever seen. I started with baked provolone with tomatoes and basil, then had the clay-roasted pork loin with bacon, tomato, and avocado, and a bite of that profiterole with my double espresso. We paired everything with a 2008 Bodega Piedra Negra Chacayes Malbec, which matched up to everything very well.
After lunch, we drove back to the hotel to relax for the afternoon. That plan proved fortuitous, as I started feeling unwell and the weather turned unusually rainy. So we spent the afternoon inside with our e-readers and some music. We closed the day (and the year) with dinner at the hotel restaurant.
We opened the new year by enjoying one last morning at the hotel before packing up and checking out. We drove north to Ciudad de Mendoza, intending to have lunch and walk around the city center. The first part worked perfectly — Virginia had made reservations at the Park Hyatt, which allowed us to park underground for free. Lunch was served buffet-style with plenty of variety to construct a three-course meal. We lingered over dessert and coffee before leaving the hotel for our walk.
We strolled through the Plaza Independencia to the pedestrian-only street on the other side. As we continued, we realized the central flaw in our plan — everything is closed on New Year’s Day. We should have realized that (in fact, we did realize that as we planned on lunch at a hotel), but never put it fully together. So we ended up walking back and getting our car to go to the airport a little early.
We weren’t heading home just yet. Rather, we planned a night in Buenos Aires as our last night. Unfortunately, the flight there was delayed by about two hours. Fortunately, we flew into Aeroparque, which is close to the city center. Unfortunately, it was extremely busy so we had to wait thirty minutes to get a car to take us to the Hotel Anselmo in the San Telmo neighborhood. We ended up checking in around 11:45pm, tired and hungry. But it’s Buenos Aires, and things were just getting going for the evening, even on New Year’s Day. So we walked right outside to the plaza, picked a restaurant, and settled in for a cheap meal and wine while watching some tango. We stayed out until perhaps 1:00am before settling up and going back for some sleep.
We got up relatively early to have breakfast before taking a walk. We also needed to wait for a shipment of wine from Alex. So we went downstairs for a very good breakfast and excellent coffee before lounging in our hotel room for a while. The wine showed up and we brought it upstairs to pack for the trip home. Once that was settled, we walked out to wander around the neighborhood and perhaps find me a new leather jacket. We managed to do both before returning to the plaza for lunch and more tango before our taxi arrived to take us to Ezeiza International Airport (EZE).
And that’s when travel became more complicated. EZE was under a ground crew strike when we arrived, which delayed everything for a couple of hours. A couple of hours was the original transfer cushion in Santiago de Chile (SCL), where we were supposed to get back on the same plan to then fly to JFK. Instead, we had to run from the plane through the airport to another gate and another plane. We made it and settled in for the overnight flight.
The other shoe dropped when we arrived at JFK. After dealing with passport control, we grabbed two bags from the baggage claim. However, we checked four bags total, one of which contained my fleece jacket (about the only warm clothing I had). After about twenty minutes and half of the passengers still waiting, we were told to talk to an agent about our bags. I was luckily standing near them and was at the front of the line to find out our bags hadn’t left SCL. I filled out a form, got my copy for reference, and we walked through customs to wait for our flight home. Fortunately, the terminal transfer, waiting at Delta’s lounge, and flight home were all very easy. We walked out to the freezing cold and right into a taxi to get us home.
What about our bags? Well, it took almost a week and several phone calls, but LATAM was true to its word and FedEx-ed our bags to our home, completely intact. Hooray!