Friday, March 16, 2007


Next day we lunch at a Parrilla, or meat restaurant, called "El Florencia". I order the "barbeque for one", Jina an asado (grill) of veal ribs, plus we grab a side salad of heart of palm and a small bottle of 2006 local Cab Sauv. One of the issues with being here, as pointed out by the local expat rag "Grapevine", is that you are so desperate to try as many wines as possible that you almost get into a panic and end up ordering wine when you really don't feel like it! Also Jina would often not help me, so I'd have to work my way through the bottles on my own. Hard work, but someone has to do it!


What is half this stuff?


In the evening we meet Sam again, in fact he turns up just as I'm slipping into an unintentional siesta, and in the absence of anything else to do but drink wine in some way or other, we decide to try out a VinoExpo event which is advertised on posters all over town.

We're not sure whether it's a customer thing, trade show, or a mix, but it's in a congress centre a little outside of town. We cab it there, head in, and find ourselves the first people there. It's a relatively small event, with exhibitors tending to be smaller to medium wineries that we haven't heard of, turning out anything up to several hundreds of thousands of litres of wine per year.

I insult the wine before realising she speaks perfect English

There must be about 30 wineries here, and we resolve to test the output from all of them. The difficulty with being early is that you have to enter into extended small talk with every stall before getting the goods. Later it's easier as people are swamping the staff so you can grab your top up and run.

Most wineries are exhibiting a range of wines, mostly Malbec, the "signature grape" of the area, but also Cab Sauvignon, Chardonnays, and some varieties I'm not so familiar with. It's also common for them to have several variations of a wine, the difference being ageing and oak-conditioning.

And.. Oh my god.. The bathrooms! I had to take a photo…

Despite being a congress centre hosting a big expo, there are absolutely no taxis at the end of the night, so we end up walking towards town - it is absolutely miles back to the centre. We try to hitch unsuccessfully, but after some time to our relief a taxi stops, and takes us back to our hostel. Enough booze? Don't be silly! We head across the road to a microbrewery bar. They have a taster set of their five beers, which I order. The waitress looks guilty, then explains that they only have one of the five beers. The IPA, Ale or Stout perhaps? No. They have lager. Well how surprising is that in South America! Bl**dy lager! I order three.

Next day we go looking for a nice restaurant in the centre. It's actually surprisingly hard. Most of the decent places are out in the burbs, or near the wineries, so we find ourselves back at my favourite (Jina doesn't particularly like it apparently) Italian.

Buttered trucha

The problem here as a tourist is the siesta - it's just ridiculous that the whole city closes down for 5 hours! 12 till 5 usually nothing is open. It makes it so hard to get things done! I know it's warm during the day, but damn! Another interesting social observation can be made about traffic junctions here. Is there a system for giving way, given that this city has a grid of roads? No. It's not even prioritised according to the relative size of the roads meeting. It's who dares wins as far as we can work out - you approach the junction, slow slightly, watch who is coming the other way, compare the size of your manlihood, then someone wins and goes through first. If there's not much in it you sometimes get a race of indecision situation, where both cars jump forwards a little bit, then stop because they've decided to give way, then change their mind etc. All good fun to watch until you're a pedestrian sandwiched in the middle!

The evening, we head over to a seafood restaurant called La Plaga?. I had "rose salmon". Not sure what differentiates it, but they do have "white salmon" here quite often, so perhaps that explains the name. Not great, a little dry, but overall it was a nice restaurant. I don't get much sleep overnight. Not sure whether it was the coffee at the end of the meal (about 1am), the slight apprehension about the big phase of travel I'm about to enter, or just all the small irritating jobs I needed to do. Writing addresses on postcards and sticking on stamps, sending some emails, packing my junk, yadda yadda. For some reason this time my pack is not so much heavy, but volumous. It's bulging in all directions. I suspect the laundry we used, 5aSec, may have introduced fabric softener stuff into the wash.

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