I just realized that an entire week has past. It must have been the great time we had playing with my dad. Unfortunately, he left Mendoza around 5pm on Friday and has been enjoying the airport halt in Santiago ever since. Rumor has it he may be airborne by tonight, I think that would make him a happy man.
Well, let’s get up to date, this may become a lengthy one. After our fantastic weekend and relaxing picnic we hit activity central. Before dad arrived there were many discussions about fishing. Surprise, surprise the fisherman wanted to go fishing. Well, that and the fact that I used fishing-in-one-of-the-50-places-to-fly-fish-before-you-die a.k.a. Argentina, as my own lure to get him down here. So, after spending a lot of time trying to track down guides (a hard feat when the entire country is on holiday) in the end I managed to book two trips with two companies which led to two totally different but equally fabulous days on the river.
Monday we headed out with Pablo, from the Mendoza Fly Shop, a guide with roughly 12yrs of experience, great english, and a fun personality. We headed southwest to Arroyo Grande. He mentioned the water may be fast, but this was ridiculous water I would normally pass. Yet, we managed to catch a lot of little guys. Of course, the big ones got loose as I was trying to wrangle them in. They were huge, I swear. Along with Pablo, there was his apprentice, poor guy only understood some English so it may have been a long day for him. But leave it to my dad to manage complete jokes through sign language bantering. He was also handy for all those snags that may have occurred in the thorn bushes that lined the shore. Lunch was nice, under a tree with roosters, hens, chicks, dogs, horses, and goats hovering around us in hopes of recovering a morsel or two. Now, I have had some good food on the river but this was really nice: glassware, wine, assorted meats and cheeses, empanadas. It was a great day on the river under the hot sun. I am glad that the river I usually fish is slow and tranquil. The arroyo was beautiful but due to the raging current and need for total precision, I don’t think I would call it tranquil. Day 1 on the river, success.
When we got home around 9pm our welcome from Todd was like a little kid on Christmas. I think he missed us. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and were off to bed. Round 2 on the river started bright and early on Tuesday. This time with Marcelo from Bacota Fly Fishing. It was a tad different. Marcelo took a bit to warm up to which would not have been a negative thing if we hadn’t had super personable Pablo “Polo” the day before. Yet, we headed back to Arroyo Grande. This time with a day of fast water under our belts, maybe we would catch the big one today.
Not wanting to fish the same stretch of river as the day before, we climbed high into the mountains and up river. Eventually stopping at what seemed like a completely random spot. Flabio, the cook, and Marcelo started unpacking the car. It was an incredible amount of stuff. Dad and I got to “camp” about 5 minutes later, a short distance down the hill from the car. They had already set out two chairs for us, a carpet under foot so we wouldn’t get dirty while we changed into boots, and a table with linen, set with freshly cut fruit, meats, cheeses, and orange juice. Let’s just say I was feeling high class. Unlike the day before, we heeded our guides warning and wore boots. I also wore some very fashionable knee high wool socks to protect my legs from the thorny bushes we were going to be walking through.
After our little breakfast snack we were off. Again, the water was fast, but now, it seemed even faster. We fished small little pockets all morning. Few nibbles and I was getting a little frustrated, but have no fear or frustration, because just then I got the big one. Okay, it was awesome. The biggest fish I’ve ever caught and it was a wonderfully colored rainbow. So, as we broke for lunch, I was feeling good while dad was singing the “at least my daughter got a fish” tune. I wasn’t buying it.
Now, lunch the day before was something, but today, holy shit. While we were away, Flabio was busy with a true Argentine asado of chorizo, morcilla (super delicious blood sausage), beef, potatoes, and onions. The smell was hypnotic. The table had been placed under a tent with a river side view and set with engraved dishware. They even decanted the wine. Is this what they do so that you forget you have only caught one fish? It worked. Dad and I wined, dined, and had a wonderful conversation. But after our caramel flan dessert and the opening of a second bottle of wine, we decided it was time to move now or it wasn’t going to happen.
Upstream we headed, the home of the big ones. Again, the water got faster and scarier. Let’s just say if you fell in, your dismembered body would be found down stream, no chance of survival. I think it’s called white water. Anyway, we hit the pools, got some bites but really not much. I blame the wine for my inattentiveness and trouble with accuracy. But luckily dad was good and focused because just as we were wrapping up, he got a wonderful old rainbow trout. I thought my fish was nice and pretty, but dad’s fish was great. Hopefully, it made fishing in Argentina a tad more rewarding. Although, he will probably point out that it was time with me, and to that I will respond, “of course!”
So, after two exhausting days on the river and two meals a day of beef we were all looking for a little diet variety. Some wine and pasta hit the spot. We chatted the night away. It was Tuesday night and I was shooting the shit with my two favorite men right here in Mendoza. I am a lucky women.
But, the fun doesn’t stop there. No, no, Argentina may be known to fisherman for its trout, but the rest of the world would add one more thing, wine! So, although dad is a vodka man we headed out Wednesday for a day of wine touring. First stop, Caelum with Constanza. You may remember that we met her at winemaker night at the Vines of Mendoza. She was kind enough to welcome us to the recently opened bodega for a tour. It was everything I imagined and then some. We chatted about wine process, smelled some barrel fermenting bubbly, and then headed out to the vines. I have never actually tasted a wine grape from the vine, so I was super excited as she said, ‘here try the Malbec’ as we stood in between two rows of nearly ripe grapes. So awesome, so dorky, and apparently too much acid, not ready for harvest. Could have fooled me, I thought the grapes, yes, I kept picking and eating as we chatted, were delightful. It was great to see dad enjoying the experience. We meandered our way up to the quaint tasting area where we tried their 4 varietals: Rose, unoaked Chardonnay, Malbec, and Cabernet Sauvignon. All made in a slightly European style by Italian born Gissepie, that helps set them apart from the 100+ other bodegas in Argentina. The reds were just released aka super young, but the potential is apparent. I am an “ABC” according to Constanza or “Anything but Chardonnay” yet their Chardonnay is excellent. And let’s not forget the Cabernet reserve barrel tasting, that I will buy in quantity when it is released. We left, our bellies full of pistachios and wine and our arms each totting a 6 pack of wine. Good start!
We were off to Melipal for a tour and lunch. No tour could have made us happy after our time at Caelum, so we went through the tour motions and finally sat down for a fantastic 5 course meal full with pairings. Nice wine, nice lunch, great view, but I think we were all fading a bit. The days tours went small, medium, to large ending with Catena Zapata. A beautiful winery built in the form of a Mayan temple. A bit over the top, yes, but Nicolas Catena is responsible for putting Argentine wine on the map. His altitude research is fascinating and yes, I may be a tad obsessed with him, the place and the wine. The tour was again nice, but a little industrial. At the end you have an opportunity to purchase a flight tasting. They have whole lines strictly for domestic and another for export. So, the Catena Alta that Todd and I love is only available in the states. We wanted to try the Angelica Zapata domestic line. We payed our 60 pesos for three classes and shared.
The Cabernet Franc was refreshing, not as good as Benegas Lynch, but it is nice to try a varietal that is traditionally used for blending on its own. It opened up nicely as we sat there enjoying wine speak. Even dad was full of wine speak, it was great. The Malbec, beautiful and the Cabernet Sauvignon the king. We will definitely be enjoying a lot of Catena while in Mendoza.
Exhausted we headed home. Little did dad know that Todd and I were interested in going to winemaker night at the Vines. That turned out to be a huge bust. We went, we drank, we left at break. It was like watching paint dry. It was time for some vodka. We found a great outdoor cafe and enjoyed some vodka, of course sharing the tonic, because the tonic thief must have invaded Mendoza causing a weird shortage. Another lovely dinner, no more beef, Todd and I had salads, dad, ice cream.
Thursday morning was refreshing. No tours, no need to rush out, just a day to enjoy the city. We walked the streets, perused the market, I am a sucker for the market, and shopped. It was great. I haven’t been shopping in months, yet it left us all exhausted. So, as the city began to shut down for siesta the three of us headed home with the same idea in mind. Then out of the blue Todd and dad started lusting for fried chicken, random. Seeing as my belly was experiencing some touch and go moments, I happily passed out while they went hunting. Apparently coming up short on the chicken and long on the dogs. Arriving home with buns, hot dogs, SER (that amazing Fresca-esque beverage), and apples, they were pumped. I got to work fixin’ some eats for the men and we all enjoyed a wonderful lunch of hot dogs. They are frighteningly good here, I don’t ask questions, I just eat. Reading the day away close to the fan and eventually we were ready to head out again.
Seeing as it was the last dinner in Mendoza, we wanted something nice, special, and a tad ritzier than Todd and I are capable of usually enjoying. It was a daddy visit after all. But first, off to the gas station, a place that Todd and I can and do frequent often. We call it our local spot but it is actually about a km away. But the atmosphere, think old gas station pumps removed that serves beer out of cold glasses and has servers on the weekends, all for the low price of 8 pesos or $2.75/litre. Now, think awesome! We enjoyed a beer there before heading to Anna’s Bistro.
Anna’s is unique. Instead of an outdoor sidewalk cafe, you walk into a garden oasis illuminated with red lanterns and tons of candles. They have managed to set a perfect ambiance. We had a couple of questions about the menu so before we knew what happened we had three people, two servers and the manager trying to explain everything to us. The major problem was not us, no matter what you think, but the fact that we had english menus and they only knew the menu by the spanish names. I consider that a training problem, but I am no longer in the business, so hands washed. It was entertaining, yet we did finally manage to order.
I had the lamb which was great but a little too similar to a pot roast, Todd had some delicious rabbit stuffed ravioli, and dad, take a guess, last night in town…BEEF, t-bone to be specific. Dad started off with a vodka tonic, surprise, I had some bubbles, yum, and Todd, a Fernet and coke. We raised our glasses and toasted the week. I may have gotten a little teary, was this really the end. Not yet, we still had dessert. A gluttonous move on all of our parts as half eaten treats melted away on our plates, but again, yum. It was a lovely evening. I wished it could have lasted all night.
Friday, was the end. We walked and talked and packed up the monster red bag. We tried to hawk as much stuff into the bag as the mule was willing to carry, but with all the shopping and a 6-pack of wine already inside, just the necessary stuff got a ride back to the states. That stuff being Christmas gifts of course. Hope you like the goods, fam. A sad farewell at the airport left both my dad and I in tears, a common occurrence for the two sappy Hinkens, but an occurrence I don’t mind.
It was a week I needed. I have been a bit sad, feeling displaced and lost. Finally settled here in Mendoza yet what now, what to do, how to pass the days, how do I make it feel worthwhile. I don’t know if anyone will understand, but it has been hard for me lately. Yet, my dad came to visit. A trip that I obsessed over, but more so one that I didn’t even realize I needed so badly. Just to hug a family member again meant the world. I miss home, my family and friends, but I love my life. I think it is a bit of a conundrum. This week, with my dad, was like a recharge, a smack in the face to get it together, to be thankful for life, for the ones that you love and that love you. Basically, it meant the world to me to have my dad here, a piece of my family. It made me smile, a huge ear to ear, heart warming smile.