It has been a busy and fun-filled past week or so to say the least. My mom and brother came to visit!! It was a wonderful experience to have them in Argentina to experience a little of what my life has been like the last few months and spend some time exploring a little of what this country has to offer. I also got to cross of a few more things on my study abroad bucket list I still hadn’t gotten to!
To say I was excited is probably an understatement. After not seeing anyone from home in three+ months, I was looking forward to seeing them. I was fortunate enough to have my host mom accompany me to the airport and help me pick them up. Of course she was snapping away pictures of our reunion and I am glad to have had her capture it as well. 🙂 After they arrived, we ended up making a quick stop at my host family’s house before heading to the hotel to meet some of the family. They definitely showed them the traditional Argentine hospitality by the cheek kisses and placing tons of food in front of them when Jonathan said he was hungry after being stuck on airplanes the previous 24 hours. I think he got more than he bargained for, but got his food nonetheless! It was also great to show them my home for the past few months yet very odd to have them sitting around the table where I have eaten so many meals and meeting my host family. Yet I couldn’t stop grinning as they met and both sides probably understand more than words and pictures can explain.
On one of our many little adventures, we spent a day at the Termas Catechuas, a set of hot springs in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. It was absolutely stunning! I heard they are one of the ‘must-do’ activities in Mendoza and am glad I finally made it there. We woke up fairly early and took a drive (with some spectacular views) to the hot springs. It was definitely a cool, brisk morning when we arrived, but we were excited to jump in. The hot springs were almost carved into the mountains and the views were spectacular. It was extremely relaxing and peaceful. As the day grew on, we were joined in the springs with more and more people, but never too many. (Luckily this isn’t high tourism season for Mendoza). After a morning spent jumping from pool to pool, we passed the rest of the day walking around the tiny town located where the springs are. There was a neat bridge crossing the Mendoza river, many cute shops, restaurants, and bars. It was a relaxing and wonderful day enjoying each other’s company with some incredible views.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to have them try an Authentic Argentine asado. My host family invited us to their friends’ home in the country (which I had been to a few times before and was where they took me on my first full day in Mendoza). It was a day filled with lots of food, interpreting (at least for me 🙂 ), pictures, and views. As we sat around the table, I think they were both amazed at how much food, especially meat they have. At the asados it never seems to stop coming! After our meal, I took Mom and Jonathan for a walk through some of the vineyards behind their home. It was fun being able to casually stroll, take our time, and enjoy the views. Unfortunately as the harvest was just in March there weren’t really grapes on any of the vines but it was still beautiful and enjoyable.
Bus Tour and Cerro de la Gloria
Another day in Mendoza we went on a bus tour of the city. I knew we probably wouldn’t have the opportunity (or desire) to walk everywhere I wanted to show them, so thought the bus would be a nice way to see the city and more of San Martín Park. Unfortunately for them, the tour guide spoke in Spanish… but I did my best to try to translate and chime in what I knew about many things we saw. The highlight was definitely Cerro de la Gloria, the hill/mini-mountain in the park with a monument dedicated to General San Martín and incredible views of the Andes.
Of course because Mendoza is known as the wine capital of South America, we spent a fair amount of time testing out many different wines and two full days of touring wineries. We ended up touring six different ones. The first day we decided to do a bike and wine tour. It was such a fun experience! We were dropped off at Kaiken Winery and later biked to Vistalba Winery then biked to our last stop, Nieto Senetiner Winery. Each, provided us with a tour and tasting. The last stop also included an extremely delicious steak lunch. Although most of the tour consisted of biking on tiny dirt roads, we were able to bike through the vineyards as well, which were absolutely stunning accompanied with the backdrop of the mountains. Definitely an unforgettable experience! Ironically in our tour group was another Minnesotan family of a mom traveling with her two college-aged children, a boy and a girl. Small world, huh?!
The second day of winery touring was just as enjoyable as the first. We stopped by Navarro Correas, Luigi Bosca, and Alta Vista wineries, as well as the olive oil factory I had visited earlier, Pasrai. It was so neat to tour all of the different wineries and see the differences. Each had such a distinct feel and design and each tour provided us with different information. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at Alta Vista. This was a perfect end to our two days of wineries, with hopefully some recollection of some of the information we learned. 🙂
After visiting a total of nine different wineries in Mendoza after these six with Mom and Jonathan, I have to say my favorite to visit was Kaiken. While I loved several of them for different reasons, this one still stands out in my head. I loved the vibe and the atmosphere of this winery and the naturalistic qualities here. This winery also had biodynamic vineyards. Along with avoiding artificial fertilizers by planting barley, rye, spring onion with the grapes, they also had sheep, geese, and chickens that naturally fertilize the land. Such a neat concept in my opinion. My favorite tour and tasting (most likely because of the tour guide) was at Luigi Bosca. The tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and had a way of describing the wines and the winery that cannot be described other than as exquisite.
After experiencing so many wineries in Mendoza, I can definitely tell why this region is known for its wine!
After a week in Mendoza, we headed off to spend a few days in Buenos Aires. It was nice to have them explore another extremely different city in Argentina and I am glad I had an opportunity to go back!
We spent a LOT of time walking around the city and trying to see some of the main attractions in Buenos Aires. Several for me were repeats, but it was great to go back and spend a little more time looking around and catching a few of the things I missed. We decided after our long day of all walking to take a bus tour to relax and rest our feet more than we had the day before. Luckily for us, we planned it perfectly, because it rained for quite a few hours that day while we were on the bus!
One of the highlights in Buenos Aires was our trip to the Tango Show on our last night. Although I am positive it was extremely touristy, it was still great to see. We got quite a long and good laugh over our photos with the tango dancers too. Before the show a partner of dancers were walking around with a photographer taking pictures with the audience. Together we took a group picture and then it was time for the individuals. While Mom and I were taking our pictures with the male dancer they told us, “leg up!” At first we were extremely confused and then realized we were mimicking a tango-dancing pose with him. Needless to say we were both laughing in our pictures as well as Jonathan in his when the female-tango mimicked the same thing with him. We got another laugh when they brought the pictures around to show us. (If only they wouldn’t have been $20 each to buy, it would have been a hilarious souvenir…tourist trap!). But the show was enjoyable and very impressive to watch the dancers and musicians. My favorite was a pair of dancers in which the girl was blindfolded and was flung all around stage with scarves and over her partner’s shoulders along with doing what looked to be some pretty complicated steps. I also have to admit after spending a few months taking a tango class; it looks hard, but is even harder than it looks!
Our last day, we ended up going to what may be one of my favorite places in Buenos Aires…the Japanese Gardens. As Buenos Aires has a fairly decent amount of Japanese immigrants this park was created for the many immigrants, as well as to symbolize the bond between Japan and Argentina. Once stepping through the doors of this garden, it was like we were transported out of the city and into a Japanese garden in Japan (or at least what I imagine one may look like). It was beautiful and very peaceful. We ended up eating Japanese cuisine in the garden after our walk. While it definitely isn’t a typical Argentine diet, I have to admit it was a nice refreshing change to have a little sushi :).
I know I have missed many things in my detailing of their time in Argentina, but these were some of my highlights along with simply the opportunity to spend a few days with them. It was weird yet wonderful to have them here. Up until this point, it felt that as if I was living a different life completely unique from my world back home. Suddenly they finally meshed. While it was hard to see them leave, I am still super glad to have had them visit me here and Argentina. While it wasn’t always easy playing interpreter, I would have done it again in a heartbeat.
Now I am on the home stretch of my time left in Argentina, it is definitely met with bittersweet feelings of returning home and leaving this incredible country I have come to know these past few months. So, here’s to surviving all of my final tests, presentations, projects and enjoying my last few weeks here!