Sunday, May 09, 2004

Park Hyatt Mendoza, Argentina

Wow. This is one of my favourite cities in the entire world.

Flying over the Andes was spectacular (although it was a bit unusual when the stewardess said "The Governement of Argentina wishes to inform you that it is required to spray an insecticide in the cabin prior to landing. This is non toxic and made of natural materials. Thank you." and then she sprayed the hallway). Landing at Mendoza airport was like landing at Lansing airport, it was so small!

I was picked up and driven through Mendoza. The city was so beautiful at twilight, there are antique lights all over and several squares which had art festivals. They have them every night! The architecture is like a cross between Spain and France, and many of the cars are from the 1950s (and in bad shape). Utterly charming. The Hyatt has a historic façade but is very modern and beautiful behind. Upon arrival, my amenity was a glass of wine filled with cherries and cinnamon. Yum.

This morning, Mario (my driver) picked me up and drove me around town. Over EVERY street the trees grow to make a natural tunnel, and all of the buildings are beautiful. Although a million people live here, it seems MUCH smaller. Behind Mendoza are the Andes, rising up to 20,000 feet. The world's tallest mountain outside of the Himalayas is right behind the city - it is called Acongagua at 22,841 ft. A spectacularly beautiful town.

After touring the town, we went to two wineries (also below the Andes and during the fall, so the leaf colours are amazing): Finca Flichman has all the modern techniques and equipement, a very impressive tour arranged just for me by the Park Hyatt. The second was Nieto Senetiner, much closer to the base of the Andes. We had an authentic Argentine barbeque outdoors at the winery, with amazing beef and empanadas. Delicious!

After all the wine and the warm temperature (about 80 degrees), I came home and had a massage. I realized how weak the currency is here after that, as an hour massage was A$90, or US$30. They have been through so much here, it is amazing. I read an article on the plane about Argentinians, now creative they are culturally to try and generate revenues. Ad hoc theatre, paintings, crafts and performance art.

After my massage, I walked to Plaza Espana and Plaza Independencia to hit the nightly art fairs. It was so charming and very romantic, and the whole city was out looking at all the booths. I bought so many gifts and spent only $30, including a beautiful handcrafted knife just for me at $20. The leather goods are incredibly beautiful and inexpensive.

This is everything I want in a city... nice weather, beautiful architecture, very green, near mountains, very cultural, great wine, inexpensive, wonderful people... what more could you want?

Back at the hotel, now I have to work. A wonderful day ending with work... A busy week ahead!

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