Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day 10

Day 10  Sunday January 13
    They rioted in Buenos Aires yesterday, the headline in the paper shouts that at the main airport an angry crowd stormed the counter of Aerolineas Argentina and destroyed computers, bloodied security men and ticket agents, all because the pilots went on strike and flights were cancelled.  Fortunately we can get there from here by bus (10 hours plus) and are not dependant on airplane union politics.  But if you saw the movie Evita you will recall this country has a history of bloody labor strikes and revolutions against the oligarchs.  In fact we went on a two hour walk this morning and every plaque and plaza commemorates a bloody battle, a heroic fight for independence from Spain, or against the oppressive capitalist class.  Makes us thankful to be from a fairly peaceful country. The statues of San Martin on horse back remind us that freedom is not free and that a lot of blood was spilt to make this quasi democracy exist free of Spanish control.
     Mendoza is a beautiful place that reminds us of southern California without freeways, people or smog.  The Andes mountains are just outside our window, covered with snow and 20,000 ft tall. Last night there were bands playing in the park, a small circus with acrobats and a clown on stilts, and vendors of cotton candy, ice cream and sweets.  Colorful and happy crowds out until midnight.  In fact we had our latest dinner yet, finishing a strawberry and crepe ice cream combination at 12:03 am.
    Our hotel is a five star, very expensive, and full of Brazillians, Americans and Germans who are mountain climbing, white water rafting, mountain biking and in general doing the things vigorous rich old folks do who are trying to hold back the hands of time. We were quite proud of our two hour walk in the 98 degree temperature.  The weather report says a hot front is coming in and it will be 38 C  (or 100+F) in BA tomorrow,  (the locals call Buenos Aires BA to save time.)
    This is the wine capital of Argentina, and most agree it produces the best Malbac in the world.  We had a great bottle last night with dinner for $8.  Strange price incongruities as our hotel is very overpriced but the wine is a great value: ($275 plus taxes plus $30 for high speed internet).  So we decided to look for a better hotel in case we return.  We found two great ones, the Hotel Argentina and the Park Suites Hotel, both about $125 per night and one was across the street from the Hyatt, the other four blocks away on the Plaza Italia. 
     The man who redesigned this city in 1870 did a great job as there is a very large main square, the Plaza Independencia, which is four square blocks full of fountains, trees, grass, playgrounds and pathways. Then in a square pattern, there are four other squares, each one is one block square and about two blocks North, South, East and West of the central square.  Each of the five squares are surrounded by hotels, condominiums, resturants, banks and shops.  It is very European, cosmopolitain and civilized.  Giant palm trees, eucalyptus and fir trees line the broad avenues.  A delightful place to spend a few days and it is all surrounded by thousands of acres of world class grapes, wineries and fruit ranches.  Tomorrow we will be picked up at 9 by the folks from Carleti, one of the large Argentine fruit packers for a day of touring.  Tonight we will have our first parilla, the famous roast steaks of the Pampas.

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