One of Ryann’s dreams that happily provided the impetus of further travel in Argentina was to drink copious amounts of Malbec wine (her fav) in Mendoza (where it’s from). We looked on a map, looked up flight prices and bus prices, and decided on an overnight bus to save a few hundred dollars. This is now my favorite way to travel in South America.
We were a little paranoid about finding the bus station, so we gave ourselves a six hour window. The bus station was the size of a small city, so that turned out to be a silly fear. We settled into a diner to wait, ordered some liters of beer and empanadas (this whole trip was an “empanadas of the world” tour) and started being those obnoxious Americans who play cards, laugh too hard, and get a lot of attention.
It was great.
Finally, we got on the bus. It was two stories! Air-conditioned! With a stewardess in a fancy uniform! She gave us champagne, we had little private first class type seats that extended into beds with curtains around them, we were served hot dinners and breakfasts and I had some great sleep. When we woke up, we were 12 hours away and in Mendoza! All for about 70USD.
Ry scored a sweet BnB place run by the human embodiment of a golden retriever, Nacho. His family had purchased the property years ago when he was a kid, and he had renovated it to have a bunch of small buildings for guests to stay in. He and his wife, small daughter, and parents still lived in the front. There was a pool, a hodge-podge gang of dogs named Rita, Jordy, Tamra, and Quilmes (the national beer of Argentina), a buffet breakfast, traditional Argentinian cookouts at night, and fantastic fellow guests.
We were right in the heart of wine country, and Nacho, being the dear he is, arranged transportation and tours for us. And through her professional connections, Ry got us a sweet private tour at Terrazas, where we were guided around by THE hottest winemaker ever – born in France, studied wine in New Zealand, tall, funny, headed to Napa Valley to continue his studies next year…Rachel and I were ready to claw each other’s eyes out over him until he mentioned the cool journalist girlfriend he had exported from New Zealand. We got to taste wine directly from the barrels, had a beautiful sit-down tasting.
Everywhere we went looked like it was decorated by a chic flea market. It was so freaking cute. And people continued to be more than nice to us, feeding us wild boar on the house, pouring another glass on the house, making sure we didn’t miss any part of anything. We toured Salentein, the largest winery in Argentina (they own Callia, which I LOVE). We toured tiny little places run by the grandson of the original Italian immigrants that started it. We ate grapes off the vine and swirled glasses and took wine naps in the summer sun.
The family dinners at night made the stay…Nacho’s mom and friend cooked up blood sausages, steaksonsteaksonsteaks, potatoes, fries, desserts, wineonwineonwine, more meat, then meat on your meat, and but now this meat is on a stick! and we sat at the table with a blended Argentinian family – the mother worked for the World Bank in the Southern Cone region, the twin daughters went to university in Scotland, the youngest son was deciding between college in Virginia, Scotland, or Argentina.
The next night, there were two Swedish couples, Chris, Lisa, Martin, Lina, all too good-looking and sweet to be real. With barely even a working knowledge of Spanish, they had rented a car and were driving all over Argentina and Uruguay. There was an Argentinian couple on their second lives – Alberto was divorced, Alicia was a widow, and they now had a BnB in southern Argentina. They made mate and we all drank it until two in the morning while they made me translate every life philosophy they had, kissing me and calling me “hija” in the morning.
There were three boys from New York that we forced into playing “Heads Up.” I taught them how to play the card game “golf” and we drank too much wine and the boys smoked cigars late into the night. At one point, Ryann, a bit in her cups, asked “do you guys want to come to my birthday party next weekend?”
We listened to music and all became best friends. And I was reminded that while traveling takes you to places you would only see in books, and you can eat and drink things you might otherwise only hear about, and you can experience crazy things, the best part is always the people you meet. You may never see each other again, so you say exactly what you think. You do exactly what you want with no judgment. You ask the crazy questions, you offer the crazy dare, you stay up too late and begin exchanging instagram handles. And I’ll remember the things I saw and the places I went in pictures, but I’ll remember the people I met in my heart. And that’s the best! I love people. People are the best.