After a great few days in Buenos Aires with my parents, we all headed to our next destination: Mendoza, Argentina’s famous wine region. At the airport we laughed over the sign encouraging parents to “permanently” watch their children.
Danny and Patrick spent the 2 hour flight playing on their tablets and looking out the window. Kevin thankfully took a little nap.
After driving for about an hour, we arrived at our hotel on the shores of a lake and surrounded by mountains.
It was a stunning property.
We spent the next two nights at this hotel near Aconcagua, the tallest peak in the Southern Hemisphere and the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere. Only Asia has taller peaks. Danny wanted to go to the top and throw snowballs but since it’s a 16-day trek to the top, we didn’t make it.
The hotel had a playground where all three kids had fun.
The boys liked playing in the pool and watching construction workers pour concrete for a new deck.
Kev did lots of walking around and exploring.
We relaxed by the water and enjoyed wine and meals al fresco on the patio.
Both nights we gave the boys early dinners (by South American standards) so that we could get them to bed at a decent hour.
The hotel restaurant didn’t even open until 8pm which meant a kids-free dinner for the adults while the niños were sound asleep.
During our trip, Danny and Patrick had many spirited games of foosball.
The hotel grows grapes and makes its own wine which we tried at dinner one night.
On the recommendation of the hotel staff we drove further into the mountains one day for lunch. “It’s not possible that the restaurant would be closed,” assured the hotel staff even though no one answered the phone to take our reservation. Of course that was wrong and after driving for an hour and taking a few wrong turns, we found the restaurant and it was indeed closed. We ended up instead eating at a casual roadside cafe.
On our way back to the hotel, we visited a small family-run winery and tasted their wine. The owner told us her young daughters, Patrick and Danny’s ages, help in the process by stomping on the grapes. An adult or a larger child, she explained, weighs too much and would completely crush the grapes. The boys were not amused when Brian told them to look for jobs and start pulling their own weight, like the girls at the winery.
After three nice days in the mountains we headed down to the city of Mendoza.
On the way, we stopped for lunch at the Ruca Malen winery. When we made the reservation, we didn’t realize it was for a seven course lunch.
The winery’s restaurant was a bit fancy for the kids who definitely did not each need seven wine glasses at their place settings.
The menu was inspired by the indigenous communities of Argentina.
We decided a three course lunch, with a different wine paired with each course, was more our pace. The food was wonderful and the presentation was inventive, especially for dessert which was served on a mirror (meant to represent water) attached to a large jagged rock (meant to represent mountains).
Danny and Patrick had a breaded beef filet and mashed potatoes for lunch and an assortment of chocolate and ice cream for dessert. Danny requested that all his courses be paired with milk. Patrick asked for water. Kevin had baby food and animal crackers and also sampled lots of food from our plates.
Patrick and my mom kept busy with a game my mom invited using the extra silverware on the table.
This was a great lunch!
After the delicious meal, we continued our drive and checked in for two nights at the Park Hyatt in Mendoza. The location was great – right on the Plaza de Armas, the main square of the city.
Danny and Patrick enjoyed some afternoon swimming at the pool and loved sitting under the waterfalls.
That night for dinner we ate at 1884 enjoying what may have been the best meal of the whole trip. The restaurant, set in an old winery founded in 1884, is one of several restaurants owned by Francis Mallmann, Argentina’s – and maybe even South America’s – most famous chef. While the rest of our Mendoza plans (winery visits and other restaurant reservations) were decided on the fly, I made the reservation for dinner at 1884 about two weeks before our trip, on the recommendation of coworkers who had tried unsuccessfully to get a reservation.
We ate outside in a beautiful garden setting. The restaurant is known for its use of fire in an outdoor kitchen to cook the food. One review says that 1884 is “the preeminent restaurant for meat in the world’s most preeminent meat country.” Needless to say, we were excited!
Not surprisingly this restaurant, which is often described as a perfect place for a romantic dinner for two, didn’t have high chairs, so we used Brian’s belt to strap Kevin to a chair. We also put a napkin underneath him to protect the chair.
The menu had many delicious options. (And don’t worry – those prices are in Argentine pesos and not U.S. dollars!)
We started with the octopus appetizer which may have been the best octopus I’ve ever had. We also had wonderful fresh and still warm bread with a tasty mushroom spread.
The restaurant also doesn’t have a kids’ menu, doesn’t work with chicken, and serves nothing fried, so there were no chicken nuggets and French fries for the boys at this meal. Patrick and Danny split a skirt steak and mashed potatoes. Brian and my mom each ordered a bacon-wrapped tenderloin while my dad and I had a rib eye steak. Everything was absolutely amazing.
The boys were excited to watch the chefs work.
We had a great meal.
Although this restaurant is clearly not for kids, the staff couldn’t have been nicer to the boys who actually behaved very well.
The next morning we walked around the Plaza de Armas in front of the hotel.
After all we had eaten the night before we were somehow still needing lunch. On the recommendation of the concierge at the hotel, we went to the Lagarde winery for lunch. Kevin enjoyed the scenic drive while playing with Grandpa’s hat.
We sat outside surrounded by grapes and large trees with long arched branches.
Knowing the limits of our little friends, the adults opted for a three course lunch rather than seven. We had a choice between three appetizers, a rib eye entree, and a choice between two desserts. Each course was paired with a wine. Another great meal!
Unlike the other places we visited in Mendoza, Lagarde was setup for kids.
The winery also had the game “toad in the hole” which the boys had played on our Machu Picchu trip and were excited to see again. The gameboard has holes, obstacles, and a toad on top. Players throw game pieces (often bottletops or in the case of my kids small rocks) into the holes and are assigned various point values depending on where the game pieces end up.
As we were leaving Lagarde, an older Canadian couple approached us and asked if we had dined at 1884 the night before. It turns out that they had been at the table behind us. They were also staying at the Hyatt in Mendoza. Since Mendoza is not a large place and we saw no one else at wineries or nicer restaurants with kids, I guess our group stood out and thankfully not for atrocious behavior!
Our next stop was the Luigi Bosca winery for a tour and tasting. In 1901, two friends from Italy – Leonido Arizu and Luigi Bosca – came to Argentina and founded the winery. They named the winery Luigi Bosca because at the time there already was an Arizu family winery. Unfortunately the expat life didn’t agree with Luigi, so he returned to Italy a few years later after selling his shares of the winery to Arizu. Now the Luigi Bosca winery makes wine under 52 different labels and distributes globally, including Paraguay which is how we know their wines. Business is booming and poor Luigi is probably kicking himself for not sticking it out in Argentina!
The boys were fascinated by the stacked wine barrels.
This is a big winery with lots of wine aging in barrels.
Big brother Patrick (an experienced visitor to California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys) showed Baby Kevin (first time visitor to a wine region) the ropes.
There were interesting wine-themed reliefs mounted on the wall, evocative of the Stations of the Cross.
We saw a large display of the many wines made by this winery.
Finally it was time to taste the wines!
We enjoyed our visit!
On the drive back, Kev took a little nap.
When we got back to the hotel, we did a little swimming at the pool and then Patrick and Danny took a bath. Both the bathtub and the shower were in the same glass enclosed space, so we let the boys go crazy spraying the water everywhere. They loved it! Patrick told us the bathtub was his favorite thing about the hotel.
Danny’s favorite feature of the hotel was the disc-shaped structure on the ceiling of the elevators which he told us was a spaceship used by aliens to kidnap bad guys at night. During every elevator ride he told us creative and very detailed stories about aliens and their exploits.
That night we had an easy early dinner at hotel and took a break from beef even though all the beef we had eaten had been delicious.
We did not take a break from wine or Go Fish or Old Maid!
After five days in Buenos Aires and four days in Mendoza, we were heading back to Paraguay with a few souvenirs. In Buenos Aires, my dad bought a leather-bound journal, I bought a green glass pendant, and Brian got a cool set of picks (perfect for a barbecue!). My parents also bought a poncho for my sister Nora whose birthday was coming up.
In Mendoza, my mom bought a beautiful silver oval tray. I bought a similar silver pitcher and a square tray.
The next morning we headed to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires.
During our five hour layover in Buenos Aires, we walked from the airport along the river to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
After lunch we walked back to the airport for our quick flight to Asunción.
As the plane was getting ready to land, we saw a big rainstorm moving across the sky.
We had a wonderful time in Mendoza and we were looking forward to a few days at home before our next adventure – Iguazú Falls!