Where’s My Steak?

27th Nov. 2016

Hope the beds are more comfortable than this!We have a final day to fill in Mendoza, which is unusual for a transfer day but we are on an overnight bus tonight. We’re heading south to Neuquén and then (San Carlos de) Bariloche on the penultimate leg of our trip. We don’t have anything specific that we need to achieve – we feel we’ve done a good job with our various tastings over the last couple of days, so today is more about ensuring that we’ve done an equally good job of the sights that the city has to offer.

Plaza EspanolOur starting point is the Plaza España, one of the four smaller squares surrounding Independencia. There are a couple of attractions here, the first of which is the square itself. The low walls of the square are covered in tiles of Moorish design. Behind the pond and fountains is a statue / relief atop a wall with a mosaic depicting key scenes of the founding of the city. In the near empty plaza it is quite effective. At least as important, however, opposite the park is a Starbucks so we are able to sit down and plan out the rest of the day.

History of Mendoza in a mosaicPillars outside city hallWith photo and coffee needs met, we head on to explore the green areas in the city. Firstly there is the smaller Teraza Jardin Mirador which houses the imposing City Hall building fronted by a row of classical columns. The Mirador refers to the roof terrace – which we didn’t really understand at the time of visiting, but regardless the building seemed to be closed for the day. Also in the park is the Memorial Bandera de la Ejercito de los Andes (memorial flag for the army of the Andes) – another San Martin reference. Again, the memorial itself was closed and all we could see were the glass columns presumably letting light in to the exhibits below.

Memorial de la banderaHaving failed to find anything open, we then headed on for our main objective for the day the Parque San Martin (yes, him again).  As we were about to find out, this is a huge park with a long, thin lake. It also seems to be a destination for the locals on a Sunday morning. Just like home, the park is busy with joggers, dog walkers and people setting up for a picnic. We even see a pair out in a (racing) rowing boat – but they also seem to be infected with Sunday-morning-itis and are taking it nice and easy.

At the lakeWe meander around the lake to the opposite shore past a couple of small cafés and a sports club – but we can’t spot the advertised loos and the club is members only and so press on further into the park. I’m beginning to suspect that this is revenge for Santiago where I marched Janet up a hill without having any real idea as to what was at the top. This feeling is reinforced a mile or more (and a visit to the bushes) further on when a pair of hills come in to view. “Which one do you want to go up?” I ask. “That one”, says la jefa pointing at the left-hand one.

Monkey with a stump for an armAs we get closer though, a couple of problems become apparent. Firstly, though we can see some people on the top of the hill, the path up is very steep and is populated with descending mountain bikers who appear to have taken leave of their senses. Secondly, the road leads up the right-hand hill. This proves to be a compelling argument and the map on my phone tells us we are heading up the Cerro de la Gloria and we have a little over a(nother) mile to the top. Off we head, following the road as it winds its way up the hill pausing to admire the view and at one point trying to photograph a monkey that only appears to have one arm.

The glory of the Army of the AndesVery effective relief around the sidesAt the top, we find out what the ‘Gloria’ is all about – it is the glory of the Army of the Andes, and at the summit is one of the most impressive statues / memorials we’ve ever seen. The monument has bronze friezes on each side depicting scenes from the mobilisation of the army and the crossing of the Andes with a cartwheel or ox horns standing proud to give a more 3 dimensional effect. On the top of the monument is a battlefield scene with the angel of independent Argentina breaking free from her chains and at the front is (of course) San Martin on his horse. All around the sides of the monument are picnickers, locals and tourists gawking up. Hard to photograph but at least we have stumbled on one of the major attractions – even if my phone does say that it is a 4.3 mile walk back to the hotel.

I don't know why you enteredIn the car park for the monument seems to be a gathering of the old Ford owners club, as a dozen cars from the ‘60s & ‘70s in various states of repair, customisation and polish are lined up. We join the curious onlookers and snap a few pictures – but truth be told, this is probably displacement activity as we put off the moment when we start walking back. Hunger is winning out though as it is already well past the officially designated 1pm lunch time and I don’t like the look of the black clouds gathering above us. After dismissing the cafés by the lakeside and looking longingly at a couple that were closed, we found a street (most of the way back to the hotel) lined with restaurants and picked a likely looking one for a very much deserved burger & beer.

Significantly not steak and red wine!At some point, as we were discussing this trip, somebody said to me – you already know this isn’t going to end well! – that there were buses in Argentina where they would serve you steak and red wine. This has been my ambition and on this bus journey we have our best chance. We are travelling 1st class (better than Executive, or cama, and definitely better than semi-cama). According to the Andesmar website, this gives us fully lie-flat beds and a gourmet meal. Please let it be steak and red wine!

The world sleeping champion at work in a non-lie flat bed!Well, we did get food – and red wine. But the meal was airplane economy fare with a lukewarm, microwaved, rubbery lasagne that was vegetarian apart from the layer of ham in the middle (not shown in the picture). I knew I was likely to be disappointed, but at least I could look forward to the lie-flat bed. Or not. Whilst the back rest reclined nearly (but not quite) flat, the leg rest seemed to be the typical, anchored to the floor by your toes and pivot towards your knees that we have seen so often before. So, resigned to the iniquities of life, we settle down and try to get some sleep. Guess which one of us manages to sleep better! Then, in the morning, as the sun is rising and I’m rubbing the sleep from my eyes I look across the aisle at the woman opposite me as she cantilevers the leg rest down from the horizontal position. Obvious when you know how, and it would have made such a difference to my nights sleep if I’d been able to curl up properly. Oh well. But I’d still rather have had a steak!

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