Adopted Families

This blog entry about the events of Monday, December 20, 2010 was originally posted on December 22, 2010.

DAY 5:  “[When you go to Mendoza, go to this restaurant called ‘Petrona,’]” said this American college kid who had been studying abroad in Mendoza, Argentina.  Emily and I had met him as he was on vacation with his Minnesotan mother and sister at the empanada place in Viña del Mar.  “[Look for a bearded guy named Mathias and tell him you met a guy named Robert.  They sort of adopted me as their son.  They’ll be excited that you met me.]”  Robert gave us an address and I said we’d look his adopted father up when we journeyed into a bonus country on this “Chill Out in Chile” travel blog: Argentina.

Not that it is a completely different country; without political borders, regions are regions, and Mendoza, Argentina isn’t too far from Santiago — Chile is a thin country after all.  Emily had intended to go eastbound through Mendoza to meet her friend Ina and eventually work their way to Buenos Aires for New Year’s — while I headed south to Patagonia — but we had such a great rapport that me going with her to Mendoza for a quick jaunt into Argentina only made sense. 

“Vamos!” Emily declared.  Soon, we were in a taxi and then a bus for our obligatory “us in transit” photo as we zipped eastbound through Chilean wine country.  We passed the time by playing the little games that came with our bus company-supplied snack pack, reading, blogging, and napping, until the changing scenery outside was keeping our attention (picture above).

“Los Andes,” Emily pointed out to a sign on the road that said just that, as if there was any doubt.

The mountain range was the natural border between the two countries, which meant the buses and all the trucks had to ascend the mountain on a series of twenty-five switchbacks.  It was a little scary on the treacherous road with our driver passing vehicles on the way up, more so when we overtook a flammable gas tanker by accelerating on the other side of the road.  Eventually the bus’ electronic board called for a “TIMEOUT!!!” when we were at the border crossing, an ordeal that took a little over an hour.  We weren’t concerned because we had gotten hungry — even after eating our prohibited Chilean bananas and cherries — and there were concessions selling Argentine fast food, like sandwichs lomo completo (steak sandwiches with everything) and the super panchos (foot-long hot dogs with mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard) — the latter not to be confused with the Chilean completa, a hot dog with the works, including avocado.  We didn’t realize our hunger until it was our bus’ turn to clear border formalities, but we had no shame in eating our messy food while going through immigration.  (This adds “border crossing” on my List of Obscure Places I’ve Eaten Sloppy Sandwiches, which includes the bathtub and the Metropolitan Opera House while watching Madame Butterfly on a date.)

“Chileano o Argentino?” a customs officer asked me, jokingly. 

“Uh… Filipino.”

“How come he didn’t ask me?” Emily asked.

“Because you don’t look like either.”

“What?!” she joked.

In no time we were officially in Argentina, and a few hours later, in the city of Mendoza.  The sole ATM machine in the bus terminal had eaten up someone’s card, which gave us no option to get cash for a cab to our hostel — but everyone was saying our place was easy to get to by walking.  We walked under the beating sun on a day with a high of 99°F, but it was fine in the shade — something the city had plenty of, being in a dry, desert-like ecosystem.  Walking through downtown Mendoza, my impressions were not as I thought; I envisioned the capital of Argentina’s wine-producing region to be smaller and more rustic, like a little vineyard village, but this was a bustling mid-sized city with park plazas with artsy sidewalk tiles, plenty of hotels, and an efficient public transportation network.  Emily and I got to our place, which was slowly gearing up for the holidays, set our bags down and walked.  With Argentina being heavily-influenced by Italy — the original wine-producers of the Mendoza region were of Italian descent — we were on a mission for gelato.  What we discovered that in Mendoza, they make gelato with wine flavors, like Syrah and Malbec.

“It’s weird,” Emily commented.  “It actually tastes like wine.”

“The malbec tastes like… malbec!”

“Is it me or do you have a little buzz?” Emily wondered to me.  “I think I’m a little drunk off my ice cream.”

With that said, we went out for a snack.  We skipped out on Argentine hot dogs and found our way to the central market, a foodie palace with fresh fruits, spices, seafood, and everything on the pig from the roota to the tootaWe settled on empanadas filled with seafood and fish, and rounded it off with a couple of espressos.

“INA!” EMILY CALLED OUT to her German friend, who finally arrived after a long series of flights from Berlin.  The two of them had lived in Rome together and were pretty much adopted family.  Ina dropped off her bag and joined our two-some.

“Hello!  Welcome!”

Soon enough, our threesome journeyed, as promised, to the restaurant Petrona to say hello to Robert’s adopted Argentine father.  The man was not as I envisioned; I expected an old Dumbledore-type with a white beard since the place sounded like a Harry Potter spell.  The man — and the place — was actually quite chic”¿Conoces Mathias?” I asked the bearded thirtysomething man.

“Soy Mathias,” he answered, correcting my pronunciation.

”¿Conoces Robert de Minnesota?”

His face lit up, and he spoke in accented English.  “[OH! Robert!  Yes, he is like my adopted son!]”  Excited as anticipated.  I showed him the picture of Robert too.  However, he was really busy with customers and didn’t have much time for us; the three of us shared a bottle of local malbec next to an ex-pat couple from Austin showing off the place to their latest couchsurfer.

“Cheers, salud, prost!”

We didn’t eat at Petrona, but wandered the Plaza de Independencia‘s vendors and eventually decided to celebrate Ina’s landing with the meat that Argentina is also famous for.  We dined not indoors but outside, at a niceish place with more wine, a couple of much-needed salads, and a parillada for two.  Ina explained to us that in the meat serving, they give you all the odd parts first (liver, gizzard, tripe, etc.) before the familiar ones. 

“Look, chicken!” Emily raved happily when the second platter arrived.  Most of the guts of the first platter were consumed by me.  Yum.

The waiter poured us more malbec and we dined and cheered, welcoming a third into a new adopted family for me.  Although more reserved than Emily and me, she was not without her own jokes.

“Whoa,” I said earlier in the evening, touching the moisture that dripped onto my head as we passed under a tree towards the Plaza de Indepencia

“Did you get shit on?” Emily asked.  Nothing pointed to that theory, even though it was still wet.

“I don’t think so.”

“You just got pissed on,” Ina joked. 

Ha, ha.


On the bus ride from Santiago to Valparaíso, they played E.T..  On the bus ride from Valparíaso to Mendoza, we were amazed that they also played E.T.

Next entry: Goldilocks and the Three Wineries

Previous entry: Speaking Spanish By The Seashore

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Comments for “Adopted Families”

  • Next up, Goldilocks and the Three Vineyards.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  05:26 PM

  • malbec ice cream!  awesome!

    oh…i got shit on my shoulder last week near bryant park…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  06:55 PM

  • argentine hot dogs and malbec

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  07:33 PM

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This blog post is one of nineteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Chill Out in Chile," which chronicled a trip through the country of Chile, from the central and coastal cities of Santiago and Valparaiso (plus a quick jaunt to Argentina's nearby wine region of Mendoza), followed by a trek through southern Patagonia, and a journey to Easter Island.

Next entry:
Goldilocks and the Three Wineries

Previous entry:
Speaking Spanish By The Seashore


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