(My apartment in Mendoza)
I was greeted with warm hugs and sincere greetings as they showed me around the apartment and got me settled. We even managed to arrive at a departure time on Friday so I can return the keys to them. The apartment is small, and shabby. But I don't need much. It's clean, has a comfortable bed, hot water and is very close to the center of town. I can easily walk to the Plaza Indepencia and Av. Aristides. Unfortunately the shower head is a bit of a challenge (being held together by tape) and the internet isn't working but that's the least of my worries. Oh, and I forgot my converter so I'll be needing one of those.
(Plaza Indepencia in Mendoza)
After a quick shower to wash off the stench of travel, and a change of clothing, I set out to find the tourism office, hoping to find a good map of the city. I walked down to the Plaza Indepencia and discovered that Passeo Sarmiento is actually a pedestrian street full of shops, travel agencies and restaurants. I found the tourist office, a map and directions to a nearby hardware store (all in Spanish mind you) so I could pick up a converter to charge my electronics. And then I just wandered, eventually ending up at an outdoor cafe for a cup of coffee and some wifi so I could track down the address for my tutor in the morning. I was famished but it was easy to resist temptation because I had dinner reservations at 1884 Frances Mallman.
(My first Malbec in Argentina)
I have to say, maybe it's because my body clock is all screwed up thanks to the crazy travel days, but I think I can adjust to this late night dinner thing more easily than I anticipated. Most restaurants here don't open for dinner until 8:30 PM, which can be quite shocking for most Americans. I had a 9 PM reservation and the restaurant was nearly empty when I arrived but packed when I left. I made my first faux pas upon entering the restaurant. As soon as I opened the door I was greeted quite affectionately (in Spanish) by a gentleman near the door. After the standard greetings were exchanged, I assumed that he was associated with the restaurant in some way so I told him that I had a reservation. He looked at me oddly and I realized something was wrong. At this point the hostess swooped in and guided me to the table, explaining that the man who greeted me didn't work here. He was simply welcoming me. I was slightly embarrassed but it was an honest mistake. Finally, as the hostess seated me she confirmed that I was dining alone and offered to move me to a table with another patron who was also in my solo situation. I politely declined.
(Fresh bread at 1884 Frances Mallman)
Now, I had not heard of Frances Mallman prior an educational brunch at Hal's several weeks prior with my friends, Blaine and Michelle. They had visited here in the fall and were full of useful information including restaurant recommendations. My friend Mona, who is a native Spanish speaker, actually helped me procure the reservation via Skype, the week before when I saw her in Seattle. I would like to graciously thank all three of them for their help getting me here. The food was wonderful. It started with fresh baked breads and, what I can only describe as, a picked onion tapanade. Of course, I had to order a bottle of wine. Don't judge. I've only eaten airport / plane food for the last 48 hours an I deserve an Argentine Malbec thankyouverymuch.
(Shrimp with bacon and potatoes)
I narrowed down my choices, asked the waiter for some guidance and ended up starting with shrimp with bacon and potatoes. It was a simple dish, served sizzling in a cast iron skillet so I sipped on Malbec as it cooled to an edible temperature. The dish was simple, yet perfect.
(Baby goat with Thyme and Potatoes)
I went with the waiter's suggestion for my main course, baby goat cooked in the clay oven with potatoes and thyme, and again was pleased with the selection. Who knew I would eat this well on my first night? And, to top it all off, I continued to conduct myself in Spanish, albeit broken, the whole time despite the fact they automatically gave me an English menu and the waiter started speaking to me in English. By the end of the night he only addressed me in Spanish. I think my bad travel luck was laid to rest with this meal. So what was I so scared about?