Leon, you hung in there as long as you could but the competition was just to tough, but you sir, you have been replaced! I honestly did not think it could happen. A town on this journey has taken over from Leon Nicaragua as number 1 on my list of top towns. That town is boldly known as Mendoza Argentina.
Large leafy tree lined boulavards, cafe and terrace filled walking malls, streets teeming with people of all ages at all hours of the day and they are not carrying large backpacks or tekking gear.Lots of chatter and smiles everywhere. Being in the dead heart of Argentine Wine country the tourism trade is just a by product of life here in Mendoza, it does not thrive on it alone. Restaurants are reasonable, about 30% less than anywhere in Patagonia, the public bus system is decent, and cars stop for you when you cross the street (Do you hear that Peru, they STOP). The weather is amazing year round. Today its 39 and sunny, but I am adjusting.
I have spent the last 2 days and early evening just walking around the streets absorbing everything. I would stop for coffee at a cafe or lunch and a beer at an out door terrace or Irish Pub (yuppers, Liverpools thrives here in Mendoza). There is a MacDonalds to avoid but a Subway to enjoy. However the subway lacks in anything on the hot and spicy side like jalapenos or hot pickled peppers. I will write head office about that. The clothes shopping here is exactly what I needed as both my socks and gitch are ready to a museum. There is an abundant of choices for not argentinian food (streaks or hot dogs) and when I found the local shwarma place, well I found home. I have been there 4 times and I might go back tonight. All told this town has a great working town feel to it and it is close to mountains, rivers and wine country giving your many options for adventures.
The Updated List
1. Mendoza Argentina
2. Leon Nicaragua
3. Cuenca Ecuador
4. Boquete Panama
5. Santiago Chile
I decided that I needed a break from Hostels and more importantly dorms. I wanted my own space for three or 4 days. I went large and found a 1 star hotel, yes sir 1 star, Hotel Aragon. I am splurging at $30 a night and living large in Mendoza.
** In the past when travelling on business I usually stayed at The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal or any other Fairmont in Vancouver, Calgary or Ottawa. If I went to a city without a Fairmont there was always a Sheraton, a W or an other fine hotels to be had. (I refuse to stay at Hilton). Now being a presidents club member had its privledges, and I really like being a presidents club member. However, I honestly like my 1 star hotel and all the quirks and charms it brings to the table....Yeah I am lying. I miss the maids turning down my bed, my breakfast arrive hot at the door just after my wake up call, my shoes being shined, the gym, the pool the American Express expense card and most of all, working with my friends in Montreal. Now that being said, it sure felt good to toss the blackberry into the Niagara River when it was time to leave that world.
Ok, back to reality. Today I was signed up for a Bike Wine tour. I was to get driven out to wine country in a microbus so I suspect there would have been 10 or 12 others. When we arrive we would be given a bike, a helmet and a map and told off you go, have fun. There is a curcuit that you do which is short, about 12 km and you visit 5 or 6 wineries, on the bike. I was rearing to go, but alas it was not meant to be. Our driver had a family emergency this morning and could not make it. The sun was shining and I was up early so off I went exploring.
I did something I rarely ever do and if asked I always say no. I went to the local zoo. Now I am sure there are good zoo's in the world and that they do great research and save endangers species and all the rehtoric that goes with it. All I see are animals in cages walking in circles or sleeping. The Mendoza zoo lived up to that glorious standard.
First birds. As I haved mentioned in the past, birds are cool. However when there can not fly, hop from branch to branch or are walking on the ground how is that good. There were gorgeous Pumas, that just layed in thier small and dirty cages staring out at me. A black panther, wow a black panther however it may have been a rug in front of a fireplace for all it was doing. The elephants looked at me like they were crying, there were a couple of hippos submerged in filthy water. The zebras were huddled in a corner, the bears literally had thier heads on rocks looking out at everyone. Bengal tigers, african lions, hyenas and water buffalo they had them all. Each looked at deaths door.
There was one moment of excitement that made me pull out my camera, monkeys!! Wild and roaming the trees doing what monkeys do. I suspect they escaped and nobody cared but just watching them made me feel better about the whole experience.
I walked back into town, drank a couple of large ice cold draft and decided it was to hot to be outside. I am going for a nap...just like the animals in the zoo.