I wake up to another sunny day. With more than three hundred days of sun a year it is almost guaranteed to be blue skies in Mendoza, and today doesn’t disappoint. What a perfect morning to keep cool in the shade of all the tree-lined streets and settle down with a casual cortado and medialuna or two.
Today I found my way to Maria Antonieta on Belgrano, drawn to the cute checkered tablecloths draped over the tables that line the sidewalk. I’m tempted by the eggs and fresh yogurt with granola and fruit, but just can’t help but order the homemade scones with berry jam and creme fraiche. With a café doble, it is just divine. This is one of the few places you can also get coffee ‘to go’ in Mendoza, if you like to wander with your java. I have the time, so I relax and ease into my morning here.
This is a great starting point for a day ambling through the plazas and taking in the café culture and perhaps some art. Take your pick of the four 'plazalitas' that form a square framing Plaza Independencia, the centerpiece of downtown.
Plaza Italia: This plaza is simple square with a fountain, sculptures, and huge palm trees providing some shade. Simple, but romantic and you will likely see a couple or many indulging in a passionate embrace.
Plaza España: Perhaps the local favorite due to its pretty tiled benches and sidewalks and mosaic murals. Today it seems to be a favorite place for teenagers to try out their latest skateboarding stunts, which keeps me entertained for quite some time.
Plaza San Martín: You can learn a lot about Argentine history by paying attention to street and plaza names. So, you have likely heard of this San Martín character by now. He is the great libertador, leading the charge to free Argentina, Chile, and Peru from Spain back in the colonial days. This is enough to earn many a plaza and street named after you and a monument in the middle of the plaza in this case.
Plaza Chile: Another cutie and a great place for a siesta. This plaza also has the trademark palm trees, benches, fountain, playground, and grassy areas for lounging.
A side trip down '9 de Julio' will take you to civic hall where you can take the elevator to the 7th floor for a view overlooking Mendoza with an Andes mountains backdrop. There are some flower boxes, wooden sculptures and signs telling you which mountain peaks and sites you are viewing, to help you get oriented with the city.
All this wandering has made me work up an appetite. Luckily there are outdoor restaurants and cafés on all sides of Plaza Independencia, my next stop. You can opt to sit under the umbrellas on the front patio of the Park Hyatt, but today I decide to stroll down the pedestrian street of Sarmiento and join the locals for a long, casual lunch. So many choices!
It’s time to hit up Plaza Independencia with its four square blocks of action and entertainment. On weekends, there are street entertainers and stalls selling art and handicrafts. It is not uncommon to catch some friends circled around playing guitar and singing. Throughout the summer there are often events taking place here. Today it seems to be an international festival with booths from different countries, music, and of course plenty of meat to eat. There are fountains, a playground, and often vendors selling ice cream, candied nuts and popcorn, and cold drinks. Tucked away behind the center fountain, you’ll find the Museo Municipal Arte Moderno that features art and is free on Wednesdays. Step inside to take a break from the sun and enjoy local art.
I recently visited the MAMM to see the exhibit on typography over time and participate in some of the interactive parts of the exhibit, so I opt to keep cool by indulging in some ice cream. For a wine country novelty, stop by Ferruccio Soppelsa and try their vanilla malbec ice cream. I personally recommend stopping by Perin for their green apple sorbet (manzana verde) and strawberry crema or anything with dulce de leche. Wow, YUM.
Full, hot, and happy, I understand why the siesta is built into a typical day. I head home to relax, work out, and freshen up before deciding where to head for dinner. You could spend a couple of weeks trying each of the places on Aristides Villanueva and head out dancing afterwards. There is a nice strip of restaurants on Emilio Civit as well. Then there are always the trendy closed-door restaurant options too. One thing is certain, there will be steak and wine.
Erin is a writer living in Mendoza, taking shortcuts through Plaza Independencia as she explores the city and spending a lot of time lingering and writing in cafés around town.