San Rafael, Mendoza, Day V — German Cuisine

Restaurante Alemán

Restaurante Alemán

Today I ate. A lot. I ate so much my belly hurts. I heard of a German restaurant buried somewhere in the country side of San Rafael and couldn’t resist checking it out. Owned and operated by a friendly German expat who speaks fluent Spanish and a little English I was treated to a unique experience. The vegetable strudel was to die for and the hospitality the best I’ve had in Argentina so far. Maybe that’s because there wasn’t a single Argentine employee!

This morning I met Fabian who owns the home where I’m staying and he couldn’t stop talking about how white I am. He didn’t understand how I could have lived in Argentina for six months without getting a tan. I told him there’s this new invention called sunscreen. By the looks of his leathery, wrinkled, and cancer fetching skin, he could benefit from just a little.

This is my last day in San Rafael, I leave tomorrow morning for Buenos Aires. Mendoza city was on my itinerary but I was comfortable in sleepy San Rafael, and I appreciated the solitude it afforded me before I have to return to the energy and vitality of BA. On the trip back I have one more stop scheduled at Luján Basilica and I’m eagerly anticipating it.

Starter

The butter was delicious

Vegetable strudel

Vegetable strudel -- to die for!

Beer

Life would be meaningless without beer

Dirt road

The restaurant is far from the beaten path, a remote location 10 km from the main road

Bienvenidos

Bienvenidos!

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Maude again

Maude the dog

I love my dog

I love my dog. Look how beautiful she is. I was enjoying wine in the sun when a group of dogs came up to me this afternoon. They were so cute, but not as cute as Maude, the Queen.

San Rafael, Mendoza, Day IV — La Represa el Tigre

La Represa el Tigre

La Represa el Tigre

Last night I was sitting by the pool and staring up at the sky thinking about all the people I know who are no longer here. I don’t know where people go when they leave this planet, but I was thinking about lost souls nonetheless. One of my many flaws is that I can live in the past and that can make me melancholy from time to time. Life is fleeting, and for some of us, too fleeting. As the breeze kissed my face I imagined those who have passed on sitting with me, sharing a laugh.

English lessons with my students have lately been based on the topic of the environment.  It annoys me that humans believe it will be us who will lead to the annihilation (I really wanted to use that word!) of the Earth. It seems so egotistical. The planet survived long before us and will survive long after us. It will no doubt be responsible for our undoing. Earth will find a way to protect itself from the damage we have and continue to inflict upon it, and will rid itself of our selfishness. After we’re gone, it will simply heal.

Why the hell am I talking about this? Anyway, while enjoying my Bianchi wine I noticed how the clouds were merging from all directions and feared the rain would ruin a lonely, yet pleasant evening. My glass empty, I sat myself up and returned to the cabin for a refill when a sudden gust of wind came in and cut off the electricity. No television, no Internet, nothing. The rain came and it was vengeful. I went to bed and woke to a cloudy sky.

Tired from the last couple days of activity I wanted to take it easy and drove to La Represa el Tigre. More rock and water, but an example of how human beings try to control nature. No matter how much we convince ourselves otherwise, all the levies, dykes and dams are ill-prepared against nature’s wrath. How dramatic!

Cloudy day

It was a cloudy day

The River Ran Through It

The River Ran Through It

Me

Me

Afterwards I went to the centre of town, ate some pizza and enjoyed some beer. Life, can it get any better?

Plaza San Martin

Plaza San Martin in San Rafael, Mendoza

Mary and child

Madonna and child, carved in wood

What do you call these things?

What do you call these things?

San Rafael, Mendoza, Day III — Casa Bianchi Familia de Vinos

Casa Bianchi

At 2,000 pesos a pop this could be yours

I like wine, beer and vodka but don’t know a hell of a lot about them. Perhaps I should apologize for knowing nothing about the alcohol that I enjoy, but is it really that terrible? I know what I like and I stand by it. Mendoza is wine country in Argentina, and in San Rafael the most popular winery is Casa Bianchi, only a stone’s throw from where I’m staying. Unfortunately when I arrived I succumbed to one of my aura migraines and was out of commission for 90 minutes. Luckily I didn’t throw up! Still feeling murky I went ahead with the guided tour and had a wonderful time. The whole experience made me question why I have yet to visit the wineries in the Niagara region of Ontario. When I’m back in Canada that’s one of the first things I plan on doing.

Casa Bianchi

Casa Bianchi

Wine tasting

55 pesos buys you an escorted tour into this room where you can taste three glasses of Bianchi's premium wines. 1 Malbec, 1 Sauvignon Blanc and 1 Cabernet Sauvignon. I bought two bottles of the Sauvignon Blanc.

A nice display

A nice display of Bianchi's best wines

The dome

The room was beautiful and our voices echoed

A nice demonstration

Our tour guide took us through each selection

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

Wood

This is why wine tastes like wood! The tour was in Spanish, I was lost!

Grapes

The Malbec grapes

Grapes

They tasted good

Enjoying some champagne

At the end of the tour I was thrilled to receive a complementary glass of champagne

San Rafael Mendoza, Day II — The Atuel Canyon, Part II

Long and winding road

The long and winding road. You can see the Andes in the distance.

Here are the last photographs from my adventure to the Atuel Canyon. In spite of the heat, I had a great time, and would do it again in another couple of years if given the opportunity. Now if you’ll excuse me I am going to go to sleep and try to beat the heat. These jokers called meteorologists are calling for rain. I spit in their faces, how’s that for rain? Chau.

Long drive

It was a long drive

The Nihuil Mirror

At the mouth of the Atuel Canyon is the Nihuil Mirror; today it was a little ripply

Bus

The bus that gets people around in one piece, allegedly

The Atuel Canyon

The Atuel Canyon, one last time!

Rocks

I took a geology course in university which proved useless on today's trip. $40,000 spent on an education and I can't remember anything I learned!

Pseudo Mount Rushmore

It's like Mount Rushmore, but not

Rio Atuel

Rio Atuel

Rio Atuel

Rio Atuel -- for the last time!

Donkey

The show stoppper -- Donkeys!

Atuel Canyon

San Rafael Mendoza, Day II — The Atuel Canyon, Part I

Atuel Canyon

The majestic Atuel Canyon

Oh Argentina, how you enrage and dazzle me all at once. I awoke in a cranky mood because there is no air conditioning in this God forsaken place. Luckily there was a lovely thunderstorm last night, and yes, rain did fall. But by morning the sun was murderous. The itinerary for today was to tour the Atuel Canyon, and it did not disappoint – I was floored by how mighty it was.

I could bore you with a history lesson, but I imagine there are countless websites who have done a more thorough job than I ever could. So I’ll leave it to them if you want more information.

The objective of this post is to entertain you with this photo essay depicting my love affair with the canyon. Enjoy.

Franco and the Atuel Canyon

The Atuel Canyon and me -- it was a hot day! I have to wear a cap because I am losing all my hair and the sun will burn the top of my head. Don't mind my hair loss, I'm finding it all in my ears. Win, win!

The Atuel River

The Atuel River and me

The Atuel River

The Atuel River and me -- again!

The Atuel River

I know I know me and the river again, I swear I fell in love

The Atuel Canyon

The Atuel Canyon went on for over 100 km

The Atuel Canyon

I was blessed by a wondrous cloudy sky that brought respite from the blistering sun

White Horse

A white horse grazing!

Toursit Information

At the Nihuil Mirror I found a tourist stop, with only cacti to help

Check back for more on my trip to the Atuel River. The Internet here is 1998 slow, so you can imagine how long it takes to upload photographs.  I hope to have everything completed by late evening.

San Rafael, Mendoza — Day I

My house

My house. Trust me it looks nicer than it is.

Would it be too dramatic to say that I was almost killed during my trip from Buenos Aires to Mendoza this afternoon? Never mind, I can hear the collective sighs followed by a resounding YES. Bitches. Well, after nine excruciating hours I finally arrived in San Rafael, Mendoza. My travel companion was as interesting and entertaining as a box of hair. But I am known for being a bit of a princess. The house I am staying in is… well… let’s just say that I’ve had better living arrangements in a shanty town in Moshi, Tanzania. But I digress, it has one redeeming quality, the pool.

It’s hot. Like you want to drown yourself hot, but don’t worry — although many of you look forward to my Whitney-like demise — I did not commit suicide. How else would I have been able to write this? Morons. Forgive me for the name-calling, I’ve had a long day. The thunder is crackling outside, but it’s been doing that all day and not a drop of precipitation has met the searing concrete. The neighbours arrived not soon after me and turned on their sprinklers, which was confusing in light of the storm clouds overhead. They obviously knew something I was unaware of. That Mendoza is as dry as a porteño in bar. Fun it does not make.

Each night I’ll write a recap of my day’s activities with photographic evidence. Today’s journey was to the centre of the pool. Not the most exciting adventure, but refreshing. Also, there is a dog out on the road that has it in for me. If by any chance you never hear from me again, tell authorities that a white dalmatian (no spots!) almost mauled me while closing the front gate this evening.

Maybe tomorrow… maybe.

The pool

This afternoon, I swam for a long time

The rain never came

I was hoping for rain to wash away the heat, but it never came

My new shoes

My new shoes

Why does it matter if Adele is fat?

The morning after The Grammys, Buzzfeed published a piece entitled “25 Extremely Upsetting Reactions to Chris Brown At The Grammys”. It’s a disturbing read, but not entirely surprising. Women cavalierly condoning violence against other women is anything but new.

Being a member of our society can be embarrassing. We’re not terribly respectful of each other are we? It’s reflective of our own self-loathing. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for women to be constantly objectified the world over. A woman’s value is determined solely on how she appears. But how much do women play a part in all of this? When you look at it objectively, they’re more guilty than men.

Lately I’ve been obsessed with following the interactions between people on Twitter. It’s frightening how quickly they make false assumptions, and resort to childish name-calling against anyone with differing opinions. Ever the optimist I attempted to intervene on a couple of occasions and had to abort my mission when confronted with irrational tweeters. In some cases I was surprised to learn that the majority of offenders were over the age of 35. I attempted to explain to the most vicious tweeters that their attitude was a poor representation of their character and not the person whom they were attacking. I was branded a “preacher” and as being “arrogant.” Fair enough, but my intention was to raise the level of dialogue from that of grade school antics, to mature thoughtful adult conversation. So much for that.

One of the most annoying and persistent comments was in regards to Adele’s weight. “She has such a pretty face, but she’s too fat,” was a common concern amongst many female tweeters. “I’m really worried about her health,” was another. The latter argument especially bothers me, because it presents superficial people feigning concern to mask their prejudice about size. I myself have been guilty of this in the past and it was only after I had a conversation with Alisha that I learned the folly of my ways.

There are a plethora of unhealthy skinny people with bad eating habits but we never say, “Oh I’m really worried about her health.” Being slim is revered, no matter how it’s achieved. But the impact of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are far more damaging than being 30 pounds over weight. Living in Buenos Aires I’m disappointed with how vain and appearance obsessed Argentines are. Self-worth is achieved with a small waist and big breasts, which explains the high rate of plastic surgery in the country.

The debate regarding Adele’s weight, which coincidentally is no one’s business but Adele’s, is that fat is bad and skinny is good. Where and how did we ever reach this conclusion? Marilyn Monroe was a size 10, and she was considered the sexiest woman in the world when she was alive. Today’s standards are alarmingly unrealistic, asking women to fit into size zero dresses and labelling any woman who can’t as fat.

When did women become so critical of each other? Last year Keith and I were having a beer at our local pub when a group of unruly women nursing hangovers from the night before sat behind us. The conversation turned to Katy Perry and I was interested to hear their opinions about her music, considering that she became famous for a song about kissing a girl, and then made disparaging comments about gay people months later. I was surprised that the only thing these women wanted to talk about was her appearance. “She’s so ugly,” they agreed. Not one comment about her occupation was shared, just a systematic dismantling and critique of her face and body. I was mortified.

Being gay I am well aware of the pressures men place on appearance. Men happen to be more visual, and it’s an attitude we require of them so that we feel attractive. But that’s the problem. We’re rewarding men for being assholes. I’ve had this discussion with countless gay men in Argentina. All horned up and ready for sex they cruise each other with a passion best reserved for reading a good book. They have a very narrow definition of what beauty is, and the appalling thing for me, is that the ones with the highest standards don’t match up to their own lofty physical requirements.

Years ago an interviewer asked Tori Amos what she thought about Madonna kissing Britney Spears at an awards show. The ever thoughtful Amos paused, and then said, “Well it’s not about the music is it?” Here is a woman who learned to play piano by ear at the age of 3-years-old, was the youngest person to ever be accepted to the Peabody Institute of Classical Music at 5-years-old, and the sole composer of over 1,000 original pieces of composition. A prolific singer-songwriter, her soprano voice and live performances have captivated audiences for over twenty years but if you were to read the comments about her on YouTube the only topics people want to discuss is her face, weight and how old she is. As though age is something that will escape the commenters.

“The rules apply to everyone else but me” is the message I’m getting from these individuals. Those who are the most critical are the least likely to accept criticism. I understand the pressures that women face, but what I don’t understand is how competitive and mean-spirited they are with each other. The tweets presented on Buzzfeed were written by women willing to be victims of violence to attract a man. What does that say about our society and our treatment of women? That society has a problem, is what it says.

And this problem is going to persist as long as people refuse to acknowledge their own responsibility. We all need to take accountability for our prejudices and be more accepting of people who look different from the models in magazines and challenge those who make disparaging comments about women’s appearances. The best antidote for ignorance is education.

Adele shouldn’t be judged by how she looks, but rather her talent, which is obviously plentiful. Unlike other pop artists, she doesn’t need pyrotechnics, outrageous costumes and complicated dance moves to distract the audience from the fact that she has no talent. Her mainstream success is going to save the music industry because she’s reminding radio listeners that what matters most in music, is music. Her voice is all she needs to entertain and move her audience. Her size is completely irrelevant.

Let’s remember that, instead of tolerating bad habits we learned in junior high. Shall we?