The hostal, La Cava, was awful. Too few showers that were combined with the toilets, inconveniently. The windows were old and completely transparent to the slightest noise and so the street racers (and the car alarm set off by their wakes) were highly audible throughout the night. The 'desayuno completo' ('full breakfast') turned out to be a couple of dry biscuits each. And it was too far from the centre for comfort. But apart from that it was quite the best.
We arrived in Mendoza sufficiently early to do all the settling in stuff in the hostel and so headed out for a dinner in Mendoza. It was a holiday weekend - a commemoration of the 'Desaparicidos', those many people who disappeared during the days of the Argentinian Junta, and so the central square - Plaza de Independencia - was seething with people out for a fine evening. We - me, Manuel, Yvonne and Didier - had splendid 'tragos' - cocktails - on the square before heading off to the Estancia La Florencia (recommended to us by the La Cava hostel guys) for a typical Argentinian dinner - steak or parrilla (mixed grill). A parrilla isn't so much a mixed grill in the good old UK sense of steak, kidneys, sausage, chop, egg and chips. It is simply a collection of bits of meat, many of which would not ever be seen on a British dinner table, and nothing else. And lots of it. More than one could possibly eat in a month of Sundays. This took us about 3 and 1/2 hours to get through.
The next day was taken up with trying to find a laundry willing to undertake the slightly daunting task of cleaning our clothes, having second breakfast, buying the object of desire, walking miles to the climbing shop to find it closed, buying lunches for the next climbing phase, having a huge lunch of fideos con salsa for 13 pesos in the 'Manso Pancho' (where Aussie Chris had the world's largest burger - about the size of 4 Big Macs), and collecting the laundry from the much more cheerful Señora who had by this time relieved the grumpy one there in the morning.
Once again I chose to eat out and so it was with Manuel that I headed out again into town. Being only two of us, it was much easier to make decisions and so we found ourselves in the local games hall for a game of pool. What a great place. Three great domes made up the ceiling, under which there were many different types of pool/billiards tables, some with pockets and some without. I saw at least 4 different games being played, none of which I recognised, and one of which involved five small skittles being placed in the centre of the table and had the object of knocking these over with one's opponenent's ball. This, according to one of the old boys playing it, was an Italian game but I failed to get its name. The great thing about this games place was that it was being patronised by customers aged from 14 to 74, something relatively unusual. An hour's worth of excruciatingly poor pool cost us 12 pesos, cash well spent, and we headed off to the 'tenedor libre' ('free fork' - i.e. all you can eat) place I knew from my previous visit to Mendoza in 2004. It hadn't changed a bit and is clearly a Mendoza institution. It was busy when we arrived and became increasingly packed as the evening wore on. It was nice to eat salad again. And two crepes suzette with ice cream. The pub singer was fantastic. Dressed in a tight-fitting (due to his girth rather than to any tailoring intent) sequined white suit and a huge orange sombrero, it was clear that in his mind he wasn't in a cheap Mendoza restuarant but in Las Vegas, best friends with Tom Jones and living the show-business high life. But he took requests for birthday songs and danced with some clearly star-struck ladies, so all was good.
And to complete a Mendozan eveing we went bowling until 02.00 in the quaintest of bowling alleys, completely manually operated (it made me wonder about the number ankle injuries among the staff). 30 pesos for a big bowl and ball line, 20 for small. We took the 30 peso option but we soon noticed we were the only ones who had done so. For our second game we chose the small skittles option and discovered that this gave one more throws of the ball for the lower price. Oddly this information hadn't been voluntarily forthcoming from the chap behind the desk.
What a splendid evening - taking in three Mendoza places that generally probably see little 'gringo' traffic, and feeling the real heartbeat of the place. I have been to Mendoza twice now and this second visit confirms the opinion I formed during my first - that Mendoza is a recommend cool place and I would recommend a visit to anybody.