We traveled to my motherland for the very special occasion of my younger brother’s wedding. We lucked out in finding a good deal on LAN airlines, which took us all the way from Los Angeles to Mendoza, with a pit stop in Lima (Peru) and a plane change in Santiago of Chile.
On Thursday April 5th, at the humble Mendoza airport, my parents were waiting for us. We had a schedule to follow, so after many hugs and kisses, we were headed out to Hotel Uspallata, up in the Andes. This is where the wedding was taking place on Saturday, and where we would stay until Sunday.
At the hotel, my grandparents (my mom’s parents) were waiting for us. They had just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, and I had been really looking forward to hanging out with them. They were staying at the hotel until Sunday as well, so there was going to be plenty of time to do just that, and that we did.
My brother Juan and his bride Heidi were also there, but we didn’t get to visit much because several other people were also staying at the hotel for the whole weekend, and they were busy being gracious hosts and doing that stuff that people who are about to get married do.
My other brother, Emiliano, wasn’t staying at the hotel, but instead rented a small cabin with his girlfriend Claudia. That was probably a good move on his end, because he was probably more comfortable and quiet at night and didn’t miss out on spending time with everyone else.
On Friday, we took a little road trip to some unique places around the area. The first stop was the Tunduqueral Hill, also known as “Tundunqueral Apus”. This place is about 4 miles from Uspallata, and it was used by the Inca as a sacred site. From what a local guide told us, they made sacrifices on the hill back then! We were also told that at sunrise and sunset, you could hear the animals that gave the place the name, making a “thunk thunk” noise all around the valley.
From there, we went looking for some “ruins” that were either really hard to find or really disappointing. Either way, it was high noon and lunch time! So we took a drive back to the hotel, where a cultural lesson was about to be taught to Kelly firsthand.
As the CIA will tell you, 92% of Argentina is Roman Catholic, which means that on Friday April 5th, “good Friday” was being observed. Therefore, red meat is something that just cannot be eaten all day, and that’s how Kelly got to suddenly take a bite of an empanada filled with tuna. One bite was all it took to reassure that her dislike of fish had not changed, but luckily cheese empanadas were also to be had. This should have been a preview of what was to happen for dinner. I won’t go into details, but I will say that seafood paella and Kelly will never again be typed in a sentence together.
Anyway, we spent a fair amount of time walking around in the beautiful landscape and weather. Kelly loved the trees, and how could she not? They were starting to change colors at the end of the summer, the sky was intensely blue, and the rows and rows of them are magical to look at.
On Saturday, the wedding excitement was in the air. Things got started early in the morning, with a very nice ceremony that included God/Jesus chat and even some bible readings. Kelly had a good time trying to keep up with the whole thing going on in Spanish! A fun and very unique detail that I’d never seen before were the mimes that showed people where to seat.
I got lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” as I walked around with my big fancy camera taking pictures, which I admit was pretty fun. I took hundreds of pictures, and it took me several hours to go through them all and select a few keepers. Here are a few of my favorites:
There are a ton more pictures on Flickr, here’s the link to see them all: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nicoyogui/sets/72157629863297555/.
The wedding reception was pretty amazing. The food was almost every culinary thing I missed about Argentina, and there was plenty of it being served. During lunch, and almost like an Improv Anywhere/flashmob, 3 opera singers burst into melody, surprising and marveling the 100 or so people there. Everyone truly enjoyed the up-close and personal opera act. After lunchtime, the party got started with some karaoke. Kelly and I wanted to dazzle everyone with our Bon Jovi imitations, but the DJ didn’t have any Bon Jovi. To mend Kelly’s shattered heart, we got into a stack of authentic Cuban cigars. My uncle, dad, older brother, Kelly and I were all puffing away, and somewhere in there, it happened. The moment I’d been describing to Kelly to get her pumped for the trip had finally come: Strange music in Spanish, everyone dancing wildly and singing along… (And when I say everyone, it’s everyone). The dance party picked up when we joined it with our Cubans ablaze. FIESTA!
The party went on for a good while, and we had a fantastic time. We ate and drank, danced and laughed, and witnessed the formal commitment of my brother and my new sister. I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of a good reason to travel home!
The next day, everyone left the hotel. Juan and Heidi were heading to their home in Buenos Aires for a couple of days, and then were going to embark on their honeymoon to Colombia and Panama.
As for us, we had already planned to take a road trip with my parents into Chile. Tales and pictures from that part of our journey… those are for another post.