The city of Mendoza, Argentina lies near the foot of the
Andes mountains (on the eastern side, of course).
It is the largest city in the region of Mendoza, which is a famous
wine-producing area, and hosts the famous Vendimia (harvest
festival) each Februrary.
On one side of the city is the large
Parque de San Martín, which I am told was actually
developed for the purpose of maintaining enough plant life to
air, as the area surrounding the city is pretty barren.
I visited Mendoza in July, 2000. The first day, the weather was a balmy
60 or so degrees (Fahrenheit, obviously); the next day it
and there was intermittent snow each day after that of my 2-week stay.
The downtown area is very pleasant, particularly because of the various
open plazas scattered through it, many named for countries that have
historically supplied much immigration (e.g., the Plaza Italia and the
Plaza España; I was surprised to see the Plaza Saudi Arabia).
The plazas were actually designed as places to congregate in the case of an
earthquake, when the city was rebuilt after a quake destroyed
the entire city (early in the 1900s, I don't remember when exactly).
The largest and most central of the plazas is the
Plaza de San Martín. As I quickly
learned, you can't walk a block in Argentina without encountering
something named for General San Martín, the leader
of Argentina's war for independence from Spain (and also of those of several
other South American countries). In the major government
building in Mendoza, there is displayed a flag which at one time adorned
the tomb of San Martín (though he is buried in Buenos Aires),
with a stone-faced soldier standing guard over it.
If you visit Mendoza, do not miss the shrine in the Parque (I don't quite
remember what it is called, Cerre de la Gloria or
Cerre de la Victoria, something like that) which consists of a
huge rock outcropping with bronze castings all around it depicting
various aspects of the war. It is very impressive.
The people of Mendoza were very friendly, especially to an extranjero
trying to hone his Spanish skills. Of course, travellers always
say that when they come home, since
people are much the same everywhere.
Though, as you may have heard, the proportion of attractive
men and women was definitely higher in Argentina than in some other places.