Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Vineyards at Neuquen

We to the overnight bus from Mendoza to Neuquen on Tuesday, arriving early in the morning.  We had been told that the long distance buses in Argentina are good and we had booked a good reclining seat.  There was certainly plenty of rooms in the seat, although Nic found that if he used the leg rest then it was just a bit short for his legs to be properly comfortable. But still not bad overall and you certainly got plenty for dinner and a glass of wine.  Breakfast was a bit sparse, but it was six am so a bit early for us anyway.

We knew the hostel wasn't far from the bus terminal but had no idea which way to go, but we soon found someone with a map and directions, and were there in no time.  Too early to check in, we settled in to the communal area whilst asking about trips to vineyards etc.  The hostel contacted one of the local guides for us and we soon had a trip lined up to go to a couple of Bodegas.  After a quick wash and brush we set off with Nicholas the guide in his slightly worse for wear truck.

Bodega Del fin del Mundo
 Our first stop was Del Fin Del Mundo, the biggest winery in this area.  It was only set up in the 1990s, so is still pretty new as vineyards go, but not unusual for round here. It is a very modern set up with a big spacious building and viewing walkways over the top.  They are adding a hotel on to the edge of the building which will have views across the vines and will no doubt be a great, if expensive, place to stay.  After a quick tour around, it was on to trying the wines. We tried seven and liked the last one so much that he gave us an extra glass of it too.   The wines were all good and despite not being a red wine drinker at all, there was even one red that I could have happily drunk a glass of, which is very unusual.  We came away with two bottles, a sparkling Pinot noir and Chardonnay blend and a late harvest Semillon.

Bodega Famila Schroeder

Our second winery was Bodega Familia Schroeder.  This was the original reason for coming to Neuquen, so we were looking forward to this visit.  We knew of the vineyard from our frequent visits to the Gaucho Restaurants in London, where we often drank a glass (or sometimes a bottle) of their Deseado, a sweet sparkling Torrontes wine.  Gaucho introduced us to many great Argentinian wines, but this was a particular favorite, so a visit to the Bodega was a must.

Wine barrels at Familia Schroeder

Our first call here was the restaurant, as we had decided to treat ourselves to lunch at the Bodega.  We were greeted with a free glass of a dry sparkling wine, which was also very good, and then had an excellent meal, two courses for me, three for Nic.  We did obviously try some of their wine to go with the meal too.  By the end we were pleasantly full and ready for the tour.
With the vat of Deseado

Another new and modern vineyard, this was established in 2002 and is built on five levels to make use of gravity rather than pumps in the winemaking process.  On the tour we passed the huge vat of Deseado in the making and couldn't resist a photograph of ourselves with it.

Dinosaur at Familia Schroeder

The final stop on the tour was  to see the dinosaur. Yes, I did say dinosaur.  It is an unusual aspect of a winery tour, but an important one here.  The large herbivore was uncovered when they were digging the foundations for the winery.  The original has been transferred to a museum, but they have created a mini museum with a replica of the find and one of the original bones, in the exact place where it was found.  They also use the name Saurus for their main wine range.

For the tasting here we tried only four wines.  For me, the reds were a bit too robust, but Nic liked them, and we both liked the rest.  We came away with two bottles, the obligatory Deseado and a late harvest Pinot noir.

Dam at Neuquen
 On the way back, we stopped off at the very large dam that enables Neuquen to irrigate its orchards, and very importantly, it's vines.  It was built using manual labour and celebrated its one hundredth anniversary last year.  The little museum sets out the construction process and has numerous artifacts from the building and working life, including all of the old records and blueprints.  It is a basic place, but an interesting side visit none the less.  After a quick stop to see the dam in reality, we headed back to the hostel.

Overall this was a good tourism day, and a very enjoyable one for us.  We would have liked to have bought more wines, but realistically we can't carry it around with us, so we have to drink it while we are here and four seemed about the most we should commit to.

Neuquen, Argentina

Our other plans for Neuquen had included a visit to Lake Pellegrini, where they are busy excavating more dinosaurs.  The plan had been to take part in one of their project days, where you have a tour of the site but then get down to a little bit of excavation work yourself.  Sadly, despite what it says on their website, and despite the email exchange that Nic had already had with them, they weren't running these project days at the moment as their archaeologists are all off site or something.  After some thought we concluded that it wasn't the same without the dig, so we would leave the dinosaurs for now and instead do the whole thing on one of our anticipated return trips to South America. 

Petrosaurus in Neuquen
 We took a look around Neuquen itself while we were here.  It is a small town and  whilst not unpleasant at all, it is not the prettiest.  It is very much an industrial town, with a focus on petroleum and agriculture, the latter mostly apples, pears and of course wines.  The petroleum and dinosaur combination does give rise to some interesting metal sculptures, which they call Petrosaurus. There was very little else to see though, so we found some places to sit and enjoy some wines and beers, and whiled away the spare time quite contentedly until we got the night bus back to Mendoza.

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