Remote Year Ohana Month 8 Cordoba, Argentina and side trips
Cordoba was the second month in Argentina, and perhaps partly due to it being 5 weeks instead of 4 it feels like so much has happened. I took 3 side trips - Mendoza and Salta in Argentina, and Santiago on the way to Lima. Argentina continues to amaze me with its natural beauty, diversity of landscape, food, and people. This article summarizes the top sights really well and I feel proud to have been to many of them.
Besides the side trips, I gave a personal finance presentation with another fellow Ohana, Jill, at the La Maquinita co-working space and hosted a wine tasting night with another Ohana, Joanna. Both events went really well and they became one of the final pieces of the puzzle I needed to formulate my idea of what my own program and workshop would look like. I continue to be amazed at the tremendous opportunities I get from Remote Year, allowing me to test my ideas and collaborate with other talented people in the group. I'm really grateful to have stayed in the program and to have put more of myself into it, and only then was I able to enjoy and benefit from all the amazingness of the program.
I was pleasantly surprised to get my own apartment again in Cordoba. It's a one-bedroom with a proper separation between living room and bedroom, which was very nice. The first Sunday after we got there we had the city preview in the La Maquinita co-working space which overlooks a beautiful square and a church, a view I never got sick of the month I was there.
Mendoza: Two days after I got to Cordoba I got on a flight again to head to Mendoza, Argentina's wine country, to meet up with Susanna. Mendoza turned out to be one of my favorite wine regions in the world, with amazing wine and food at a fraction of the price as many other wine regions, which made me love Argentina even more.
We had some amazing meals. The lunch on the second day was a 7-course wine-pairing lunch at Clos de Chacras. For that quality of food and wine I would've easily had to pay a few hundred dollars in Singapore or the US, there it was $35! I couldn't believe it. All the dishes were amazing and so were the wine.
Next morning, Jill surprised us with her last minute visit for 2 days. We got an awesome driver Santiago to drive us around for the day to three wineries. My favorite was the first one, Bodega Renacer.
We had a fabulous tour of the beautiful winery. I normally don't love winery tours but I really enjoyed this one and learned so much about wine making. It was such useful information that I used it a lot in the wine tasting event I hosted later in the month.
The second winery was Bodega Lagarde. It also has beautiful grounds but we didn't find the wine as impressive.
We did love the wine barrels though :)
The last one was Susana Balbo, which also has a lovely cellar.
In the evening we spent some time in our lovely Airbnb in Lujan de Cuyo with Foster, the dog of the house, sipping on my favorite wine from the day, Punto Final Cabernet Franc Reserva 2016 from Bodega Renacer.
The next day, Santiago drove us to a few more wineries. We started the day with my favorite event of the whole trip, a cooking class followed by a wine-pairing lunch at Andeluna Cellars. The winery is the most beautiful I have seen on this trip and for me one of tops of all time, both from the inside of the winery and in the vineyard.
And we were thrilled to be there :)
For our cooking class, we made focaccia bread and empanadas, while sipping on bubblies in the most beautiful kitchen.
Our two awesome chefs Leandro and Gustavo and our host Marcelo guided our white and red teams through the most fun cooking class I'd ever had.
We even had a contest to see which team made the best empanadas. If all my cooking experiences could be like this I'd cook all the time!
For lunch we got to eat the focaccia and empanadas that we made along with 5 other courses, one of which was THE best filet mignon I've ever had, and I'm not even a steak person.
After lunch we went to another winery, Bodega La Azul and had a lot of fun drawing on chalk boards while tasting wine.
After the two days in Luyan de Cuyo we moved back to the city of Mendoza and stayed in a lovely boutique hotel, Bohemia Hotel Boutique. We walked around the Mendoza city, spent some time by the pool, and had a really nice dinner at Azafran.
Back to Cordoba: Coming back to Cordoba on the Monday night of the 2nd week was our first track event - a night of Asado, a traditional barbecue typical in South America. It was in the restaurant Nordico, a Viking-and-Argentinian-inspired restaurant, where the chef and owner Luciano showcased us his grilling skills using a big wood fire oven. It was one of the best Asados I've ever had, and with any true Argentinian-style Asado, there was plenty of wine to go with it.
Jill loved the Asado there so much that we went back there on Friday. There was supposed to be a live band but it couldn't play due to neighbors complaining about the noise, so we just ended up having Asado and wine and talked with the restaurant staff that we had met earlier that week.
Salta: After a week in Cordoba, I went on another side-trip, this time to Salta. My best friend Marija had been raving about it from her 3-week trip to Argentina. So even though it was challenging to make it happen with my work schedule, I still decided to go and I'm so glad I did. Salta ended up to be one of my favorite cities in Argentina along with Mendoza.
For dinner I had a traditional Saltanean dish, Mondongo, which is described on the menu as "Traditional food, stew with veal guts, tomato sauce and spices. Spicy." Which is a stewed tripe. Tripe was one of my favorite things growing up in China. I thought only the Chinese ate it, but turns out the Italians and the Spanish do too. I had the best Roman tripe the first time I was in Italy and a Florentine tripe when I was in Tuscany this June. Now it looks like the Argentinians, or at least the Saltaneans, eat it too, and it was absolutely delicious! The stew with a carafe of delicious house wine came to less than $10. Argentina, I love you!
The next two days I got up early to go on two tours to explore the surrounding regions of Salta - Salinas Grandes and Cafayate. I don't normally like to take tours, but since I was on my own I didn't feel so comfortable driving by myself. The tours turned out to be great, especially since I got to meet two fellow travelers Rob and Sandra from the Netherlands and Germany respectively.
On day 1, we drove through some beautiful landscape on the way up to Salinas Grandes.
My first time seeing salt flats and they are pretty incredible.
Of course we had to jump for joy :)
The way back to Salta is equally breathtaking.
We stopped by a traditional northern Argentinian town Purmamarca before getting back to Salta.
On day 2, we went to Cafayate, probably the second best known wine region other than Mendoza. Here I wish I had gone on my own so I could've had more time to visit more wineries. Nonetheless, it was a great experience driving through some beautiful landscape and visiting some caves along the way. Argentina has truly blown me away with its natural beauty and how much diversity there is.
After my two days of tour I was very glad to spend some relaxing time in Salta. I stayed at this awesome hotel Design Suites and got an upgraded room, which was beautiful. I loved the city, it's really quaint and has a very different feel from Buenos Aires or Cordoba, even the people look different, less European. I enjoyed my time walking around the city, eating some local food at San Miguel Market, and got to practice my Spanish talking to the staff and a fellow diner who is a taxi driver and who had lived in Japan for 10 years. We exchanged numbers and he drove me to the airport the next morning. I love these chance encounters with locals.
Coming back to Cordoba I had an eventful couple of weeks before heading to Santiago. I gave a presentation together with a good friend and fellow Ohana Jill on Personal Financing. Our idea came from the professional development series that our group did the first half of the year and we said we should do something similar for personal development. Since we both have had experiences investing our own money - Jill in real estate and I in mutual fund, ETFs and stocks - we said let's do a session on managing our own money. We had a good turnout not only from the Ohanas but also from others who work in the La Maquinita work space. For me one of the best part about teaching is how much I learn myself in the process. I really enjoyed preparing for the presentation with Jill and getting feedback from the participants that they learned something from the session.
One participant came to me a week later and said, "After your presentation I opened an investment account with my bank. I don't have as many investment vehicles here in Argentina as in the US but I did the best I could. Thank you for motivating me to do it." This was the best feedback I could have possibly imagined to get and it makes all the hard work worth it. Tony Robbins says knowledge is not power, it's potential power. Putting knowledge into action is true power. For that I am so glad I was able to give power to someone, even if it's just one person. This is another testament to the tremendous value I'm getting from Remote Year, the opportunity to practice, to collaborate with others, and to impact and influence others in the process. Having done this presentation made me realize that I might know more about personal financing than I had given myself credit for and made me think that maybe this is another area I can help my clients with.
The amazing food journey continues in Cordoba with another fabulous dinner, this time at Hestia Cordoba, which is a secret dinner venue at the house of a lovely couple - the wife from Boston who is the chef and the husband from Argentina who is the wine expert.
Gaucho Life Track Event: The next day was our Cordoba full-day track event, Gaucho Life, which is horseback riding in San Clemente in the Sierras. It was an amazing day bonding with the Ohanas and it was one of my favorite track events.
Riding through the fields was really magical.
Followed by another amazing Argentinian Asado and empanadas.
Blind Wine Tasting: The last week in Cordoba, Joanna, our chef in the group, and I hosted a blind wine tasting event. I had always loved wine and at one point my dream job was to be a sommelier. Joanna said she saw my eyes light up every time I talked about wine and encouraged me to do a wine event and said she would help me with the food. So I took it up. I used the wine I brought back from Mendoza, got a couple more from a wine shop in Cordoba, Saint Cugat Vinoteca, and made it into a blind wine tasting event. I prepared tasting sheets, printed out the common types of grape varieties, covered the wine bottles with black paper, and prepared flavors that can be typically tasted in wines such as strawberries, pears, coffee, and chocolate etc. Joanna prepared a fabulous spread of cold cuts, cheese, veggies and dips. We had a total of 8 people and everyone said they loved it. They all said they really enjoyed learning about how to taste wine, the main grape varieties, and liked the competition of trying to discern which wine is which, as well as the conversations that was opened up in the setting.
I loved seeing everyone enjoying the event, not to mention all the fun that I had preparing for it, learning more about wine myself, and hosting the event. One of the best parts of all these events is also that I get to work in a team, which has been the favorite part of all my previous jobs and I knew is something that I want to keep having in my future work. Coming from this year I've already identified a few partners I can work with in the future and I'm super thrilled about it. I also got questions from the group about why I don't do this full time. That is such an amazing acknowledgment which made me wonder whether and how I can incorporate wine into my coaching work. After this event I felt everything I needed to develop my own program is in place. Soon after I came up with a transformation program that has a retreat component involving workshops, wine tasting and food, and Joanna and I are both really excited to partner together to do this. Here is a video Joanna made for our event.
My last weekend in Cordoba, we had a Positive Impact event helping a non-for-profit organization paint the walls of their church and playing with the kids that they host every weekend.
It felt so good to do something for a good cause, and the kids are absolutely adorable.
Chile: Before the group transitioned from Cordoba to Lima I took a detour to Santiago, Chile to meet up with Susanna for 5 days. After spending a night in Luciano K Hotel we headed to Valparaiso, which is a coastal town a short bus ride away from Santiago. It is beautiful little down with gorgeous views and lovely street murals everywhere. The view from our first hotel room was absolutely gorgeous.
Susanna also got me into Pisco Sours when I was there. There is Chilean and Peruvian version, I especially loved the Peruvians version, which is where Pisco is from originally. I'm normally not a cocktail drinker, but these were so yummy! I certainly drank my fair share of them when I was there, especially since I wasn't going to drink when I go to Peru as a protocol to prepare for my Ayahuasca retreat two weeks later.
The next day we walked around town and went to the Nobel prize winning poet Pablo Naruda's house in Valparaiso, named La Sebastiana. I didn't know Naruda before but after touring his house I feel like I learned so much about him. I found him a really interesting and fasicinating personality and even got a small book that includes his love poems. The view from his house is also breathtaking.
We walked through lots of beautiful street murals.
And some more.
All the streets in Valparaiso are so lovely and there is a lot of nice shopping along the way.
We also rode an elevator up and down the street. It was really fun, but so short, which totally cracked us up.
We went back to Santiago that evening and spent the next day walking around in the city and going to a fish market for lunch. The highlight was an amazing 10-course dinner at Restaurant 040 followed by drinks at the secret speakeasy upstairs.
After two months in Argentina I have totally fallen in love with the country. I was completely taken by its natural beauty, the food, the wine, and the people. I was sad to leave and felt that Argentina was always going to have a piece of my heart. Little did I know however how much I would love Peru the next month. Now I have even more gratitude for how perfect this itinerary is for me, to have 6 months in South America and to have it in the latter half of the journey when I am in my best state of mind and when I am a more grown version of myself to enjoy all it has to offer.