I love wine. So much so, that when the opportunity to visit Tarija in Bolivia's south presented itself, I just couldn't say no. What we discovered was a sleepy, little town not much different to Western Australia's own Margaret River.
Oh, and loads of great wines of course!
During our Uyuni Salt Flats adventure, I was introduced to Bolivian wines. Cheap, but not so nasty, they got me thinking about the region of Tarija. From Justin's point of view, it was quicker to get to Paraguay from there, rather than head up to Santa Cruz so, we found ourselves, once again, on an overnight bus to our next destination.
We arrived before the coffee shops had even opened their doors so, leaving me in a park with all the bags, Justin went off in search of accommodation. For anyone wondering why we never book in advance, it's because the cheapest hostels / hotels tend to not advertise. Hitting the streets on arrival tends to uncover cheaper options. In Tarija however, the hotels aren't cheap, not by Bolivian standards anyway. A private room with ensuite starts at 45 Bs. per person without wifi. With wifi, 80 Bs. a person is more common.
After a hearty American Breakfast (38 Bs. at El Marques), we decided to spend the day wandering the quiet streets. We managed to find the Central Market (Mercado Central) in time for lunch and while it wasn't anything flash, it was cheap, and it was tasty. A plate of marinated steak, rice, potatoes, and salad for 11 Bs. We ate at the market most days for lunch as our hotel didn't have a guest kitchen.
Then, it was time for dessert. We found a small cafe (Cafe Mokka) on another square and sat down to enjoy a bottle of Kohlberg Fino Tinto, a slice of rich chocolate cake, and use the wifi.
The next day, we visited the Anthropological Museum. It was rather small but, they have an impressive number of REAL fossils on display. Not just these reproduction varieties you find everywhere else. While the museum is free, they request donations to keep the doors open.
Now that we had done everything touristy there was to do in a small place like Tarija, it was time for lunch back at the market, before heading over to Chingos for a bottle of Terruno by Aranjuez and fast wifi. We spent the afternoon drinking and updating our website. It was fabulous!
Even more fabulous was stumbling upon La Rotiseria! This little beauty offers cheese plates, wine, and gourmet hams! We ordered a small 'tablita' (cheese plate, 60 Bs.) and another bottle of wine (obviously).
On the third day, we were faced with a freaking disaster! Justin (Minister for Finance), had forgotten to transfer money from the savings to the spending account. Advising me we only had 90 Bs. for the day and that we'd probably have to wait up to 48 hours for the money to clear (different banks), I was heart broken. So I took what I could in change and bought a bottle of Aranjuez Duo...you know, to help with my stress.
Luckily, the money cleared soon after lunch which meant we could afford pasta - not just noodles - for dinner. We ventured out to Chilibar, ordering the sushi and tortellini. We also ordered water....HAHA joking. We order a bottle of Aranjuez Tannat. Very smooth drop of vino, though unsure why our waiter gave us champagne glasses...
Just when I thought things couldn't get any better, Justin booked us on a wine tour with Fancy Tours. They picked us up at 8:30am and we headed to Campos de Solana. We toured the factory before tasting a rose and riesling, accompanied by a small tasting of cheese and salami. I was impressed, mostly by the fact I didn't have to share because we were the only two people on our tour. I even managed to talk Justin into purchasing a bottle of the 2012 Reserve. Life really is beautiful.
The next stop was Casa Real to see how Singani is made. This awful version of grape juice is similar to grappa, though possibly quite worse. Justin likes it though, so after watching 3 ladies hand label a few bottles of the premium Don Lucho (they label 2,400 bottles a day), we went into the cellar for a tasting. Much nicer with sprite and a twist of lemon!
After Casa Real, we stopped at the Canyon de la Angostura for some photos before continuing to Las Duelas, an artisanal bodega, to sample jams and some more wine.
Our final destination of the morning was Casa Vieja, another bodega, built around 400 years ago. We bought a corn crepe to share while we waited for the tasting and ran into a group of people also staying at our hotel. We would all do the tasting together. When we were finally called into the cellar, there were 10 glasses of wine and 1 glass of singani sitting on a bench.
The tasting would be much different to anything we have tried before as each glass would be handed around the semi-circle we had formed (like pass the parcel but with wine!), with each person taking a sip before passing it to their right. I was in 11th in line. That's a whole lot of germs! But, the experience was a good one with everyone laughing and enjoying themselves. If you ever have the opportunity to experience this, DO NOT be the last person in the line. Custom would have it that should you be this person, you have to drink what is left in the glass...or kiss the host...something one poor lady found out the hard way!!
Justin walked away with a bottle of port and we headed back to town and to lunch at Tasca Madrid. We shared a pizza and some beef carpaccio toasts before returning to the hotel for a nap. That night, we walked across town to find a steakhouse and we were in luck! We found a giant serving of steak with sides and condiments for 90 Bs. at El Quincho de Quiliu. A bottle of wine was an extra 20 Bs. bringing our dinner meal to a grand total of USD $17.
For the next couple of days, Justin was ridiculously sick. According to WebMD, he was suffering appendicitis but, it soon turned out to be nothing more than food poisoning. We're not sure where he got it from as we had eaten the same thing but, we're assuming it was the market place because he always makes friends with the salad.
While my dearest was resting and recovering from his illness, I went out exploring. I enjoyed a quiet lunch back at El Marques, sampling their tortellini with four cheese sauce and a glass of white. For dinner, I was able to enjoy a whole tablita from La Rotiseria to myself. For good measure, I bought another bottle of Kohlberg which I evidently drank from the bottle so I didn't have to wash my travel cup...
This quiet little dot on the map with its fancy food, delicious wines and very agreeable climate had me petitioning for us to stay in Tarija forever! But, that wasn't to be. Justin soon recovered and it was time for us to move on. Of course not before enjoying one last meal of ravioli in a carbonara sauce and a lasagna...with wine!
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