South America's 'Fauxtels': Argentine Hotels that Borrow Big Names. By Angela Waters ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Travel Monday, 28th July 2014
Exclusive Feature: Nestled at the foot of the Andes and less than 200 kilometers from Chile lays the wine capital of Argentina: Mendoza;
The city serves as a spring for the full-bodied Malbec wines that flow through the country and are served at the side of every rare Argentine steak.
With its sprawling vineyards set against the backdrop of snowcapped red mountains, Mendoza has become a top destination for enotourists and outdoorsmen alike.
At first glance, the groves of olive trees and grapevines are reminiscent of Napa or Tuscany, but the South American experience is different from that of the North American and European destinations.
Owing to the lax copyright laws and strict import restrictions of the Argentine government, things are not always what they seem in Mendoza.
For instance, if you happen to be sipping Mumm Champagne, a quick glance at the label may reveal that the sparkling wine was made a little closer to Patagonia than any region of France, and the Hotel Crillon next to Plaza Italia probably has no relation to the luxurious accommodations of Paris’ Place de la Concorde.
The Crillon is not the only “fauxtel” in the city – across the Avenida Peru, there is also the Ritz Hotel Mendoza. The primary indication that these hotels are not the real deal is their star ranking. Hotel Crillon and Hotel Ritz Mendoza are both three-star establishments compared to their five-star namesakes.
It would be disappointing to check into these hotels if you were expecting a real Ritz Carlton or Crillon, but they are not bad for middle of the road hotels.
The Mendoza Ritz and Crillon exceed the requirements of a three-star hotel with clean rooms, comfortable beds, Wi-Fi, breakfast buffets and pools. The rooms have no butlers, but the staff at the front desk speaks English, and is helpful in booking day trips. Some of the popular outings are wine tastings, mountain tours, horseback rides and white water rafting. For less than the five-star price, it’s not a bad deal.
But if you are actually looking for a luxury hotel chain, the Park-Hyatt Mendoza is around the corner from the fauxtels on the Plaza Independencia and is a legitimate Park-Hyatt hotel. It has a neoclassical exterior with a modern interior and comes with all of the services expected from a five-star hotel in addition to a day spa and casino.
If you want to be sure to stay away form the counterfeit wine and hotels in Argentina, you are best off sticking to the local and traditional offerings.
Outside the city-center are Estancias; these ranch-resorts are a great way to see the countryside, while staying close to all of the Mendoza attractions. In this part of the country most will come with their own vineyards.
Estancias range in price and services, but they are always guaranteed to offer plenty of outdoor activities and top quality Argentine meat on the grill.
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Angela Waters is a correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. She studied at the American University of Paris and is now working with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Since the age of four, she has been collecting stamps in her passport and finds herself torn between flying to her favorite places and taking a train headed for somewhere new.
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