Day two started bright and early as we had to be at the government buildings quite at 9am to meet our liaison, Jordí to start all the paperwork. We had also learned that there were in fact 3 students from Oxford joining us for the first few months and met Rakhi, who was also staying in our Aparthotel. Jordí was great - somewhere in his 30s, nicely dressed with a little European scarf and nice shoes and with excellent English. The whole immigration process is somewhat tedious, and without our Residence Card we can't really do much in the country. For the next few days we would be running around to various government buildings and even the hospital for blood tests - the residence card wouldn't be ours for another week or so. Lame. The bank was another story, but it turned out we would have bank cards and access to our first two 1000+ euro checks within a day or two. SCORE.
Once done with the logistical stuff Jordi took us around town and stopped with us to have coffee in one of the plazas. On this roundabout it became apparent that Andorra, once a major iron producer, has
Metal sculpture, lol. One of many...
nothing better to do with its iron than create frightening metal sculptures scattered about the town. They really are quite scary. In terms of ghetto American eating we have multiple KFCs, PizzaHuts, and McDonalds, but only the British expressed any interest in actually eating there. Btw we were by this point joined by Andrew, another Oxford student who was living further up the mountain in a homestay. He is quite tall and certainly stands out among the small Andorrans.
The rest of the day was just spend back at the Aparthotel aside from a walk around the other part of the city with Marc and Mike, where we got to see the Caldea, Andorra's famous spa complex, up close. As it began to drizzle we headed back toward the aparthotel where we hung out with the girls a bit and also met Oxford #3, Risha. As we were talking we heard a loud crash outside the window and as it turned out a car had hit a motorbike right outside. We got to watch all the action as Andorra's police and ambulance cars were dispatched and the biker carried away on a stretcher. The thunder and lightening illuminating the
Accident viewed from our window. So dramatic with the thunder and lightening!
mountain peaks made for quite the dramatic scene. Once through with gawking most of headed back to our rooms for some reading and Skype dates. Aaaand Bona Nit!
Day 3 began even earlier as we were to report to the Immigration building again at 8am to get appointments for the blood tests. That was easy enough, and by 9 we were once again with Jordí for more exploration. Our first stop was the Casa de la Vall, the 16th Century parliament building. First a home, the building later became a French school, and finally became the country's parliament as well as prison (until just a few years ago). The tour was in English and short but sweet. We were able to see the great old kitchen and various other rooms. The most impressive was the courtroom, where all of Andorra's trials were held until 2000.
After this we were all RAVENOUS and got some sandwiches and such at a bakery. I settled for a sándwich de truita, or omelet sandwich, since Mike stole the last brie and fig one. Next it was time to begin the language whoredom process, stopping at the Catalan linguistic center,
Portuguese Embassy, and French Lycée. I couldn't resist asking the man at the desk in Portuguese about the different options language level-wise. So far I'm signed up for Catalan courses, signed up for a Catalan language partner, and have my e-mail address given to the Portuguese Embassy while they figure our their schedule. As for french I'm not sure if I have time, but we'll certainly see. After all of this we trekked up to one of the sports centers where we'll probably get memberships. We were already dead by the time we climbed up all the hills to get there, so hopefully the bus is easy enough to figure out.
After a long day of walking we were exhausted, but also ready for a feast. After buying a liter of Bombay for 8.50, we enjoyed gin and tonics while we planned our meal. Soon it was decided - pa amb tomaquet (catalan garlic, oil, and tomato bread) to snack on, mussels in a garlic and white wine sauce with cherry tomatoes over pasta, various Spanish and French cheeses, and finally some chocolate. At the grocery store ginormous mussels were a mere 2.80 a kilo, and all the delicious
16th Century Kitchen
In the Casa de la Vall
unpasteurized cheeses like Camembert were a steal compared to what we buy imported to the U.S. I also couldn't help myself to buy a 1.95 euro liter of Pastis from Marseille, the price of which is ridiculously cheap.
The rest of the evening was spent stuffing my face in good company as we all talked about our impressions of Andorra, our research aspirations, and all kinds of things. I think it's going to be a good year ;-)
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