The end of Friday's classes marked the beginning of the first of many spring vacation periods for me - Carnival! As luck would have it Boston Public Schools has their February break, so some time ago Chris and I planned his visit to Andorra for a few days followed by somewhere more festive.
Give that all my roommates left for their own Carnival excursions Friday night and Saturday morning, it was somewhat painful waiting all day alone until 4:30pm for Chris' bus to get in from Barcelona. Seeing as I had purchased his tickets it was no surprise that his connecting flight from Madrid to Barcelona was delayed 1.5 hours (on the runway of course) and that he subsequently missed his bus to Andorra. Oh well, he eventually made it.
That first night was pretty low key. Once he was settled we enjoyed a lovely fondue and I took him for a long walk through the capital as dusk fell. We were lucky enough to catch Andorra's Carnival parade, a rather frightening display of both children and adults dressed up in various costumes and riding on small floats down Avinguda Meritxell, the city's main drag. Unfortunately I didn't have
my camera with me to catch such spectacles as the Michael Jackson tribute float.
Day two started with a daytime walk through Andorra La Vella along with some shopping and a stop for coffee and pastries at Vives, one of the nicer cafes in the city. Since Chris' presence was an opportunity to do some of the things I had yet to do in the country, I decided that we would take the mountain hike trail all the way into the neighboring Parish of La Massana, a walk of about an hour or two. Though the weather was a bit nippy, the skies were a beautiful blue and the entire trail was really nice, even as it bordered the highway. Among the sites along the way were the Pont de Sant Antoni, one of the several Romanesque bridges scattered about the country that crosses the Grand Valira river, as well as the quaint chapel of Sant Antoni de la Grella.
Once we got to La Massana we had had enough walking and took a bus to the next Parish of Ordino for lunch at Casa Leon Armengol, my favorite spot for a lunch menu. For 8.95 I enjoyed
a homemade vegetable soup, hard-boiled eggs with ham baked in cheese and bechamel sauce, a smattering of beans and 3 different Catalan sausages, and chocolate cake for dessert. All four courses were wonderful.
Our third and final day in Andorra started up on the mountain behind my apartment where we had nice views of the entire city. Next we walked a half an hour or so to the village of Santa Coloma, one of the uglier sections of Andorra, but with a really nice old section I had never seen. The highlight of the historic old town is the Esglesia de Santa Coloma, a pre-Romanesque Church building houses a rectangular nave with a wooden framed ceiling and a quadrangular apse. The circular Lombard belfry was added in the 12th century and is one of the few examples of its kind in the Pyrenees. The building was decorated with 12th-century Romanesque mural paintings by the master painter of Santa Coloma and the church preserves a polychrome wood statue of Our Lady of the Remedies ( 12th to 13th centuries) and a Baroque altarpiece ( 18th century) dedicated to Saint Coloma, but unfortunately the inside was closed. Another time!
day for a late lunch/dinner I decided I wanted to experiment with my Catalan cookbook and chose an interesting recipe featuring rabbit in a sauce flavored with chocolate. I had never cooked rabbit, and I must say it was quite fun playing around with the little carcass. In the end the meal was, well...it was fine, but I can't say I plan on trying that recipe again anytime soon.
The highlight of Monday evening, our last night in Andorra, was a visit to the Caldea Spa complex, the largest in Western Europe. With general admission you have access to a number of different pools and hot tubs, saunas, a steam room, an ice water bath, and even a part of the main pool that takes you outside into the freezing air - very cool. Unfortunately I didn't bring a waterproof camera, but that won't be the last time I visit.
And with that, our time in Andorra was over! The next morning we had to be up at 4am for our bus to Barcelona where we'd catch our flight to...Morocco!
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