In Love with Andorra

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Europe » Andorra » La Vella
March 31st 2015
Published: March 31st 2015
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That pretty much sums it up. I'm having a great time here, all things considered. Andorra La Vella is the highest capital in Europe, situated amid the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. I've wanted to come here since I was 14 or thereabouts, so I'm glad it has finally happened!

My trip up from the south of Spain yesterday was pretty painless - even the 5+ hour train ride to Barcelona went by surprisingly fast. I'm impressed by the Renfe trains of Spain, in spite of what I've heard in the past. The 3-hour bus ride from Barcelona to Andorra also went by unexpectedly fast. There were only 13 of us on the minibus, but most of us kept to ourselves. I was admiring the scenery for most of the trip, until it got dark.

My hotel, the Festa Brava, is in the middle of the Old Town, which sits above the New Town, and across the river from it. It's a cute little place, but the people who run it don't speak much English. That's been fun, trying to communicate in some combination of English, Catalan, French, and Spanish. I'm on the 2nd floor, and my room is a bit small, but it's great to have a private bathroom with shower in the same room as me - something I'm having for the first time on this trip! The internet also works pretty well, so there's really nothing to complain about here.

My morning consisted of walking around the town and seeing what was there, trying to get a feel for it. I ran across the St. Esteve Church without realizing it, but it's one of the few "historical tourist attractions" around town. Then I walked around the Parliament square, seeing some great views of the town from up there. The tourist information people were also very helpful - I came away loaded with all kinds of maps of the town and the country. It was such a gorgeous day outside, I walked down to the New Town and along the river Gran Valira for over an hour, just taking it in. The trees were all in bloom, with great pink flowers to line the walkways on both sides of the river. I saw a few of the monuments along the river before I walked up the main drag, Av. Meritxell. Plenty of tourist shops and other goods to be had. Andorra is a tax haven, so booze, cigs, and gas are cheaper here than most other places. That's apparently one of its main draws. But not for me - I came here for the scenery.

You can't avoid the mountains here - the city is in a valley of sorts, though still over a kilometer above sea level. For most of the morning, I finished up walking around the Old Town, scored some postcards, and even hit up the grocery store. The fresh food was so cheap! I got some great sliced chicken and Edam cheese, along with a fresh baguette to make sandwiches. Yummy, yummy! I also found some Andorra Euro coins - unfortunately, they only started making them last year, and like some of the other smaller countries, you can only get them in pre-made sets from shops. You can't get them from making change around town, like I usually do in other countries. Bummer. I had to pay 17 euros for the set, but at least I have it now.

After lunch, I took a walk to Santa Coloma, just south of the capital. There's a 9th-century Romanesque church you can see (but not go inside), which gives the little town its name. It was cool to see, in the midst of all the recent development. You almost miss it, unless you come at it from a specific angle. After that, I meandered along the river walkway to the Pont de la Margineda, located about a kilometer south of the church. It's just a rock bridge that leads to one of the numerous footpaths and hiking trails around the country. I crossed over it and had a little snack while I admired the view. Then I headed south to the Spanish border.

I walked for probably 3 miles, and all the maps said that it was 6 miles from the capital to the border. That shouldn't be a problem for me. But it never seemed to get any closer, and the sun was brutal today. The weather app said the temperature never got above 60 F, but I saw several signs along the way that had 29 C, which is about 85 F. And there was not a cloud in the sky. I was out in short sleeves, so at least I didn't get hot from the extra clothing. But I did NOT wear sunscreen on myself, so now my arms and face are a little burnt. Thank God for sunglasses! Unfortunately, I did not make it back to the border. It turns out that the walk is 10 miles, not 6 (thanks, Google Maps), and it was too hot and my feet were too blistered to make that trek. I turned around with probably 2 miles to go - so close! But I was running out of water and my feet were killing me.

I took a bus back to the Old Town. Fast and efficient. When I took my shoes off, I saw that I had a huge blister on my left foot, so I disinfected the skin and the nail clippers with some hand sanitizer and then popped that thing. It wasn't so painful until I dropped a small drop of sanitizer right on the wound. I almost screamed! That was so painful, and so quickly effective. I didn't expect it to happen that fast. I've got a band aid on it now, and I'm going to keep it inactive for the rest of the night. It's after 9PM at this point, so that shouldn't be too hard.

My plan was to take on some of those trails above the town tomorrow, but we're gonna have to see how this foot is doing in the morning. I do have some grading to do, so I'll want to take care of that tomorrow, while I have a good internet connection. I'll probably get to do one of the trails, no matter how much my toe disagrees. But I don't want to overdo it - I've still got 8 weeks left!


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