Updated On: February 18, 2006
Current Location: Andorra La Vella, Andorra View Route
Distance Since Last Update: 590 miles
Total Distance: 1,705 miles
Current Weather: 30's, Sunny
Local Fare: Seafood Paella
Activities: Snowshoeing, Alpine Skiing

 
  Andorra La Vella, Andorra - February 16-17, 2006
After a long 8-hour drive from Tours, we arrived at the Andorra border in a blinding mix of heavy snow and fog. The drive through the Pyrenees was slow going as Betty lumbered up the steep, winding roads to Andorra La Vella, the small nation’s capital city and our destination for the night. We didn’t know exactly what to expect when we arrived. We’d read in Lonely Planet that Andorra is a tiny nation of 70,000 with one major city and two primary industries – skiing and duty free shopping. The two drive a booming tourism trade that attracts some 11 million visitors per year. What we found was a bustling city with glitzy shops, bright lights, and bumper to bumper traffic. Seemed more like Hong Kong than a small alpine ski town.

On the drive in we stopped a couple of times at hotels looking for a room but high season prices were steep and some places were sold out. Fortunately we eventually stumbled onto Hostal del Sol, a hotel we’d found in Lonely Planet that was near the city center of Andorra La Vella. They had exactly two rooms left for the very reasonable price of 29 euros/night. Perfect. We booked both for two nights. Only downside….. no parking. And so we began the dreaded task of finding a home for Betty. Street parking was the only option because parking decks don’t have enough clearance. The streets were packed with illegally parked cars. And we too eventually parked illegally on a narrow back street a few blocks from the hotel. In the process of maneuvering into place Betty suffered her first injury. A large steel pole jutting out from the side of the street knocked out the rear spotlight.

After parking our trucks, we regrouped at the hotel and setoff in search of dinner. The city is full of good options and we quickly found a small bistro where we gorged on pasta, salads, and a bit of wine. Another relaxing end to a long day on the road.

The next morning, we were woken up by clear bight blue skies and beaming sunshine. With towering mountains all around and tons of snow I couldn’t wait to get outside and play. After suiting up and packing our daypacks, Sheri, Sharikay and I piled into Betty and headed up to Grandvalira Ski Area to spend the day snowshoeing. It was great to be outside. The air was crisp and the weather was perfect. We rented snowshoes, bought pedestrian lift passes and headed up on the gondola to mid mountain. Just off the ski trails we found a dog sledding center with miles of sledding tracks and backcountry snowshoeing trails to explore. Our pace was slow and relaxed as we myandered through the woods and took in the pristine beauty of the Pyrenees. A perfect day of fun in the sun….. and snow!


 
 
 
 

Andorra - Barcelona, Spain - February 18, 2006
Up early, our plan for the day was to head to Barcelona, Spain. Before leaving Andorra however there was still much to fun to be had. The plan: Go for a run, check out of the hotel and then – Sheri, Eric, and Sharikay would take a tour of Andorra’s parliament building while I headed back to Grandvalira Ski Area to go skiing.

The run was excellent – a quick trip along the roaring river that cuts through the surrounding valley. Perfect weather. Beautiful mountains all around. Crisp air. Excellent weather. Plenty of hills to challenge me. An excellent run all around.

Sheri’s trip to parliament was less excellent! It seemed like a good idea - the building is beautiful and we were all interested in knowing more about the government of such a small nation. The reality was something else. They arrived at 11am for the 20-minute English tour. It was full. The only other option was a French speaking tour at noon. OK. Not ideal but it’s only 20 minutes and they’d get a tour of a very beautiful and unique looking building. So they waited an hour… for a tour that was supposed to last 20 minutes...in a language they didn’t understand. The 20-minute tour dragged on for over an hour as their fellow tourists asked detailed questions about everything (in French) and their guide gave detailed answers (yes, in French). All the while Sheri was bored to tears and eventually, nearing the end of her rope abandoned the remainder of the tour. To hear it told, it sounded like Chinese water torture would have been enjoyable.

Meanwhile, I set off to get my ski fix. It was the perfect recipe: Blue skies. Relatively warm temps. No lift lines. Huge mountain to carve up. I grabbed a set of skis, hit the mountain and carved as many turns as I could possibly pack in. It was non-stop action right up until the minute I had to head back to meet everyone and set off for Barcelona.

On my return to town, I had a most interesting incident. I’m not a philosophical person and I’ve never given the concept of karma much thought. I must however admit that I’m starting to wonder. On the drive down through the mountains, I’m minding my own business in the slow lane, just trying to get Betty down safely. On the way, I’m nearly run off the mountain when I tour bus goes blowing by and decides, as if I’m not even there, to take my small patch of pavement. I came inches away from complete ruin while he just flies past as if nothing has happened. I was, shall I say, upset. It’s not like my vehicle isn't obvious. It’s huge and there are bright yellow fuel cans on the roof as an added signal. In any case, he was gone and I was fuming. As luck would have it I ran into the bus again in the next village. He had pulled over and just as I was passing, decided it was time for him to take off again and tried to pull back onto the road and cut me off – AGAIN! You have to be kidding me I thought and so I continued on, continued on and didn’t let him in. Well, here’s where the bad karma kicks in. About two blocks down the road, I’m pulled over by an Andorran police officer who gives me the riot act about going around the bus. I don’t speak Catalan however I clearly knew what he was saying. It was incredible. I go around him at 5 mph and get pulled over while he can run me off the road at 60 mph on a winding mountain pass and be fine. If that’s not bad karma, I don’t know what is.

Back in town, we loaded up and headed out. Destination: Barcelona, Spain. Along the way we were stopped at the border and both vehicles were searched. After a brief search of a few expedition cases, the border official asked how many were in our party and if I spoke Spanish. I said no and he said we could go.
So off we went. The rest of the drive was uneventful and we arrived around 8pm. Finding a campground – all closed – or hotel was a bit of a challenge which took another 3 hrs. After burning the better part of half a tank of fuel we were rewarded with an excellent hotel right on the beach….. and it had plenty of off street parking.

We capped the night off with a late dinner at Mira Vos, an enjoyable pizzeria/brasseria right on the beach. Two pitchers of sangria and a few beers later and we called it a night.