Adrift in Andorra: Embraced by the Mountains and Clouds

Andorra, 2015

    As a traveller, I have had a fondness for the mountain side form the very start. Reason being that I had spent 4 years in a boarding school located within the beautiful valley of the Himalayas in Northern India. When I told my friends that I would be visiting Andorra, I got a predictable reaction-‘never heard of a country called Andorra, man’. I didn’t blame them because if one was to open the World map, I doubt that anybody would be able to locate the country, if not known already. Andorra is a small country which lies between Spain and France (you can open the map and zoom in now) and has a population of about 85,000 people. It is also the Sixth smallest country in Europe (I am already thinking about the 1st one).The question which arises is: how did I come to know of it? I was incredibly lucky to have a close friend who lives in Andorra. I had heard a lot about the country and its beauty from him a few years back and it had been on my wish list ever since then. Finally, in September 2015 I got the chance to spend some time in Andorra on my trip to Spain.

      Andorra has no airport and hence the only way to get there is by road, either from the Spanish or the French border. So, for Non-Europeans the Visa procedure is a bit complicated. If you need additional information on the Visa situation, you are welcome to refer to my post here. Andrew (my friend!) came to Barcelona to take me to Andorra and show me the wonders of his country. A bus from Barcelona takes about 3 hours to the capital of Andorra, ‘Andorra La Vella’. Without a doubt it was one of the best three-hour rides I had taken in a long time. Within half an hour of leaving the city of Barcelona, the view of the mountains took over and it started to rain. Coming from a gruelling 35 degrees in Barcelona, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. As the temperature level went down, my excitement levels started peaking. We had to wait for another 2 hours at the Spanish border to get into the country because of the World Cycle Championship which was going on at the only entrance road.

      The country is divided into seven states/valleys: Andorra la Vella, Canillo, Encamp, Escaldes-Engordany, La Massana, Ordino, Sant Julià de Lòria. I can proudly say that on my three-day trip to the magnificent country, we didn’t stop until I had visited all the seven states.

      The states are equally beautiful; some are more developed than the others while some are more popular among the different types of tourists who visit the country. Winter wasn’t quite there yet which is why I didn’t get to see the snow but I told Andrew, ‘A traveller always returns to the places where he leaves a little bit of himself behind ’. Andorra is famous for skiing in winters and it has four major Ski stations located in different parts of the country. Andrew was nice enough to take me to Andorra’s famous Ski stations. I promised him that I would come back to visit Andorra during the winter, just to get the experience of skiing.

      I had the chance to try out delicious food in beautiful restaurants. I had a special dish called ‘Horse Carpaccio’ (horse meat) and some Duck delicacies as well. One restaurant I would really recommend visiting is the ‘Restaurant L’ensegur’. They have an amazing Chef and mouth-watering local as well as international dishes.

      The national language of Andorra is Catalan. Spanish is also spoken widely. The biggest surprise I had in Andorra was on the first day, when I met Andrew’s father. Andrew Sr. is a poet and a Professor at the local University. When his father got to know that I was from India, he surprised me by showing a translation of one of his poems in Hindi. I was blown away by the fact that in a place thousands of miles away from India, a country where most people didn’t even know what ‘Hindi’ is; this man had a poem written in Hindi. I felt proud and gladly recited the poem in Hindi, to show him what it sounds like.

      Poem translated in Hindi from Catalan

      I woke up the next day and saw heavy clouds on the mountains. We had a long day planned and when I asked Andrew whether there was a possibility of rainfall, he looked at the mountains and coolly said, “It won’t rain”. Later that day we watched World Mountain Bike Championship for free; trekked to the top of the mountains, explored the oldest Church in Andorra and ended the day at a bar which boasted having more than 500 different types of Beer from all over the world. At the end of the day, I asked Andrew how he had known that it wouldn’t rain. He smirked and said that it was an art which he had learnt from his grandfather, who used to look at the mountains and clouds to predict the rain. It was amazing how accurate his weather forecast had been. We laughed and tasted more than 10 types of beer before we remembered that we had to drive back home. 

      We had planned to sleep in the mountains that night, at a place called ‘Prafuji’. They are small houses built in the mountains by the shepherds to spend nights away from home. I was extremely excited by the idea of spending the night there but due to the bad weather warnings issued, we were advised not to go to that part of the mountains. We had to unfortunately cancel the plan.

      One thing which is associated with Andorra’s history and the people of Andorra is Tobacco. Tobacco farming has been a major player in Andorra’s economy and that is the reason why Andorra has a special Tobacco Museum. It is a must visit if you are in the country. Your trip to Andorra will not be considered complete unless you visit the four-storage Spa in the capital called ‘CALDEA’. It was the biggest Spa & Jacuzzi I had ever seen in my life. We took the VIP passes and spent half the day swimming and relaxing at the Spa & Jacuzzi, cradled in the mountains and clouds. After a hectic ten days spent travelling in Spain and Andorra, the Caldea experience was definitely needed and felt heavenly. Finally the night before my departure for Toulouse, Andrew and I went to the local bar called ‘Mon Bohemi’ in La Mansana state. I had the pleasure of meeting his childhood friends. We had a great time laughing and exchanging tales which ended up being an invaluable memory to cherish. The next day, yours truly got back on the road to Toulouse. The Wanderer would like to advise his readers to go visit the glorious little country of Andorra at least once in their lifetime.

       

      The next day, yours truly got back on the road to Toulouse. The Wanderer would like to advise his readers to go visit the glorious little country of Andorra at least once in their lifetime.

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