Our hotel breakfast was a self-service assortment high in sugar and carbs, so it was not great for me, but I found a few things to keep hunger at bay knowing I would need to get some walking in later to work off carb overload.
Our bus was scheduled for 10:30am, but we were unclear where we would catch it once at the bus station. No one looked at the company name with great familiarity. We decided to be earlier than necessary to double check when there. It was indeed the space 15 where we had been told, but it turned out not to be a bus, but a shuttle van that seated 19 people. Thankfully, there were only five of us at the first stop, and only one joined us at the airport. Sadly, I knew this shuttle was not bathroom equipped. With a diabetic bladder, this could mean trouble.
We are a Hungarian magnet no matter where we travel. One of the people waiting for the shuttle was a Romanian (father) – Hungarian (mother), who wanted to be friendly. He kept eyeing my backpack sitting on the cement while we were waiting, so I was suspicious. His monologue clued us in that he has been all over Europe, supposedly looking for a job, but never seems to last in one place for more than a couple of days. He had been in Crete, Toulouse, and next stop Andorra.
Inner city driving and then highways permeated our first hour of the ride allowing me to read my book without any feeling of regret. I was hoping for colorful trees to remind us it was October and autumn was surrounding us, but the trees around the Toulouse area skipped over the colorful step or they just browned fast.
During the 2nd hour of the ride, I sprawled out across the five seats in the back and slept for an hour. As luck would have it, the width was just enough for to be fully stretched without scrunching my body.
When I awoke at the third hour, we were rewarded with spots of color. Though some trees were stubbornly holding on to their green leaves, there were smatterings of golden spots. It looked like a green leopard skin with golden spots. Andorra is not in the Schengen zone, but we passed through passport control and customs with only a head nod from the guard, but without having to come for a full stop.
It seemed that for the last hour, there was a babbling brook on one side of our van or the other for miles. Brook had much to babble about.
The shuttle took us right to the hotel door. Our hotel is located in Escaldes-Engordany, but the capital is in la Vella. I figured we would be taking a public bus back and forth since the four historic sites are located in the capital. Being a small country, how long could the bus ride take?
Our hotel room is humongous. There is enough floor space to hold a party with 16 guests and still have room left over. The bathroom is just as large, giving the whole a luxurious feel to it.
Andorra is located in the east Pyrenees between France and Spain, making Toulouse and Barcelona the entry points for public transport. The country is independent, but still depends on both countries to defend it in war.
We ventured into Església de Sant Esteve, a church that dates back to the 11th century, but with modernizing the only thing left of the original was the Romanesque apse. Two things made the church particularly interesting. There is a stylized statue of the Madonna and child, which were unique. It is such an interesting art piece; I could see having a statue of it in my home, even if I don’t believe in its representation. The city is full of art on the streets. We ran into a bronze sculpture ‘La noblesse du temps’ by Salvador Dalí. Translated to ‘The Nobility of Time’ this sculpture portrays a soft watch on a tree. Placed at Pont de la Rotonda, the Old Parliament building, it is there for all to admire.
An amazing pyramid-shaped skyscraper stands out from the crown of other buildings. Inside is the Caldea thermal spa and wellness resort, which is advertised as the largest in Europe at 6,000 square meters. We are thinking of going, but we will see how our time goes.
Stopping at the tourism office, we found that the city/country tour bus is only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. We missed out. You can go across country is you use the public bus system and a one way will be less than 2 Euros.
We have been on the hunt for rings to see if we can find something exceptional here. Andorra is tax-free, so everything you buy here is free from VAT. That said this is a paradise for those shopping for technology items. There are dozens of stores selling phones, computers, laptops, pads, and so on. In addition, cigarettes are dirt-cheap and presumably so are liquors. We are not buying any of it.
Just about every restaurant has a ‘fixed menu’ for €10.90. If you look at the a la carte menus this is a real bargain, otherwise it is not. We had a list of budget places to eat, but budget is questionable. We have discovered a small pub called 1978 Café, but they only have sweets and sandwiches, no meals. They are very inexpensive though.
Later for dinner, we wandered into La Taverna Andorra only because the decorations were set for Halloween. The food was good. I had a hamburger with foie gras, something far from my norm. It was different and tasty. Our waiter, it turned out is from Portugal.
We really had a fuller day than reported here, but the double-edged sword of blogging while traveling is having enough time to fit everything into a day. Regrettably or not, I brought my school laptop this trip to test out how it would be to carry. The sound quality is so much better than the netbook; this was a test run for which one to take in December. Trading off was the fact that this does not have a card reader for me to upload any photos. Hence, I cannot include any of my own here. They will have to come later.