Day 03 - Thursday, September 27, 2012 - Pre-Trip Day in Barcelona; Drive to Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Feeling very brave and wanting to see the small Principality of Andorra, Vic had made arrangements with Costco to rent a car for the day.
We had a lovely breakfast buffet at the hotel and at 7:45 walked a few blocks to the Avis Rental Agency. Because we had been there last night, things went very smoothly and by 8:20 we were out the door.
Our rental was a compact new SEAT car, made by a Spanish company very close to Barcelona. Armed with our Google maps, we were on the city streets of Barcelona with four and a half million people all speeding and honking their horns on their way to get to work.
Dodging motor scooters, pedestrians, buses, and taxis, we finally made it out of town. With Gennie navigating, you know this was not an easy task. All of those turns looked so easy on the map with the streets clearly marked. In reality, there were very few visible street signs and the one way streets seemed to change with morning rush hour.
We noticed right away that there are many well maintained and excellent Autopistas like an Autobahn in Germany. High speed limits and even faster drivers with no policia, make for a quick trip of 150 miles to the tiny principality.
Another amazing feature is the huge number of tunnels through these Pyrenees Mountains. How does Spain manage to pay for all of this road splendor, you ask? The answer is “Tolls”; very frequent and very expensive. We certainly helped the Spanish economy today!
We passed the small villages and tiny farms and drove north on E9/C16. With numerous stops for photos we had to remind ourselves we were in Spain and not Italy with the hill top villages that were very similar.
Crossing the border of the Principality of Andorra was easy, all of the governmental customs and immigrations buildings were empty and there were just a few agents waving us through. We did notice those coming back in to Spain were stopped and searched. The government does not want Spaniards spending all of their money on booze and electronics from Andorra.
We found a place to park and then walked the streets of the capital, Andorra la Vella. Serving as the capital since 1278, it is now a bustling tourist center. The biggest industry centers on skiing and we thought it reminded us of Aspen or Vail. Lots of tourists and expensive shops lined the streets.
Prices in Andorra are advertised as some of the best in Europe. We had read that the Pyrenees Department Store was the place to go and we found it without much trouble.
We walked through the bargain basement and Vic priced liquor and electronics. The electronics were much higher than our Best Buy or NYC mail order houses but the booze was a bargain. No wonder so many people come here to stock up on their favorite adult beverages.
We had a salad bar lunch which was very fresh and we enjoyed watching people. We took a short walk through the grocery sections and saw huge Iberian hams hanging everywhere, just waiting to be thinly sliced.
On our way home we had the choice of retracing our path or making a big circle and coming back to Barcelona through France. As we had not visited the French in awhile, we opted for that route.
Much more scenic, we took the old road, N260 through the mountains. We got back to Barcelona just in time to hit rush hour traffic. We turned in the rental car at 6:40 after going 302 miles. Our highest altitude was 6,736 feet. The temperature in Andorra la Vella was 57° and the humidity was 60%.
After walking back to the hotel, we were tired but we enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the city and see some of the rural countryside of Northern Spain. Gennie started the journal and I sorted photos.
It was 8:30 and time for a fashionably late dinner for us. We chose the Open Bar, a tapas bar only one block from the hotel. Tonight’s favorites were a Greek salad, croquettes, and melted Provolone Cheese – to die for!
It was 9:30 when we got back home and settled in for the evening. The rest of Barcelona was just starting to think about dinner. This is a late night city!
Accommodations: Hotel Catalonia La Pedrera - - - Meal: B,
Sounds like such a fun trip, you two! I am Jealous! Loving you!!
Wonderful descriptions! Thank you.
We went through Andorra in 1989 and stopped for lunch and a bit of walking around the center. We did buy a bottle of liquor for a gift, and filled the gas tank with cheaper gas. The rest of the view included many chalets for skiers!
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Great trip; Andorra is one place I have wanted to visit; could have used the French and Spanish Andorran stamps while you were there.
Day 13 - Saturday, April 22, 2022 - Depart for U.S.
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