Tim likes to travel. Follow his adventures as he explores the world.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Andorra: Outdoorsman's Dream, Shopper's Paradise, Everyone Else's Meh

Synopsis: Going to Andorra to support Emilito and his basketball team at the national championships. Not sure why it's in Andorra, but I've been wanting to go there, so I'm not asking any questions.


The Spanish National Basketball Championship for Spanish Cadetes is in a different country???
The Spanish National Basketball Championship for Spanish Cadetes is in a different country???


Day 1:  We set off early in the morning on a five hour drive. Andorra is not EU so we have to pass a border control checkpoint. This is the first time I've seen a checkpoint since I was visiting Croatia and we took a day trip to Montenegro and Bosnia. Andorra de la Vella, the capital, is a quaint town surrounded by mountains. Upon arriving in Andorra, we go straight to the first game. Both teams have maybe 15 fans (maybe because we are not even in Spain!). Emilio's team plays... umm, the funeral will be closed casket.

After the game, we grab a coffee with some of the other parents before heading to the hotel to check in. Then we meet back up with the other parents and walk around downtown a bit before going for lunch. After lunch, we walk around the gardens of Casa de la Vall and take photos. Check out Sant Esteve church, then head to watch more games of other teams. Barcelona versus Donostia is the best cadete game I've seen all year, even though Barcelona wins by almost 40. 


Walk back toward the hotel, and find I can sit outside the mall across the street and bum free internet, since our hotel doesn't have any. Later meet up with the family and go for dinner at McDonald's. I haven't eaten McDonald's in five months. The burgers are not that great but the Mcflurry is delicious.

Thoughts: 
Countryside between Spain and Andorra is amazing. It seems no matter what direction you look, you have beautiful views. And the capital is super small. What kind of hotel in a city that has Ferraris and Lamborghinis everywhere, doesn't have free WiFi???  Though Catalan is the official language here, I hear much more Spanish and French.



Border control
Border control


Cheering the guys on in their first game
Cheering the guys on in their first game


The bathroom in Barri Antic Hostel
The bathroom in Barri Antic Hostel where we had lunch


View from on top of the new Parliament building, overlooking the city
View from on top of the new Parliament building, overlooking the city


video




A la Itchy Feet
Á la Itchy Feet


It's not as comfortable as it looks
It's not as comfortable as it looks

Day 2: Wake up and do some TRX in the room. I walk over to McDonald's for a coffee and to bum the Wi-Fi. Meet up with the family for breakfast before walking down to watch the morning basketball games. The boys play better, but it's still ends quite horrifically.

Then, with the parents again, go for lunch. After lunch we go for a drive around the country, which it seems we could do in a few minutes. Stop at Santuari de Meritxell where we do a free guided tour in Castellano. Continue on to Canillo, but decide because the weather isn't so great, we will just go back and head through the tunnels to La Massana. Decide when we get there that we just rather see more of the capital city, so we head back. 

Stop by Caldea, an architecturally interesting spa, to look around. Emilio and Mariasun stay to enjoy the spa, while Tatun and I go to the movies. We see Da la Nota Aún Más Alto (Pitch Perfect 2) and it's pretty good. I understand A LOT! Kinda helps the singing is all in English. Then we walk back to the hotel, and Tatun goes to bed while Emilio, Mariasun, and I go out for a late snack.


Meritxell Sanctuary is way up in the mountains and offers some amazing views
Meritxell Sanctuary is way up in the mountains and offers some amazing views


Flaggin' in front of the Caldea spa
Flaggin' in front of the Caldea spa

Day 3: Wake up and go straight to the game since we have to checkout and it's an early game. Stop for a quick breakfast and then go to the game. This was a much better game to watch, as they only lose by 10. 


I head off alone to see Casa de la Vall. On the way I stop to buy stamps and meet the nicest lady at Botiga Simonet. She lets me try some authentic cheese, sausages, liquor, and honey from Andorra. I am quite impressed. Andorra doesn't do postcard stamps for U.S., but gives you an entire envelope. 

Do the tour of the Casa de la Vall and it is amazing. Definitely the info you want when you first arrive in the country, as it provides a lot of great information. I have a great tour guide, who does the tour in english since there are other english-speakers. Afterward, meet up with the family, we eat a quick lunch, and then head back to Spain.

Thoughts: I keep hearing that Andorra is a fiscal paradise and many people come to shop here. Apparently they have very low taxes. There are so many electronics stores. 



Those aren't EU plates
Those aren't EU plates

Touring the old courthouse in Casa de la Vall
Touring the old courthouse in Casa de la Vall


Final Thoughts: So, it seems Andorra isn't very large and doesn't offer a whole lot as far as things to see, unless you are into history or outdoor activities. It was still a nice experience and maybe I'll go back for some skiing.


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Location: Andorra

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