Road Trip Día 2! La Seu d’Urgell-Andorra-Donostia.

After a night in a nice, comfortable Parador, I awoke early to explore the village where it was located, La Seu d’Urgell. The village of 12,366 is located in the northern part of the Catalán province of Lleida near Andorra in the heart of the Pyrenees. The town is 691 metres above sea level (2267 feet for the Yanks). Después de una noche en un Parador bonito y cómodo, me desperté con ganas de explorar el pueblo donde estaba ubicado, La Seu d’Urgell. El pueblo de 12.366 personas está situado en el norte de la provincia catalana de Lleida cerca de Andorra, puro Pirineo. El pueblo está a 691 metros de altura sobre el mar. 

DSCN9695

It was cold in the quaint town, and my tour was all too brief. I would love to make it a base for hiking some day, as there are a lot of mountains nearby. The town is located on two rivers. Alas, we had to get on the road early, so no hiking for me. Hizo mucho frío en el pueblo pintoresco, y mi tiempo allí fue demasiado corto. Me encantaría estar allí unos días para hacer rutas de senderismo algun día, como tiene muchos montes a lado. Hay dos ríos en el pueblo. Una pena que tuvimos que salir pronto, y no pude hacer senderismo. 

The first stop was the small country of Andorra, population 77,281. The country is situated between Spain and France in the Pyrenees and has been a principality since 1278 headed by the Bishop of Urgell in Spain and the President of France. It’s known for skiing and being a tax haven. The official language is Catalán. La primera parada era el país pequeño de Andorra, población 77.281. El país está situado entre España y Francia en el Pirineo y ha sido un principalidad desde 1278. Reconoce el Obispo de Urgell en España y el Presidente de Francia como su jefes del estado. Es conocido por sus pistas de esquí y ser un paraíso fiscal. El idioma oficial es catalán. 

My mom wanted to just say she stepped foot in the country. I would have liked time to explore the country more, as I’ve only been to the capital city. We drove to Sant Julià de Lòria and stopped for a few minutes. She was still having walking problems, so it wasn’t a long trip. Mi madre solo quería poder decir que ha pisado el país. Me gustaría haber tenido más tiempo para explorar el país más, como solo conozco la capital, Andorra la Vela. Fuimos a Sant Julià de Lòria y paramos un rato. Mi madre todavía tenía problemas de caminar. Entonces, no era un viaje muy largo. 

We were still stopped and questioned by the Spanish Guardia Civil (police) at the border. They wanted to know how much money we had on us, look at the trunk and ask where we were going. It was a bit unnerving thanks to the size of the gun. Of course, they let us through without any problems, and we were off on a long day. After the adventure of the day prior, I was not wanting to drive at night. En la frontera entre Andorra y España, la Guardia Civil española nos detuvo para hacernos preguntas. Querían saber cuanto dinero en efectivo tuvimos, mirar la maletero y preguntarnos donde íbamos. Me puse nervioso dado a las armas que tenían. Claro, nos dejaron pasar sin problemas, y empezamos el viaje largo. Después de la aventura del día anterior, no quería conducir después de atardecer. 

I made it to Lleida without fighting with the car’s navigation, and from Lleida we caught the motorway that went to Huesca, A22. We stopped for gas/petrol in Monzón. Later, because there were toll roads, and I still hadn’t figured out how to reprogram the car’s navigation system, we were taken through the backroads of Huesca and Zaragoza provinces. Llegué a Lleida sin discutir con el sistema de navegación del coche, y desde Lleida cogemos el autovía que va a Huesca, la A22. Paremos para gasolina en Monzón. Después, dado a peajes, y dado que no sabía progamar el sistema de navegación, fuimos por las carreteras secundarias de las provincias de Huesca y Zaragoza. 

I pulled off at a hostal-restaurant near the road next to some beautiful mountains in Murillo de Gállego. I was just in Huesca for the first time in March, and I already got my opportunity to go back. Honestly, can’t I just have a job where I get paid to go hiking these beautiful natural areas? Comemos en un hostal-restaurante a lado de la carretera con vistas de montes preciosas en Murillo de Gállego. Fui a Huesca por la primera vez en marzo, y ya era mi oportunidad de volver. ¿Por qué no puedo tener un trabajo donde me pagan hacer senderismo en estas zonas de naturaleza preciosas? 

The road continued through beautiful landscapes, so I wasn’t complaining about not being on the motorway/highway. If it hadn’t already been approaching 4:00 in the afternoon, I would’ve stopped in Sos del Rey Católico. La carretera seguía por paisajes preciosas, y no me quejé de no estar en el autovía. Si ya no fuera casí las 16, habría parido en Sos del Rey Catolico. 

At a coffee stop in Navarra, I double checked with Google Maps and the car’s navigation system. I went with Google Maps as it was much shorter. I’ll apologise now, as I was driving, I wasn’t able to take a lot of pictures, and my mom’s camera wasn’t working and she’s not the best with her iPad, so the pictures do not do the landscapes justice. Durante una parada para café en Navarra, miré Google Maps para comprararlo con el sistema de navegación del coche. Fui con Google Maps porque tenía una ruta más corta. Ya pido perdón ahora. Como estaba conduciendo, no podía hacer muchas fotos, y la camera de mi madre no estaba funcionando y no sabe bien como funciona su iPad, entonces, las fotos no hacen justicia a los paisajes. 

We later arrived in Donostia-San Sebastián just before sunset and made our way to the Pensión San Martín. I got my mom settled in and her wifi and went off to visit the capital of the Basque province Gipuzkoa, population 186,095. It’s my favourite city in Spain if not the world…and once again, I’ve only seen the sun shine and refuse to believe it rains there. Everything is lies from their neighbours in Bilbao, capital of the world! Después, llegamos en Donostia-San Sebastián justo antes de atardecer y fuimos a nuestra pensión, la Pensión San Martín. Le ayudé a mi madre estar cómoda y le conecté al wifi y fui a ver la capital de la provincia de Gipuzkoa, que tiene una población de 186.095. Es mi ciudad preferida de España si no el mundo, y otra vez, solo vi el sol y no creo que llueva tanto allí. ¡Todo es una mentira de sus vecinos de Bilbao, la capital del mundo!

Our Basque adventure was just beginning…Nuestra aventura vasca estaba empezando…

A continuación.

Advertisements

Andorra. Es parla català.

IMG_0202

Andorra had been beckoning me for a while. Sitting there just north of Spain and south of France and one of the smaller countries in the world, it was calling my name. “Pablo. Pablo. Pablo.” I had to go just to say I had been to the one country in the world that has my  Catalan as its sole official language.

It was a last-minute trip. I had originally planned to go to Italia over Semana Santa with a pitstop in Barcelona. The year was 2012, and Spain was a bit miffed (as they still are) with the government. (I can state a fact without being fined, right? Tengo miedo de la ley mordaza…) So they decided to have a general strike on March 28, which cancelled my AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona, which meant even if I took the night bus after work, I would be hard pressed to catch my flight to Italia. Combined with some last-minute expenses (for those that read last week’s entry on bad flats and worse flatmates, it was when they decided the study would be a fourth bedroom), this was a sign that my trip to Italia would be better off postponed.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. So I found a cheap pensión in La Raval in Barcelona and decided to do a day trip to Andorra. I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to be in Barcelona, nothing else mattered. Now that the tourists have overtaken the city for good, my heart is back in Valencia, but I digress. So on my penultimate day in Barcelona for that trip, I caught a 6 a.m. bus to Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra. It was a 3 hour or so bus ride, and there wasn’t much of a border. The bus pulled into a bus station, and I got out to explore.

IMG_0212

Andorra la Vella is small (22,256 people and 40,000 in the urban area according to the latest statistics) but has beautiful views. It’s the highest capital in Europe at 1023 metres (3356 feet) and is a popular ski destination. Being there in late March, I just took advantage of the opportunity to practice Catalán (they mistook me for Portuguese for some reason!), though a lot people I encountered were happier to practice their Spanish than many Catalans. Still, when I ordered my café amb llet at the bar near the bus station, a rush of excitement went through me. I explored the city and went shopping, as Andorra is a tax haven. I’ll be honest and say I don’t understand what that means, nor can I give an opinion on Greece or anything to do with economics. I studied journalism and Hispanic Studies. Humanities. No maths for me. But I can conjugate three verbs in Basque so there.

IMG_0184

A day trip to Andorra does not do it justice. There is so much to see in the country located high in the Pyrenees. According to popular tradition, Charlemagne granted a charter to Andorra in return for their help against fighting the Moors. The Bishop of Urgell has run Andorra since 988, and today is a monarchy with two Co-princes, the Bishop of Urgell (in Catalunya/Spain) and the French President. Although not a part of the EU, they use the Euro, and the country itself is home to around 85,000 people. It is the sixth smallest country in Europe.

And of course…they have many wonders to see.

Set Meravelles

Andorra La Vella

IMG_0214

The capital city is a good base for exploring the small country and is located in the southwest part of the country where the Valira del Nord and Valira de l’Orient streams meet to form the Gran Valira River. It goes back to pre-Christian times. It has mild summer temps and snow winters. The old town, town hall and the Església de Sant Esteve and Santa Coloma Churches are the main sites (in addition to all the shopping).

Coma Pedrosa

The highest mountain in Andorra is 2,942 metres (9,652 ft) tall. Mountain climbers are naturally drawn to it, and there are many lakes on the western slopes. It’s located at the northwest corner of Andorra and has historically been a border between France and Andorra. It takes the shape of a pyramid. The trek to the summit begins at Arisnal, the closest town.

Los Lagos de Tristaina

Located in the parish of La Massana, the lakes of Tristaina are part of one of the most popular hiking trails in Andorra. The three lakes are situated near Coma Pedrosa near the French border.

Valle de Madriu

The Madriu Valley (Officially Vall del Madriu-Perafita-Claror) is a glacial valley that comprises 9% of Andorra and is found in the southeast part of the country. It’s Andorra’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be the heart and soul of the country. There are two summer-only settlements, and the valley can only be accessed by foot.

Santuario de Meritxell

Meritxell is the patron saint of Andorra, and the Sanctuary dedicated to her forms part of the Ruta Mariana, a route of five sanctuaries. The others are Pilar in Zaragoza, Torreciudad in Huesca, Lourdes in France and Montserrat near Barcelona. (I’ve seen 2/5!) It’s located in the village of Meritxell (hence the name), and the original statue dates back to the 12th Century. However, due to an unfortunate fire in 1972, the original was destroyed and the new one is a replica.

Pont de la Margineda

I have a thing for medieval bridges, I know. The Margineda Bridge is located in Santa Coloma near the capital Andorra la Vella. It was built around the 14th or 15 century and crosses the Gran Valira river and is registered in the Cultural Heritage of Andorra.

La Ruta de Hierro

The Iron Route is a short 4-kilometre long route that goes through the area historically known for its iron mines. It’s located near Ordino and is one of several “Rutas de Hierro” in the Pyrenees.

Bonus: For the skiers (not me, my ankle still hasn’t forgiven me for that 2014 attempt at snowboarding), check out Pas de la Casa, which was listened on International Business Time’s Best European Ski Resorts in 2011.