Benvinguts a la familia (2018-??)

TV3 has done it again. The Catalán network consistently produces the best shows in Spain, and their follow up to Merlí is not any different. Una vez más, TV3 ha creado una serie excelente. El canal catalán siempre produce las mejores series de España, y la serie que estrenó en la misma hora de Merlí no es diferente.

Benvinguts a la familia follows the story of a family evicted from their Barcelona flat. Desperate for cash, Àngela (Melani Olivares) turns to her father, Eduardo (Simón Andreu) for a loan. Sounds somewhat like Gilmore Girls? Benvinguts a la familia es la historia de una familia desahucia de su piso en Barcelona. Desesperada por pasta, Àngela (Melani Olivares) es forzada pedir a su padre, Eduardo (Simón Andreu) por un préstamo. ¿Parece Las chicas Gilmore?

Here’s the twist. The father suffers a heart attack and dies. Collons! Angela figures out she’s not in the will, and in a desperate attempt to stay in her house, she decides to fake that her father is still alive until the will can be changed. Hay un cambio drástico. El padre sufrió un infarto fatal. Collons! Angela se entera que no está en el testamento, y en un intento desesperado quedarse en su piso, decide fingir que su padre sigue viviendo hasta que pueda conseguir cambiar el testamento. 

Enter the lawyer, Raül Dorado, (Lluís Villanueva) who is desperate for a case that will bring him some money. And the ex-boyfriend policeman who is now married, Miquel (Miquel Fernández). And the nosy neighbours. Y luego hay el abogado, Raül Dorado (Lluís Villanueva), desesperado por un caso de que puede ganar dinero. Y también el ex-novio quien es policía y también está casado, Miquel (Miquel Fernández). Y los vecinos cotillos. 

The oldest son, Fran (Nao Albet) is most likely on the autism spectrum and is in love with his sort of stepsister, Alex (Georgina Amorós) (His grandfather married her mother. There are two more kids in the mix. El hijo mayor, Fran (Nao Albet) parece ser autista y está enamorada de su algo hermanastra, Alex (Georgina Amorós) (El abuelo de Fran está casado con la madre de Alex). Hay dos hijos más en la familia. 

The series, while not quite as good as Merlí, is a romp through some pretty dark humour and a metaphor for the now former government of Rajoy with all the corruption and lies to gain power and money. No worries, though, as they don’t touch the hot potato of independence once in the series. La serie, aunque no es tan buena como Merlí, es un viaje por humor negro y una metáfora para el (ahora antiguo) gobierno de Rajoy con toda la corrupción y mentiras para conseguir poder y dinero. Tranquilos y tranquilas, porque no dice nada de independencia durante la serie. 

Also of note, a few actors from Merlí do show up. Debería mencionar que hay algunos actores de Merlí que aparecen en la serie. 

The show is available on TV3’s web site in Spain and Netflix in Spain and the US. La serie está disponible en el sitio web de TV3 en España y Netflix en España y los EEUU. 

El final de Merlí.

This post contains spoilers. Hay espoilers en esta entrada. SPOILER ALERT.

Last year, I wrote about the Catalán series Merlí which I had become addicted to. After seeing the series finale on 15 Jan. 2018, I wanted to return to write about it. El año pasado, escribí sobre la serie catalana Merlíque me enganchó mucho. Después de ver el último capítulo el 15 de enero de 2018, quería volver a escribir de ella. 

The show, produced by TV3, is about a philosophy teacher at a typical high school in Barcelona and shows the lives of his students and co-workers. Each week he focuses on a different philosopher which always conveniently connects with what’s going on in the students’ lives. La serie de TV3 trata de un profesor de filosofía en un instituto típico de Barcelona y es sobre las vidas de sus alumnos y compañeros de trabajo. Cada semana habla de un filósofo diferente, que siempre conecta (que casualidad) con lo que está pasando en las vidas de los alumnos. 

The writers, producers and cast decided to end the show after three seasons instead of trying to pretend 20 somethings are still teenagers or move the show to a university setting, and this was the right decision. It left us wanting more. Los guionistas, productores y reparto decidieron terminar la serie después de tres temporadas en lugar de fingir veinteñeros todavía eran adolescentes o trasladar el argumento a la universidad, y creo que era la decisión adecuada. Nos dejó queriendo más. 

The third season dealt with sex, drugs and…country music. (The school’s director still loves his country music). It dealt with love, broken hearts and death. It dealt with exploration of sexuality. (Bruno returns from Rome to find out his best friend Tania has is now dating the guy he loves, Pol, so they solve it with a threesome in a jump-the-shark moment in the penultimate episode.) One student loses his father to cancer. La tercera temporada trató de sexo, drogas y…música country. (El director del instituto sigue fascinado de música country). Trató de amor, corazones rotos y muerte. Trató de la exploración de sexualidad. (Bruno vuelve de Roma para enterarse que su mejor amiga Tania está saliendo con el chico que quiere, Pol, y lo resuelven por tener un trío en un momento de “jump the shark” en el penúltimo capítulo.) Un alumno pierde su padre a cáncer. 

The last episode gave something that came as a shock, but it made total sense. Merlí suffers a stroke looking at an empty classroom on the last day of classes and later dies. Just as his favourite students were about to graduate and start their lives, they lose their teacher, mentor and friend. The show jumps ahead seven years in time to see how Merlí affected them all.  El último capítulo nos dio un shock pero tiene sentido. Merlí sufre una derrama cerebal mirando su aula vacía en el último día de clases y después se muere. Justo como sus perepàtetics iban a graduarse y empezar sus visas, pierden su profesor, mentor y amigo. Después, se adelanta siete años para ver como Merlí les afectaba. 

With everything going on in Barcelona and Spain at the moment, I feel the show is important because it shows the everyday lives of Catalans. It presents them as real people, imperfect but decent people. Independence is not the most pressing concern on their minds, not even for Elisenda (Sandra Monclús), the only teacher on staff outspoken about an independent Catalunya. They even have another teacher, Gabi (Pau Vinyals), who loves Spain. The seven-year time jump refused to comment on the state of Catalunya. Con todo pasando en Barcelona y España ahora mismo, creo que la serie es importante porque muestra el día al día de los catalanes. Presenta los catalanes como personas reales, imperfectas pero buena gente. La independencia no es la cosa más importante en sus vidas, ni por la personaje independista Elisenda (Sandra Monclús), la única profesora que habla de Catalunya independiente. Incluso tiene otro profesor, Gabi (Pau Vinyals) que le encanta España. Las escenas de 7 años en el futuro no hacen comentario sobre el estatus de Catalunya. 

It also shows that Catalán is not always the preferred language to communicate in. Pol speaks to his family in Spanish and his friends at school in Catalán. También muestra que catalán no siempre es el idioma preferido para comunicar. Por ejemplo, Pol habla con su familia en castellano y sus amigos en el instituto en catalán. 

For me, as someone who has worked in Spanish high school, the series was mostly true-to-life and realistic. I mean, three teachers died in two years on the show, which I’ve never experienced, and no one has been hit by a falling toilet…(it is a telenovela after all). Para mi, alguien que ha trabajado en los institutos españoles, la series normalmente era realista. Bueno, se murieron tres profesores dentro de dos años en la serie, que nunca he vivido, y nadie que conozco ha sido golpeado por un váter cayendo. (Al final es una telenovela). 

Francesc Orella is perfect as the main character, Merlí Bergeron. His son, Bruno, is played by David Solans, and Merlí’s prize student, Pol,  who causes trouble in all his other classes, played by Carlos Cuevas. Bruno’s best friend, Tania, who is in love with Pol, is played by Elisabet Casanovas. Francesc Orella es perfecto como el protagonista, Merlí Bergeron. Su hijo, Bruno, es interpretado por David Solans, y su alumno preferido, Pol, quien causa problemas en todas las otras clases, es interpretado por Carlos Cuevas. La mejor amiga de Bruno, Tania, quien está enamorada de Pol, es interpretada por Elisabet Casanovas. 

Season 1 is on Netflix in the US and other countries, and I’m sure the second and third seasons will follow. Netflix tiene la primera temporada en los EEUU y otros países, y estoy seguro que pronto las próximas dos temporadas estarán disponible también. 

No Day But Today. Només que avui.

DSCN1056  I became a Renthead in 2005 after seeing the film Rent. Jonathan Larson’s story of a group of Bohemian New Yorker’s trying to live life to the fullest struck a chord with me, and I saw the film twice in theatres and bought the DVD the day it came out. He sido un superfan de Rent (“Renthead”, o cabeza de Rent en inglés) en 2005 después de ver la versión cinemática. Conecté mucho con la historia de Jonathan Larson se trata de un grupo de neoyorquinos intentando vivir la vida al máximo. Vi la peli dos veces en cines y compré el DVD el día de estreno. 

In 2006, I saw it on stage the first time, and I loved every minute of it. En 2006, vi la obra de teatro en director por la primera vez y me encantó. 

In 2007, I saw it on stage a second time, and I had the opportunity to meet Anthony Rapp, who plays Mark Cohen in the film and originated the same role on Broadway, when he spoke at my university for National Coming Out Day.  I later read his memoir Without You, which he had autographed for me. En 2007, volví a verlo en director una segunda vez, y tenía la oportunidad de conocer Anthony Rapp, quien protagonizó Mark Cohen por la primera vez en Rent original y después en la película, cuando habló en mi universidad sobre salir del amario para Día de Salir del Amario. Después me leí su biográfia Without You, que tengo firmado por Rapp. 

So it comes as no surprise that when I heard about a two-month performance of Rent in Barcelona, I had to go. This was the first professional production in Catalán, I believe (there have been a few schools that have performed it in Catalán), and it was directed by Dani Anglès, who was Mark in the 1999 Spanish-language production of Rent in Barcelona. Entonces, no es gran sorpersa que cuando me enteré de un espectáculo de Rent en Barcelona, sabía que tenía que verlo. Creo que es el la primera vez la producción han montado en catalán, aunque ha sido escuelas que lo han performado en catalán). Fue dirigido por Dani Anglès, quien interpretó Mark en la producción en castellano en Barcelona en 1999. 

For those unfamiliar with the story, it’s Christmas Eve and the electric has gone out. Collins is going to visit his ex-roommates, Mark and Roger, but is attacked in the Streets. Angel, a drag queen, saves him and makes a killing literally as a doggie hitman. Poor Akita, Evita. The dog belongs to another ex-roommate of Mark and Roger’s, Benny, who now owns the building where Mark and Roger are squatting in. Mark’s ex-girlfriend Maureen is planning a protest, and Maureen’s new girlfriend Jo Anne is a radical lawyer. Roger meets his downstairs neighbour, Mimi, when her candle goes out and she needs someone to light it for her. Roger, Mimi, Angel and Collins are all HIV positive. Throughout the year these friends fight, make up and live 525, 600 minutes of love. Para los que no saben la historia, es la Noche Buena y no hay luz. Collins va a visitar sus antiguos compañeros de piso, Mark y Roger, pero hay un ataque en la calle y Collins está lesionado grave. Ángel, un drag queen, le salva la vida y después mata a un Akita, Evita, por dinero. El perro es el perro de otro compañero de piso antiguo, Benny, quien ahora es dueño del edificio donde Mark y Roger están ocupando ilegalmente. La ex-novia de Mark, Maureen, está planficando una manifestación contra Benny, y la novia nueva de Maureen, JoAnne, es una abogada radical. Roger conoce a su vecina del piso debajo el suyo cuando necesitan alguien para encender su vela. Roger, Mimi, Ángel y Collins son serapositivos. Durante el año los amigos lo pasan bien, discuten y intentan vivir al máximo los 525.600 minutos de amor.

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The performance in Catalán was incredible. The stage is very similar to the original Broadway layout, very simple but perfect for the Bohemian vibe. What amazed me most was the cast. Víctor Arbelo was a fantastic Roger, almost as amazing as Adam Pascal himself. (Any Rent fan knows what a compliment this is!) Albert Bolea won me over with his performance as Ángel Dumott Schunard. Nil Bofill (Mark), Mireia Òrrit (Mimi Márquez), Xavi Navarro (Tom Collins), Anna Herebia (Maureen), Queralt Albinyana (Joanne) and Roger Berruezo (Benjamin Coffin III) also were subperb in their performances. I have to say my third time seeing it was much better than the other two times. A wonderful job was done by all involved. La producción en catalán fue increíble. El escenario es muy parecido al escenario original, muy simple pero perfecto para el ambiente Bohemio. Lo mejor fue el elenco. Víctor Arbelo era un Roger fantástico, casí tan genial como Adam Pascal. (Cualquier fan de Rent sabe el cumplido que le doy ahora mismo). Albert Bolea me convenció como Ángel Dumott Schunard y lo hizo genial también. Nil Bofill (Marc), Mireia Òrrit (Mimi Márquez), Xavi Navarro (Tom Collins), Anna Herebia (Maureen), Queralt Albinyana (Joanne) y Roger Berruezo (Benjamin Coffin III) también eran fantásticos en sus papeles. Gracias a ellos, la tercera vez que vi Rent en directo era lo mejor. Felicitats a tothom/felicidades a todos involucrados con la producción. 

A fave moment was when the second act opened with “Seasons of Love”, and the cast sang it from various points within the theatre. Everywhere you looked, there was a cast mate singing his or her heart out. Un momento favorito era cuando el segundo acto empezó con “Horas de Amor (“Hores d’amor)) y el elenco la cantó desde el público. No importa a donde miraste, pudiste ver alguien cantando de su corazón. 

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It was closing night, so emotions were high. This gave an extra special meaning to the performance, and I was sad to hear the last chords of “Finale B”. I have an intermediate level of Catalán, but between my level of Spanish and knowledge of the show, I was never once lost. Rent was able to transcend languages. Fue la última noche de esa producción, y por eso era muy emocional. Había algo especial en el aire, y me estricé escuchar los últimos acordes de “Finale B”. Aunque solo engo un certificado B1 en català, con mi nivel de castellano y mi pasión por la obra, nunca me perdí. Rent puede ir más allá de los idiomas. 

Always remember: No day but today. No hay més que hoy. Només tens avui.

Now, can I have a little moo? Ahora…¿podéis muuuuuu conmigo?

Spanish Nationalism: The Catalans, Basques and Spanish.

Disclaimer: I am Switzerland and not taking a side in this eternal argument. I am neither Spanish, nor Catalán, nor Basque, and this is not my battle. I am aiming to write a post about the current situation in Spain without taking a side, and I am trying my best to show respect to a delicate situation. So please, proceed with caution! Also, this is a VERY condensed history. The full history is much more complex. This is a watered-down version.

My first time in Barcelona, I fell in love.

I fell in love with the city, my first glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea, and my first glimpse at this amazing language Catalán. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I loved the discos, the beautiful Catalan guys, the streets, I even loved the Rambles, the kilometre long street that now is completely filled with tourists and I have successfully avoided on my last three visits.

I went back to Toledo, where I was studying for a semester, full of dreams of an amazing life in Barcelona.

I was greeted with “No, no way would you ever want to live in Barcelona. The Catalans are horrible people, and you’d have to learn Catalán. It would be better when you return to Spain to work and live in Madrid.”

I unfortunately took this attitude back to the States with me.

In 2008, my last year of university, I took a Spanish nationalism course. We studied the works of the famed Generación de ’98. We looked closely at works by Valencian, Catalán, Galician and Basque writers. We constantly talked about what it meant to be Spanish, using Ortega y Gasset, Unamuno and Machado as our sources. I wish I could retake this course now after living in Spain for so much more time. I would understand so much more than I did then.

Spain is not a nation. Spain is a country that consists of many nations. Galician, Asturian, Cantabrian, Basque, Navarran, Aragonese, Catalan, Valencian, Balearic, Murician (not “I’m *Mer-i-cuhn, give me my hamburger!), Andalusian, Canarian, Extremadurian, Castilian, Leonese…Spain is a concept dreamed up by the Catholic Kings Ferdinand and Isabella of a unified Iberian Peninsula.

To understand the situation in both the Basque Country (further referred to here as Euskadi) and Catalunya, one must look at their history.

The Catalans were always tied to Aragón and the Kingdom of Aragón since the 1137 union of Aragón and Barcelona. During the Catalán Revolt from 1640-1652, Catalunya was a republic under French protection. The northern parts of Catalunya were ceded to France in the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, and the victory of King Felipe V during the War of Spanish Sucession lead to the abolition of Catalan and all non-Castilian institutions, along with the change to Spanish in all legal documents.  During the 19th Century, Catalan Nacionalism began to grow, and the Generalitat de Catalunya returned during the Second Republic of Spain. However, during the Franco dictatorship, Catalan was prohibited. Of course, people continued to speak Catalan in secret. I know people in Valencia who studied it in the basements of their teachers as it was forbidden to be taught.

In the 1980s, Catalanismo was rampant throughout Catalunya. As Barcelona prepared to host the 1992 Olympic Games, Catalán began to regain the strength it had before Franco. The Catalans were also jealous of their Basque brothers-in-spirit who were given much more autonomy and freedom to do things their way.

Euskadi is a small corner of Spain located between Aragón, Castilla León, Cantabria and the Cantabrian Sea. Euskal Herria, the land of the Basque speaking people, refers to Euskadi, Navarra and Iparralde, or Basque France. It’s hard to get to on foot, and the weather makes the Irish and the Seattlites wish to return home to a less rainier environment. Noah, builder of the arc, is said to have been Basque. The Basques remained isolated, and the Romans and the Moors left them alone for the most part. During the reign of the Catholic Kings, the Basques made a deal, exchanging an oath of loyalty to Queen Isabel in return for overseas claims and the ability to govern themselves. The French revolution brought about the end of this self-governing term.

During the Carlist Wars, the Basques feared a liberal Spanish constitution that would ruin their self-government, so they sided with the traditional army under Tomás de Zumalacarregui, who died in the Siege of Bilbao in 1835. A weak Pamplona in Navarra would sign the Kingdom of Navarra out of existence in the 1841 Ley Paccionado (Compromise Act), and Navarra became a province of Spain. At the end of the third Carlist War in 1876, King Alfonso XII’s army emerged victorious, the Act for the Abolition of the Basque Charters was signed, and the southern Basques were under Spanish control. (The northern Basques have a similar complicated tale with France.)

During the Second Republic, both Catalunya and Euskadi enjoyed a lot of autonomous freedoms. The Spanish Civil War began, and the Basques sided with the Republican side where Navarra was supporting Franco and the Nationalists. After the bombing of Gernika (Guernica in Spanish. You might know a painting or the song by Brand New), many Basques went into exile. During the Franco regime, any regional language was prohibited. Basque, Catalán and Gallego were banned. The treatment of the Basques during this time lead to the terrorist group ETA, now in a permanent ceasefire since 2011.  (There have been Catalan terrorist groups too, for the record, but none lasted for a long time nor had the impact of ETA.)

When Franco died in the 1970s and King Juan Carlos restored a parliamentary monarchy, Euskadi and Catalunya were granted autonomous freedom (along with the other 15 autonomous regions of Spain). The Basques and Catalans were free to come out of the underground cellars where they had been studying their languages and speak it in the street.

The problem is, the Basque Country was granted a lot more freedom than Catalunya. After living in the Basque Country for two years now, I can honestly say I feel a big difference every time I cross the border into Cantabria or go to other parts of Spain. I can’t pinpoint the exact difference, but there is one. The Basques live as if they have already gained independence from Spain, referring to Spain as if it were a different country.

I honestly feel like the guy who tells the preacher to go f*** himself in the middle of Sunday School every time I say something positive about Spain while living in Bilbao. For that reason, I use “the greatest peninsula in the world”  on my blog to try to emphasize my love for the entire Iberian Peninsula. And you always have to say “Aquí” (here) or “la península” if you want to refer to Euskadi and Spain in the same sentence. It’s being politically correct and avoiding conflict.

The Cataláns, in my experience, still refer to themselves as being Spain, although with a frown or a sigh, dreaming of a unified “Països Catalans” (Catalunya, Andorra, Comunitat Valenciana and Illes Baleares, plus Northern Catalunya in France). “Aquí en España” is something never said in Euskadi but still said in Barcelona. The Basques will say “Voy a España, a La Rioja” (I’m going to Spain, to La Rioja), where as the Catalans still tend to  say “Voy a Logroño” (the capital of La Rioja).

The difference in autonomy has led to some resentment from the Catalans. Their quest for independence honestly began by feeling if they asked for something big, they would be rewarded with what they wanted, equal footing with Euskadi. Today, though, many Catalans want complete independence, fueled by Spanish government who wants to take away freedoms from the Catalan language and trying to go back to a Spanish-only way of life. As Spain has been suffering a horrible economic crisis since 2008 (despite the prime minister’s words to the contrary, the crisis is NOT over), they feel that they would have a better chance on their own without being bossed around by Madrid.

The Basques are sitting in silence, trying to recover from the horrors of ETA and restore their goodwill with the rest of the peninsula, learning from Catalunya’s trial and error process and planning a day in the probably not-too-distant future when they present their own plans for a referendum.

The rest of Spain usually remains angry and upset, and it’s a topic that is 100% unapproachable for mixed company. I may jest to my closer friends about how I miss Spain, but it’s not something I would ever say to the Basques at large. I still have dreams of perfecting my Catalán and living in a village somewhere between Barcelona and València with my husband and two golden retrievers, writing the day away. However, I would prefer to do it in Spain and not an independent Catalunya, which at this point in time could be catastrophic for both Spain and Catalunya, as economically, one cannot live without the other.  I also don’t want to have to go through customs and currency exchange every time I travelled from a point in the peninsula to my beloved Barcelona!

That said, I do respect the Catalans a lot and understand their frustration. Sometimes I worry that having a blog named in Catalán could lead toward resentment to me, the American with the Valencian soul.

This has just been a very brief introduction to the politics, the feelings and the history that has led to Catalunya’s quixotic quest for independence.

For more information on the Basques, be sure to check out The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky. It’s a fascinating read. I’d love to find something so entertaining on the Catalán history!

Andorra. Es parla català.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.