Last September, D and I finally had our much-awaited overseas trip for the first time in almost three years. While we were in Spain, one of the day tours we initially booked for was meant to visit medieval towns. A few days before that, though, we decided to cancel and book our own free and easy day tour to the quaint country of Andorra. It was mainly D’s idea – I only learned more about Andorra when he proposed changing our itinerary, and I was more than happy to check it out.
There was no train going to Andorra, so we booked our roundtrip bus tickets a day before the trip. The Alsa bus ride to Andorra coming from Barcelona would take a little over three hours one way, so we booked a seven A.M trip. At the time, a roundtrip bus fare cost thirty euro. I think it was a good deal.
Early the next day we excitedly walked towards the Estacion de Autobuses Barcelona Nord for our Andorra trip. We got to Andorra fifteen minutes earlier than expected, I guess because we travelled early and there was hardly a queue at the border. It was a bit chilly when we got off the bus – a reason to find a cafe for a hot cup of coffee and light breakfast. Luckily we found that at L’Ocell de Foc along Carrer Prat de la Crue.
Over breakfast we finalized our plan for the day. Our bus leaves for Barcelona at three P.M so we really have about five hours to make the most out of our visit to Andorra.
First stop was 400 meters away (or seven minutes’ walk uphill) – the historical house of Casa de la Vall.
It was built in late 16th century and was originally owned by the wealthy Bisquets family. In 1702 it served as the Parliament until 2011.
Our tour guide walked us through wooded floor on the first floor – the Hall of Lost Steps which was then a room where statesmen and guests waited. There were original wall paintings moved from an adjacent room into the Hall of Lost Steps.
Next door on the same floor was the main assembly room. At the head of the room were portraits of the Bishop of Urgell and the President of the French Republic. An interesting find here was a wooden cabinet with seven keyholes. Our guide explained that this was where important documents was stored, and it could only be opened when all the keyholders of the seven parishes of Andorra were there.
In another room on the same floor was the kitchen. It was a dark but cozy room with big pots in the hearth at the center. Our guide said that this is where the statesmen congregate after sessions, where they wore traditional clothes.
Heading down to the ground floor was the criminal court. It was an impressive room of wooden furniture.
In 2011 the new Parliament building was built, hence Casa de la Vall became a historic monument. Out visit to Casa de la Valle ran for a little over an hour, and I felt we learned a lot and appreciated Andorra’s history more in that that tour.
Our next stop was the Sant Esteve d’Andorra, a quaint looking church just 300 meters away. It was built sometime in the 12th century. Its belltower stands prominently, and if one looks closely, the line separating the old from the new could be seen.
From here we took our time appreciating the view of the mountains. As we headed towards our next destination – the iconic Noblesa del Temps de Salvador Dali sculpture which was 700 meters away, we enjoyed a bit of windowshopping at the stores along Avenue Meritxell.
Giving myself a pat on the back for sticking to the plan so far and not giving in to the call of a shopping spree, I looked forward to the next item in our itinerary – Lunch. We walked towards Le Comptoir – Atelier culinaire, a highly rated French restaurant next to La Valira river. The owner of the restaurant was warm and welcoming, and we enjoyed their yummy lunch menu.
Finally, before heading back to the bus station, D and I walked around the Parc Central. There were several scultpures in the park, a playground and pond, topped with yet another good view of the surrounding mountains.
As D and I travelled back to Barcelona, I admired the scenery (which we missed as we slept mostly on the way to Andorra in the morning). I reflected on the simple yet memorable activities we did for the day as we got acquainted with this beautiful, impressive country. I am thankful for the opportunity to visit Andorra, and I hope we get to go back some day for perhaps a longer stay.