And so, we depart stage two of this massive European tour. In a lot of ways, Andorra was just what we expected, while at the same time it was so radically different.
When we planned this trip, especially after consultating Google maps, Rome2Rio, and one of our fellow SMC grads, we decided that Andorra would be a good place to spend a couple of days to relax after the breakneck pace of Paris, and before we hit the ground running in Barcelona. And for that, it was perfect. No more than a large town, Andorra la Vella was the perfect size to relax, do some meandering through the small city streets, or spend a couple of hours sipping beer and doing some reading. After covering all the major historic sites in an hour or so, we mostly just slept in, ate well, and relaxed.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the massive consumerism. Andorra is a small tax- and duty-free haven tucked up high in the Pyrenees, on the border of France and the Catalonian corner of Spain. With easy access up the mountain valleys of Catalonia (but much more difficult crossing from France to Andorra), Andorra has carved out a nice little industry of selling cheap cigarettes, designer perfumes, small electronics, and quality clothing on the cheap to Spanish tourists. Imagine entire city blocks dedicated to glittering, glimmering, neon signs flashing out. top designer brands, block after block. That’s what the “shoping district” in Andorra La Vella is like.
The other large portion of the economy which we didn’t get to experience was dedicated to skiing, hiking, and other nature sports. Over 3,300' above sea level, Andorra La Vella is Europe’s highest capital, but is still located in a valley, with steep mountains going up in all directions. I was told that to experience “true” Andorran culture you needed to get out of the city and into the mountains, where some small villages still subsist off of what they raise themselves.
While Andorra was a cool side-trip, I’m not sure I’ll be going back. At least, not until ski season.
Next stop: Barcelona!