Saturday, 29 March 2014

BARGAIN SKI BREAK IN ANDORRA

Pas de la Casa
Spain or more specifically Barcelona is not known for its great skiing conditions, people usually come here for the sun. But you can be surprised what the next-door Pyrenees mountain range can offer. Based in Barcelona, you have 3 options for skiing – the Catalan, French or Andorran Pyrenees. I would personally vote for the third one, having skied in all three of them. Why Andorra? The quality of snow and the facilities are better in my opinion and less queuing up since there is such a great choice of slopes you can go to. 


Unless you are from the area, not many people even know about the existence of this tiny country. There are only 5 European nations smaller than small Andorra? Do you know which ones they are? 
Ready to start the day in Pas de la Casa, Andorra
The landlocked Principality of Andorra, bordered by both France and Spain in the eastern Pyrenees, is a monarchy headed by two co-princes – the Spanish Bishop of Urgell and the President of France. Perched high in the Pyrinees, its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe, at an elevation of 1,023 m (nothing compared to La Paz, Bolivia but hey, it´s still the highest). The official language is Catalan and Andorra is the only country where Catalan is the only official language.
Only 2,5 h away from Barcelona by car, Andorra is an escape to the mountains, snow and cold. Yes it was cold. Having spent the last week in Barcelona wearing just my spring clothes, getting to Andorra was a real change. And that weekend it didn´t stop snowing. 

Recently got back to Spain from travelling, I was nicely surprised by the new way of getting around called Blablacar. It’s basically like the “carpooling” that is widely used in rest of Europe.  There is a good amount of young Andorrans who study in Barcelona so on Friday night they go back to their homeland and for that reason they offer to share the ride. The price is between 10 and 15 euros, much cheaper than the bus ride which comes to 35€ (and much faster).  Liana and I set off with Héctor from Blablacar on Friday night, 22h and at around 1am we were in Pas de la casa. Although he was offering a ride only to Andorra La Vella, he pitied us and took us to Pas de la casa, which is the furthest village, in the next valley. Andorra has two main ski areas: Granvalira and Vallnord and Pas de la casa is in Granvalira. 

Lots of snow and great conditions as always
The village behind

Pedro
Being almost broke after the long travel, Liana (broke in general) and I, had to find someone on CS to host us. That was Pedro, a very laid back Argentinian, working in Andorra for the winter season and in Germany in the summer. Pedro is one of the few people I know that don´t own a mobile phone and have no internet at home! Amazing! I was travelling for 2 years without a phone but that was travelling. And he has a job and a house but still manages to do without one! 
He didn´t only helped us with the roof but thanks to him we got our ski rentals for free and followed his tips how to get cheaper lift passes (forfait). Everything worked out just perfectly.
While travelling, my plan was to follow the summer everywhere . That´s why I didn't ski for 3 years and was really eager to get on the slopes as quick as possible and make the most of the day. But soon, I realized that reality is a bit different and my body can only take small portions of what my mind has planned for it. Poor my legs!
At the evenings we were so destroyed after the whole day on the slopes that after a massive dinner and a few beers, we could only go to bed.
Pedro, Rafa y el chocolate :)
Pedro´s art (he says it was done in drunk mode)
View from the couch. France is just behind the ridge
In the center of Andorra La Vella, you'll find also one of best Spa in Europe,it is called "Caldea" and is a big new building just next to the shopping street,so if you need some relax,Caldea is your place!. I have done it too in the past, helps you relax and recover from a hard day’s skiing or snowboarding Works for me because my feet are always so destroyed by the ski boots, I wander how no one hasn´t invented something more comfortable yet.


Sales for all the brands 
At one time, the country was a haven for smugglers. Now it is a haven for duty free shopping. Andorra is tax free and that´s another thing that attracts visitors here. 
Shopaholics, alcoholics, cigaretholics ....all welcome! I bought a few bottles as always, they are so cheap that are almost forcing you to buy them. A bottle of my favorite Zubrowka vodka costs half the price I can buy it in Barcelona. 
And this is just a regular supermarket...I think at least 5 aisles only alcohol!
Heaven for smokers and alcoholics
The amount of cigarettes is no way inferior to alcohol
Random up side down Jesus on the church in Pas de la C










Going back to Barcelona went just as smooth as coming here. Used again http://www.blablacar.es/ , this time with a Basque-Catalan couple who rented an apartment in Arinsal for the whole winter season and every weekend were going back and forth. Made it just in time for the last 5 min of "El Clasico" and see (and hear) how Barca wins over Madrid 4:3. :))) Love it when the Catalans are happy!

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