Saturday, July 04, 2009
We (that is me and Ayleidh, another helpXer) were given the use of the car on one of our days off and headed off to explore. One of the French builders had told us that Andorra was food for cheap booze and fags, plus it was a country that neither of us had been to, so that is where we headed. It was only three hours away, along interesting alpine roads with stunning views and the weather threatened rain, so not ideal for a long hike.
It is a funny little place, perched high up in the mountains, touting its duty free merchandise from almost every shop we came across. Supermarkets packed almost entirely with alcohol and tobacco products, chocolate, sweets and if you were lucky, cheeses sausages and hams. We wondered if the locals had to go to France or Spain to do their regular shopping. One of the guys at the farm had asked us to pick him up some tobacco, so we did, getting over twenty pouches instead of the three he was expecting with the 40 euro he had given us.
The hills were festooned with ski lifts waiting for the snow, as were the cafes and bars, all patiently sitting out the quiet of the summer waiting for the cold and the winter fun to begin again. I had often wondered what a ski resort felt like out of season, and now i know. Sort of a dejected calm, having a snooze in the summer sun and recharging its batteries, the sound of the bells on the cows jarring the tranquility from their summer pastures, but only slightly.
We reached the capital, without realising it, and spent a good twenty minutes driving round looking for signs to Andorra la Vella before we discovered that we were actually there. It is small and compact city, incredibly squashed and crammed into every flat space within its valley. Tall thin houses bordering narrow streets, car sales rooms on two or three floors, so many ski and motor bike shops, that wonderful european way of looking terribly modern and yet keeping all the old buildings together and intact. The occasional burst of sunshine shining through the clouds to light up the window boxes of red geraniums and multi-coloured washing hanging out to dry. The minute we decided to get out of the car for a wander, the heavens opened with an absolute deluge of film set style rain. We stayed in the car and drove back to France, happy to have at least seen a bit of Andorra.
Back on the farm. I suppose that it is a farm, as they have chickens and pigs, cows and goats, dogs and a cat, pastures, barns and an orchard, living was at a fast pace through the day. Eating out morning noon and night was wonderful, with the mountain views, fresh air and quiet. Proper French style, with plenty of bread and cheese, salads and tasty dinners in the evening. Wine and beer flowed into the evening, folk chilled after a hard days graft as the sun went down and the stars went up. time for a bit of satellite spotting before retiring for the best nights sleep in the world.