Friday morning we awoke, with the plan of leaving Barcelona and heading to Valencia. We were just about packed and ready to go when Clare got a message from the AirBnB host that there was a big storm in Valencia, and that the restaurant where we were supposed to pick up the keys was probably going to close, but that we could still get the keys some other way. We decided to do a bit more investigation. I contacted one of my work colleagues in Valencia, and he said that they had closed schools and it was pretty bad. The weather forecast was calling for rain all weekend. We decided to look into other options. But first we had to leave the hotel. We took the Metro to the main train station, and used the WiFi there to do a bit more investigating. We ultimately decided to travel away from the storm – to Andorra, for three nights, then one night in Zaragosa, and then on to Madrid. Luckily we had rented a car to travel to Valencia, because we had been unable to find any train connections. Since we had booked directly with Hertz, we were able to change the destination from Valencia to Madrid, and we also paid an extra 8 Euro per day for an upgrade to an Audi A4, which was really nice driving in the mountains.
In case you don’t know, Andorra is a tiny principat in the mountains between France and Spain, and is actually ruled jointly by Spain and France. The only official language is Catalan, though most signs also have Spanish, French, and many English. It relies heavily on tourism, particularly skiing. October is definitely an off season, so we were able to get a 2 bedroom apartment with a beautiful view for three nights for only €280. It took quite awhile to figure out exactly where we were going to stay and get the car, so by the time we arrived in Andorra it was starting to get dark. When we found the apartment, which had seemed like a regular hotel when we booked it, I found that the reception had already closed – it was only open from 2-6 p.m. I tried calling the number by the door to no avail, and we started to get worried about whether we were going to be able to find a place to sleep. We all got back in the car and started to drive towards France, where we could use our cell phones (our cell phone plans here don’t charge extra for pretty much any country in the EU except for Andorra). I decided to turn around and check at a different hotel which we had passed, where I could see that the reception was open. I inquired about a room there, which was going to be over €500. I then asked if the person could help me contact the hotel we had booked, and he was very nice to help me, and we were able to get in.
I actually knew very little about Andorra before we decided to go there, other than having read a play titled Andorra by Max Frisch, which I had always enjoyed. It turns out it is a bit more populated than I had expected – about 70,000 people – though who knows how many people are there on a ski weekend – it has a lot of hotels. On the drive through Spain to Andorra I mixed my time between helping Clare with directions, taking pictures, and reading up on Andorra. I learned that there is a gigantic thermal bath there, and also a nature / amusement park. On Saturday we ended up going to the thermal bath, and it was indeed very cool. They had many different pools of various sizes and temperatures – mostly inside, and some outside. They also had several cold pools. Meg was impressively good at staying in the cold pools. I don’t know how she did it. There was one section built like a Roman bath, and the instructions were to stay in the 36°C pool for 3 minutes, then the 14°C degree pool for 3 minutes, then relax on the stone benches for 10 minutes. I didn’t last more than 30 seconds in the cold pool, but Meg probably lasted more than 5 minutes.
After the thermal baths we went into town to find some lunch. We ended up at a place called Big Ben, which was quite tasty. Spencer had a hamburger, as usual, and the rest of us had the menu with various different dishes. Clare had snails for her first course, which she said were really tasty, and the rest of us tried to not look while she was eating them. By the time we got back to our apartment it was after 7 p.m. We had some snacks and watched some Modern Family, then went to bed.