Andorra

February 7th 2015

Today, now that I am home from my ski holiday in Andorra, I have time to review it fully, and in its entirety, starting in what seems like a logical order to me: from largest land mass to smallest.

The Country: It’s one to tick off the list of European countries I’ve visited. (coupled with Spain, as we flew from Barcelona airport on the home leg) Whenever someone would ask/has asked me where we went skiing and I said Andorra, they were always skeptical. Probably because no ones ever heard of the country. My cousin asked me today “How was Angola?”

“That’s a country in Africa, Daniel.” I said. “There’s not a great deal of snow there.”

But to me Andorra was beautiful. It’s this little hidden country on the Pyrenees. I always find it odd that you can drive into countries in mainland Europe. Living on an island country like the UK, I’ve never really experienced that (unless you count driving over the Severn bridge to Wales, which I don’t) So driving out of France, across a border, through a barrier and into a new country was a new experience.

The Mountain: We had a part of the Pyrenees called “Grandvalira”, and, well. It was a mountain. Not sure there’s too much else to say about it, if I’m honest. But it looked like this.

IMG_5981

The Snow: (I’m counting the snow as a collective, not individual pieces) I’m not a great skiier, so me writing about the snow means less than it would from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

We experienced pretty much 3 types of snow over the six days. Days 1&2 were ideal conditions, very little ice, no powdery banks of snow.

Days 3&4 we had snowstorms. Visibility was crap, we could barely see three foot from our face at some points. At the end of day 3 we had 26cm of snow overnight. Pretty much a foot. Which made skiing very hard, and being unable to see made it even harder.

IMG_6007

Days 5&6 the storm had cleared but the snow had stayed. The sky cleared a bit, so it was a bit better. So we went further into the mountains, further from our place in Pas de la Casa at least. It was annoying that the conditions were best at the start of the week when we stayed on the nearest side of the mountain (and before we’d improved, much)

The Town: We stayed in a town called Pas de la Casa. It was effectively a town on a mountain. To get anywhere you don’t go east or west or left or right. You go up or down. The restaurants are below your hotel. The bars are below that. You Zigzag back and forth to get down, rather than walking in any particular direction.

It was a cute enough town, although it was so touristy I imagine in the summer when the snow melts, the only people left in Pas are the bin men.

The Pubs: (again, the collective of the pubs) Because it’s so touristy, everyone in the bars was British. There seemed to be loads of Irish bars, which suited the fact there was loads of Irish tourists.

It was the kind of nightlife that suited the Irish, to be fair. All the pubs played lots of singalong/karaoke music, which didn’t really suit the younger crowd amongst us. The best pub we found was Milwaukee, and Red Lion was good as well.

There was one night club that played music that was a bit more current, “Bilbord” we ended every night there, pretty much.

Drinks everywhere we went were more expensive than we’d imagined. €5 for a pint of Magners in most places. €3.50 for a pint of beer. €4 for a double vodka. (And when I say double, it’s more than that. At least 2/3rds of the glass is vodka, the rest is mixer.)

What we should’ve done was tracked down which bar had Happy Hours at what times on what days etc, we only made it to one happy hour.

The Food: Unreal. Unreal.

Food up the mountain wasn’t great, we grabbed lunch at a buffet place called “CBBC” that was awful. And didn’t have much luck elsewhere up the mountain when it came to lunch. But I guess you can’t expect too much from a restaurant that’s 2600m up in the sky.

But the dinner-time meals more than made up for it. We didn’t have a bad dinner time meal. The best we had was definitely at Underground Bar and Grill. The biggest compliment I can give it is that I ordered a desert because the food was that nice. And I never order desert. And the only complaint I have is that I had to order desert because I could’ve eaten about 4 more of the main. Not because there wasn’t enough, but because it was so good. I had chicken and bacon in white wine sauce, and they throw in two of a selection of sides. It was honestly (Probably) the best meal I’ve had that wasn’t cooked by my mum (I’m only saying that on the off-chance she reads this, it was probably better than anything she’s cooked)

Another place that stood out was a place called Marselles. I had the duck breast and it was just as good as the meal at Underground.

The Hotel: Manzano Apartmente. It was cheap, and we got cheap. Except they bump up the price with hidden costs. We had to pay a €150 deposit that we didn’t get back until 5 minutes before we were supposed to be on the bus to Barcelona airport. And they charged €10 for wifi that barely worked. €10 for insurance on your ski rental. Etc.

The ski rental was efficient and easy, they knew what we needed more than we did, that side of it I was happy with.
The room had a bed to sleep in and a shower, a fridge that didn’t work and charging points that barely worked.

The company: We went through a company called CrystalSki. They pretty much did everything for us, which is all I could ask for them. They picked us up from the airport in Toulouse, walked us to the bus, stayed with us on the bus, walked us up the mountain to our hotel, and organised us during the week.

One complaint would be that we only found out as we got on the bus to the airport that our flight home was going to be from Barcelona, and not Toulouse. It would’ve been nice to know a bit earlier that we were going to be driving to and flying from a completely differ country. But it shows that they pretty much did everything for us, because they rearranged our flights without us even knowing that our original one from Toulouse had been cancelled because of the weather.

The Price: (notes are relatively small in surface area) All in, everything in, I spent £900 on a week. That sounds a good price for skiing, but for me, it’s a lot of money. And I don’t feel like I got almost a grands worth of enjoyment out of the week. Obviously I enjoyed it. Just not £900’s worth.

I’d go again, mind. As long as I got a bit better at the skiing part of it.

(Linked below is a highlights video from a GoPro)

http://youtu.be/QqBx6yV_UEg

Until tomorrow, that was Pas.

Jacn

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