Andorra, the country of the Pyrenees. This is how Andorra sells itself to the world. Andorra la Vella is the highest capital in Europe with its 1023m above sea level. Its economy is linked to banking and mountain sports like skiing in winter with two of the best ski resorts in Europe: Grandvalira and Vallnord. It is a popular destination for people from Catalonia and France, as it has border with both countries and the low taxes attract crowds of people from the closest metropoli: Barcelona. Shopping is one of the main attractions of this diminute country in the middle of the mountains.
We spent last weekend doing shopping, sightseeing and visiting Romanesque churches in Andorra. But our starting point was La Seu d’Urgell, the last town in Catalonia before crossing the border. In La Seu d’Urgell we slept in the Parador, an amazing rural hotel with a fantastic cloister. Temperatures were between 0ºC and -14ºC all the weekend and the landscapes were full of snow. Do you want to discover Andorra with us?
We arrived to La Seu d’Urgell at 12am. Parador staff welcomed us with a glass of wine and some chips. It was pretty cold outside and there was no better way to have a rest after the three-hour driving from Barcelona. Relaxed in the cloister while drinking Catalan wine we planned our first visit of the weekend.
The Parador is just next to the main tourist attraction in La Seu d’Urgell, its Romanesque cathedral. You can visit it for just €2.5, which includes the Romanesque cloister of the cathedral. Without any doubt it is a must visit before crossing the border to Andorra.
La Seu d’Urgell is also famous due to its rapids, where some important olympic sports were played during Barcelona ’92. Nowadays the rapids park is still used for training and world cup competition. We were lucky to see some people training with their kayaks.
Then we had lunch and crossed the border to Andorra. The first thing you see when you cross the border is that almost every flat surface is already built. Andorra is basically mountains, so all the valleys are already built. And due to low taxes people cross the border just to fill the car tank or do some shopping in the shopping malls placed close to the border.
During Christmas time it is a perfect familiy or couple plan to walk through the snowy streets in Andorra la Vella while doing sightseeing and getting in the stores and shopping malls of the city. The streets are well dressed with Christmas lights and children play with the snow while parents buy presents for the familiy.
The nice atmosphere in Andorra la Vella is completed with some street activities and performances organized by the public institutions. If you feel cold at -8ºC as we were you can always have a hot chocolate to recover yourself.
And what about the Christmas market? Yes, there is also a Christmas market in Andorra la Vella where you can buy typical Catalan Christmas figures like Tió or Caganer. Do you know what they are? All children grow in Catalonia and Andorra considering Tió and Caganer a normal thing. But what happens when foreign people discover them? Take a look at the following video which explains well what Caganer and Tió are by CollegeHumor youtube channel. Try not to laugh 😀
And here is Dídac trying to get presents from Tió:
Well, yes, this is our shitting tradition. And as the video says we don’t know why we have this tradition. You know, Catalans are strange: polite, responsible and peaceful people that put shitting logs under the Christmas tree and shitting famous people in the nativity scene. But don’t worry, you can also have typical Christmas experiences in Catalonia and Andorra.
For example, we ended our day in Andorra watching a performance in the Christmas market. Well, maybe it was not so typical because we didn’t understand it although the children laughed a lot.
And all this just happened on the first day. On Sunday we did the Romanesque route in Andorra, where we visited the most important Romanesque churches and also one of the most impressive viewpoints in Europe. But this will be explained in a future post.
Merry Christmas to all our readers and followers!