Toughs Travels travel blog

Madrid architects have a lot to answer for!

Carolyn likes the willies!

Just goes to show - that a couple of cans of Tennants...

Andorra in the sunshine and a photo of the photographer!

These cars are queuing for petrol - yes, really! But why, there's...

Some blond ski bimbo I met!

The main street of Andorra - shopping hell - well unless you...

Madrid and Andorra

Well we've left the apartment just as it was getting warm and headed up North - are we MAD?

We stay outside Madrid at a small town called Aranjuez, and travel in by train and get the 10.00 am train at only 5.20 euros return for a 40 min journey in a nice train (Scot Rail take note).

But as we drew nearer Madrid the clouds thickened a little and it cooled down a bit. However in Madrid it felt OK and we walked over to the Reina Sofia Museum to look at Picasso's works - especially the Guernica painting depicting the Civil War.

Then an open topped bus tour of the city - well there are actually three different lines but one ticket lets you try them all in one day (so we did - but not immediately consecutively - had to have lunch in between).

Madrid is a nice place, large city with lots of different areas - BUT it lacks a signature building or landmark that says "THIS IS MADRID". In case you don't follow my reasoning - There is no Eiffel Tower, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building, Edinburgh Castle, Golden Gate Bridge or Houses of Parliament in Madrid.

Anyway, we enjoyed our day out and returned by train to Aranjuez for swift drink in the main plaza before heading back to the caravan. Though there is a "silent" procession to mark Semana Santa week (Spanish version of Easter, or Holy Week) at 11.00pm, but I think we will give that a miss, as we expect to be tucked up in our bob-byes by then.

25th March - Good Friday

Well a cloudy start but not the rain the internet forecast. Still we sat around and then went into town for the procession we thought was at 2.00pm - WRONG - it's at 8.30pm. So guess what, we had a drink and sat around watching the crowds and then came back to the caravan for lunch and yes, more drink. In the afternoon it was hot enough for shorts for Carolyn, but not Neil.


Time to go - so away sharp at 10.00!! and up through Madrid with just a little mistake and on to the Barcelona road.

We decided to press on and stopped at this little campsite in the middle of nowhere. In the book it's recommended as having nice friendly staff - WELL, they must be on their annual hols, cause the folks at reception (when it eventually opened) were dour to the extreme that they could have belonged "tae Arbroath". However, an OK camp-site with lovely views and clean loos, but no hot water in basins!

27th March Easter Sunday

So, Andorra here we come - well very close to it. The day dawned bright but windy so we set off at 9.42 am (but really 10.42 cause of the clocks change). And had a nice drive across the plain and then up through really nice, spectacular scenery to the foothills of the Pyrenees.

But, the campsites en-route were very dreadful - full of static caravans that need lots of TLC. At the third try we find a site that's (a) not closed or full - how come this early in the year (b) has a pitch that we feel comfortable with, and (c) the loos are ok. But it's still not great!! However, we decide to stay and find a reasonable pitch with the river on one side and an open aspect up through the site on the other.

So, we take a walk - now this is now just in France - by about 500 meters - but it's pretty grim. So we head back, walking of course, for the Spanish border - and in No Man's land we find this "hot" little bar - really up-beat music and dimly lit.

So in we go for a little refreshment - beer and a white wine, along with a dish of olives, that'll be 2 Euros, BARGAIN, so we have another (foolish not too!) But when we come out it's pouring rain and getting dark! Needless to say we get pretty wet on the way back to the caravan and need to get almost fully changed into dry clothes!

Well the rain continues, really heavy, for most of the night. Did I mention how comforting it is to lie, safe and warm, in the caravan when the rain is drumming on the roof? Something Freudian there I think. But later in the night it gets really chilly and by morning we have "ice on untreated surfaces".

28th Easter Monday

Now Dear readers! Those of you with a practical turn of mind will know how important it is to keep your equipment clean - especially you chaps! So, this morning saw us washing the caravan roof. Now this is usually achieved by using a pair of step-ladders, but we don't have any. So, the 4 x 4 was reversed up close to the caravan and Neil climbed onto the roof of the vehicle and washed the caravan roof - splendid! A clean machine once more.

And as the fog and cloud lifted we decided to head to Andorra for the day. What a great idea. As the road climbed out of the valley the sun came out and we had a very scenic drive up the mountain road.

On entering Andorra, you are "presented" with flyers advertising various "tax-free shops" at which to buy your goodies - such commercialism!!

Then we come upon this traffic jam heading up the mountain road - so like good little motorists we slowly inch our way up the hill and round a bend, and still can't see what the problem is. THEN, we get round the next bend and there's a petrol station in the distance. SO, Carolyn nips out and walks up the road, AND YES the traffic jam is a queue to get petrol!! HOW BIZARRE!

Now, if it were really cheap I could see the point, but it's not! It's 0.82 Euros/lt. So, we scoot up on the wrong side of the road and are on our way again.

Then another almost deserted gas station is in view - and the cost? The same - so we pull in and fill up!

After this traumatic experience Carolyn needs a drink, so we stop at the next restaurant and find that it's right on the Ski slopes and has a fine sun terrace, with good music playing - wonderful! Makes us wish we had our ski-ing gear with us.

Then on through the various ski areas. We did not realise how large the ski area was and how interconnected by lifts it is - quite impressive. And for Easter Monday, really quiet on the pistes.

We stopped at the village of Encamp and parked the car in one of the nicest Multi Story car parks we've been in - Now; I can hear you saying "what's nice about a multi story car park?" - but that's the point - most of them are dire. This one's not. AND why? Well its external walls are glass, so it's bright and you get a view over the town and the valley. Each floor has three lifts and an escalator (which is between the car parking area and the glass wall). It is also directly under the Gondola/Tele-cabin lift that goes all the way up the mountain - SO organised and efficient that we could almost be in Switzerland!!

At the top the views are good - pity about some cloud rolling in - but the pistes are still really quiet. Lunch at the modern mountain restaurant is just OK - and a bit pricey at 17 Euros - but Hey, what's money.

The main town of Andorra is "Andorra La Vella" - which is really a shopping complex - just lots of streets and shops all selling the same stuff (drink, perfume, cigs and electronic goods) supposedly at real discount prices - BUT, the only real bargain we found was a 1.5 litre bottle of Gordon's gin for 8.10 Euros!

So, shortly we will be off across France - ah, "c'est magnifique"!

And Dear Reader remember

"Patience is a flower that grows not in everyone's garden".

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