The Blue Ridge Ski Council's Eurofest 2012 destination was the tiny principality of Andorra astride the Pyrenees between France and Spain. Potomac Valley Skiers (PVS), of which Jim and I are long-term members (our honeymoon in 1977 was on a PVS trip to Austria and Italy), sent a contingent of 40. Not all planned to ski. The trip included, in addition to a three-day stay in Barcelona, day trips to Carcassonne & Toulouse in France, and an optional three-day stay in Madrid in addition to the opportunity to explore Andorra itself.
I skied three days while Jim explored Andorra la Vella, the capital city. Our hotel, the Holiday Inn (!), was in walking distance of downtown and several bus lines providing access to other towns & villages. One day we took an extension to Carcassonne and one afternoon we took the Andorra Tourist bus tour of the province. At other times we explored using the city bus lines.
As is common in Europe, the ski area is high above the mountain villages and reached by a gondola. The Andorran gondola from Encamp with its two cables is unique in my experience. This made for a very stable ride and may be necessary with the strong winds that we encountered. The gondolas were luxurious with bench seating and hangers for skis. Plus there was an escalator from the street level to the gondola level.
I elected to rent skis at the top of the gondola, which worked out quite well. I got decent skis and didn't have to haul my own around throughout the trip or pay the excess baggage charges. I was able to leave my boots at the rental shop where they were kept nice and warm overnight.
Check out my ski pictures.
Adjacent to the plaza was the church of St. Steven. Parts of the church are very old, but most of it is quite new. In front is this statue of Joan Benlloch, the Bishop of Urgell in the early 20th century. Andorra is constituted as a co-principality. Although it is a parliamentary democracy, there are two titular princes: the Bishop of Urgell in Spain, and the leader of France, at the time of our visit the president, Nicolas Sarkozy. Bishop Benlloch wrote the Andorran national anthem. He eventually became a cardinal.
To learn more about this unique form of government, and how it came about, check out the Andorra information published by the US State Department.
Snow was limited to the highlands. In the valley the weather is mild without the ferocious wind.
The major agricultural product of Andorra is tobacco!
Click on the link above to see the pictures from our expedition.
The house was compact and simple. The family's animals lived in the floor below, which helped to keep the place warm. This is the only fireplace. Granny and grampa, as the senior members of the household, had first dibs on the warm inglenook.
The household cooking was also done here.
The daughters of the Christo house moved to France in 1947 where they married and raised families. They kept their old home as a summer getaway, however, and didn't change it. Their descendants donated it as a museum in the 1990s with all its furnishings intact.
After we toured the house, Robert escorted us to the neighborhood church, St. Michael's. This ancient neighborhood is tucked into a more modern one, which is typical of what we saw in the Andorran towns. Much of the old has been displaced, but there are remnants here and there.
As modest as the church is now, the ghosting on the stone work shows that it has been expanded from its original size.
The painting on the ceiling shows Christ with Moses and Elijah. Robert pointed out that Moses is holding a copy of the ten commandments, but the 6th commandment is not listed! In the Roman Catholic tradition that commandment is the prohibition against adultery! Hmmm.
This is still an active parish.
In times past houses all had names. Extended families were associated with a house. When you met someone new, you could ask what house they were from and immediately you knew the kinship, social status and general wealth of the person just by the identification with the house.
Note that the family name doesn't match the name of the house.
I had asked our guide earlier if it was OK to take pictures inside the church and was told that it was. Later she said that it was not allowed to take pictures of the murals. Oh well, too late. At least I didn't use a flash.
They really should be protected from light to retain the still vibrant colors.
Although we didn't arrive home to see our cherry quite in full bloom (that was following week), it was quite spring-like.
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