Senior Travel to Andorra

May 26th, 2011 | By James E Becker | Category: Senior Travel

So why would anyone want to write a senior’s travel blog on Andorra?  Well, I can speak from experience… I crashed a motor scooter coming down off the Pyrenees into France after having spent a day in Andorra.  It had taken my friend Jack and me at least five hours just to climb to Andorra via Spain. 

We had planned on going to Barcelona from Aix-en-Provence where we were studying.  We found the roads in the north of Spain too tough to ride on so we decided to head to Andorra.  We stopped a man along the road and asked him if it was a tough climb.  He responded, “Do you have a good Vespa?”  We were riding a two-man Lambretta which was running quite well after we had the dirt blown out of the carburetor.   We overheated at least four times in the climb to Andorra and had to stop to let the engine cool down in the high thin air.

Andorra was a delight.  I can almost remember the hotel and the owner’s name but that was way back in 1961, so can I just say that I have forgotten?  It is a tiny country, sort of like Liechtenstein.  Officially it is called the Principality of Andorra, also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra and is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe.  

Located in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains and bordered by Spain and France, Andorra is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of 181 sq miles and an estimated population of 83,888 in 2009. Its capital, Andorra la Vella, is the highest capital city in Europe averaging around 7,000 feet. The national language is Catalan, a romance language related to the Provencal group. French and Spanish are also spoken.

Entering Andorra from the Spanish side is a relatively straightforward drive; entering from France is a more stressful affair involving many hairpin bends. Be sure your car or motorcycle is in good condition as Andorra is quite high.

We climbed up through the clouds to Andorra and stayed overnight in a local hotel.  The next morning, we had a snowball fight, then started down the north slope into France.  The hair-pin curves in the road were challenging and at times ice and snow packed.  As we rounded a corner I said to Jack, “This one is really sharp.”  He respond with, “Yes but is well rounded.”  Over we went.  The scooter slid to the side of the road still running.  I jumped up off the roadbed and went over to turn the key off.  Another few feet and the scooter would have gone off the mountain.  Jack was on the back seat and now lay in the roadbed bleeding with a huge ‘strawberry’ on his hip where he slid.  The scooter, fortunately, had only two long scratches on one side and was okay.  

A car behind us nearly ran over Jack as the visibility was poor.  A fellow jumped out very excited and was sure that we were both terribly injured.  We were not but Jack did throw up.  His mother, being an MD, had sent a kit along with him and we doctored him up.  

I remember well the downhill turns.  We coasted 11 miles into France and we had to brake often.  We wrecked the brakes in that descent and later had to slide both feet along the highway bed to come to a complete stop on our way back to Aix.

I learned later that Andorra is a prosperous country mainly because of its tourism industry.  Every year the tiny country of Andorra, nestled as it is in the eastern Pyrenees between Spain and France, opens its doors to some nine million tourists.  Because of its status it has also become a tax haven. 

Known more as a destination for shopping than vacation, Andorra can be a pleasant place to spend an overnight.  To be honest, most visitors are just passing through on their way to vacations in France or Spain and that was us. It is, however,  a good destination for those interested in outdoor activities as its landscape provides good quality hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. 

Due mainly to its mountainous nature, there is only one road entering Andorra from France, and only one widely used road entering Andorra from Spain.  Almost all entry into the country happens at one of these two points. There are no airports in Andorra as it is all mountainous, however there are daily coach services from the airports in Barcelona in Spain and Toulouse in France. 

The Andorran constitution was ratified and approved in 1993. The constitution establishes Andorra as a sovereign parliamentary democracy that retains as its heads of state two co-princes. Until the 1950s, farming, woodcutting, and smuggling were the main occupations.  Andorra now has a prosperous tourist industry; skiing is particularly popular. 

Yes, Andorra is small, and it doesn’t have an Eiffel Tower or a Brandenburg Gate, but the duty-free shopping, recreational opportunities, Catalan culture and Romanic art are reason enough to make a quick trip to this tiny country set in the Pyrenees.  So fire up your Harley and have fun on you way up and down the mountain via Andorra.   jeb



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