San Vicente de la Barquera (Cantabria), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Impending bad weather on the coast prompted us to move inland again, this time to a small town (a village, really) in the Picos de Europa called Riano. Unbelievable that the better weather should actually be up in the mountains at 1131 metres but, these are not normal times.

The drive to Riano first took us eastwards into the Cantabria Region. Almost immediately after leaving Asturias we came across the very impressive 28 arch bridge, La Puente de la Maza, which spans the Rubin and Pombo estuaries. It’s sheer scale ensures you cannot miss it. In light drizzle which was inevitably going to get heavier once we had parked up, we followed a busy road (this town is a favourite amongst Spaniards and it is a weekend) into what once was an old fisherman’s refuge and has now become the small town of San Vicente de la Barquera.

In common with just about everywhere on the north coast of Spain, San Vicente offers a picturesque old town and wonderful beaches (it even has a small castle, La Murilla, the King’s Castle which was built to defend against Norman and Viking invasions) but, for me, the single most important feature in this place is at top of the narrow staircase leading into the old town, the church of Santa Maria de los Angeles.

Originally built in the 13th and 14th centuries but developed further over the ensuing 200 years, the church’s exterior is not that different to many other churches in the Region but inside…I’ll let the photos do the talking:-

The inside of the church took my breath away -it’s three naves with their high pointed vaults, the detailed altar piece, the solid oak floor, even the tomb of the 16th century Inquisitor, Antonio del Corro. I could have stayed for ages but Riano beckoned

One final picture that the weather was never going to allow me to capture. The following picture is currently on display in the town by the local tourist board. So that is what San Vicente de la Barquera looks like when it is not pouring with rain.

Ribadesella (Asturias), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

We marked our spot at the Novales Cove campsite and took the Van westwards along the Asturian Coast to Ribadesella, the plan being to return to the campsite in the evening.

Ribadesella is a beautiful little fishing town, somewhat smaller than neighbouring Llanes with plenty of character and absolutely stunning beaches. It has a population of little more than 5,000 but is recognised as being one of the most popular, liveliest and busiest towns on the north coast of Spain. The Spaniards love the place but on the day we arrived it was virtually empty. Really dismal and unseasonal weather had kept the crowds at bay. No matter, we were happy to take a look see and stop for lunch.

The River Sella splits the town into two halves which are connected by a lengthy low slung bridge. The eastern half comprises the historical town centre (a network of pretty plazas and streets), the Iglesia Santa Maria Magdalena and the harbour. The western half is mostly about the town’s Santa Marina beach, it’s promenade and a series of very elaborate and colourful mansions (belle epoch style and reminiscent of Dinard in Northern France) which line the promenade.

Although the rain held off, the weather was such that we were deterred from visiting some of the local sites and we certainly didn’t see Ribadesella in it’s best light. Indeed, for much of the morning the cloud was barely above sea level. No matter, we saw enough to know it is a very beautiful little town and well worth a return visit. Most certainly, I would like to walk up the Paseo de la Grua to the little church of Ermita de la Virgen de Guia. That route takes you up past 6 large ceramic panels representing Ribadesella through the ages. I have seen prints of them and they look charming. Of equal interest would be the views across the town from the little church. On a fine day, with the Picos de Europa mountains providing a backdrop, I imagine the view would be magnificent.

The river Sella is a major feature of the town and the following reference to the ‘Descenso Internacional del Sella’ is for my brother as much as anybody. The “Descenso” is an annual kayak race (festival), held on the first Saturday of every August, down the last 20 kilometres of the River Sella from Arriondas in the Picos de Europa to the main bridge in Ribadesella. It has been run since 1930 and the last race attracted 1,000+ entries. Many of the entrants now are professionals but most are relative novices out for the crack. I’m not sure if it will be run this year because of Covid but it is worth reading up on. Oh, and while many entrants will take more than 3 hours to complete the course, the current record is 1 hour and 1 minute.

We left Ribadesella as it started raining but just a few miles down the coast near the hamlet of Cuerres the weather seemed to improve. That is the mountains for you. We were delighted because our next stop was to be at the Bufones de Pria. The Bufones are a natural phenomenon where jets of sea water surge and spout from holes and cracks in the limestone cliffs (a bit like geysers, I suspect). The ones we were visiting are supposedly powerful enough to blow an adult man into the sea and we had arranged it so as to arrive at high tide. Whoopee! We expected great things and we deserved them after navigating the Van along a series of ever narrowing country lanes to reach the place.

It wasn’t to be. The sea was as flat as a millpond.

On the way back to Lannes we paused briefly at the tiny hamlet of Cuerres so that I could admire the Church of San Mames. It is so pretty and very unusual with it’s verandahs.

Sad note to end this particular blog on. The weather forecast for the north coast is not so good over the next few days, especially in the Asturias. We’re having to move south (we like the sun too much) but, while I have tasted some excellent local ciders I have not yet been served one from up on high by an escanciador (i.e. a proper Asturian Cider Pourer). I’m going to have to do something about that.

Ensenade de Novales (Asturias), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

This is going to be the shortest blog ever (and probably not at all interesting) but for completeness’ sake…

It had been hot in Burgos and the weather forecast in the Llannes area of the Asturias was cooler but still bright (perfect) so, we made for a camp site on Novales Cove a few clicks east of LLannes. We drove through Llannes during our stay but saw very little of the town choosing instead to use the campsite as our base and visit Ribadesella (further west in the Asturias) and San Vicente de la Barque (to the east in Cantabria). They are the subject of separate blogs.

The Novales Cove (Ensenade de Novales) is really just about Camping La Paz. The campsite is built around a promontory in the centre of the cove with a pebble beach to the left and a beautiful sandy beach to the right. The camp site is unusual with all sanitary facilities built out of the rock (which makes it feel a little primitive) but, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the place. The site is terraced (with particularly good pitches for tents) and it provides for absolutely stunning views.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast didn’t live up to expectations or we would have stayed longer than our two nights.

Aguilar de Campoo (Castile y Leon), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Yep. The heat had got to the dogs and, if I’m honest, to Vanya and I also. We simply cannot take it like we used to. We checked a Google weather map for destinations where it is likely to be both cooler and dry and then headed off up the A67 to the Asturian coast to a place not far from Lannes (Vanya had found an interesting looking campsite on Novales Cove).

We hadn’t planned on stopping at Aguilar de Campoo (we simply needed a stop to take lunch and buy a few general provisions) and we very nearly turned back to the motorway as the road to the town began to lead us through a large scruffy industrial complex of factories and warehouses. However, a small 12th century castle overlooks the town and it’s presence suggested there could actually be more to Aguilar de Campoo than factories and warehouses and so we continued into the town… and we were pleasantly surprised.

Having parked the Van we passed over a small bridge and into the town through an old town gate on to the Plaza Espana (the Spain Square, although in truth it is more of a Spain rectangle than a square). The collegiate Church of San Miguel fills one side of the rectangle and the other three sides are arcaded. It is very pretty.

There was a service underway in the church and, leaving the dogs with Vanya, I popped inside to take a few surreptitious photos. That was a mistake. It is one thing trying to sneak a few sneaky photos in a normal church service but quite another when it is a funeral. I hadn’t spotted the (silver coloured) hearse parked at the entrance to the church. Whoops! We beat a hasty retreat to the other end of the plaza. Well, I did.

There is a decent sized park behind the Plaza Espana and we took the dogs there such that they could exercise and yet stay cool under the park trees. We didn’t know it at the time but, in amongst the trees and flower beds, there is a series of muddy irrigation canals (fed by the River Pisuerga) which very much resemble a swamp. It was inevitable that, despite our screaming, admonitions, ultimatums and threats, the dogs would chose to cool off in these particular bogs and within moments they were an absolute mess. Bastard Whoops!!

We had stopped at Aguilar de Campoo because we were hungry and wanted to take lunch. Lunch however was postponed while we walked the dogs around the town until they had stopped shaking mud all over the place and had at least half dried off.

We got there in the end.

Burgos (Castile y Leon), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

I cannot remember for sure but I think it was unsettled weather forecasts for the far north of Spain which prompted us to move to Burgos. The route we chose was easy with the initial part of the 132 mile journey taking us along the coast through Ondarroa and a couple of other small villages each with beautiful beaches.

Burgos, the one time capital of the Kingdom of Castile y Leon sits on the River Arlanzon. We parked up in a municipal campsite alongside the river just four kilometres from the city. The Camino Santiago (Camino Frances Route) passes right by where we were parked and all we had to do to find the cathedral in the centre of the city was follow the Camino’s distinctive scallop shell markers along an excellent path by the river. Pilgrims have been stopping off at the Santa Iglesia Catedral Basilica Metropolitana de Santa Maria de Burgos for hundreds of years on their way to Santiago and the route was as easy as pie, if not as short as I would have liked (but, have a word Dave, spare a thought for the pilgrims who will have already walked many miles to reach this point!!). Sadly, I saw only three pilgrims pass during our 3 day stay in Burgos (and one of those was dodgy, showing more interest in fleecing tourists than the cathedral) and I suspect it is travel restrictions caused by Covid which has greatly reduced this years numbers.

Wanting to take a closer look at the statue of Burgos’s most famous son, Rodrigo diaz de Vivar – otherwise known as El Cid (I cannot help but think of Charlton Heston), I made a small detour from the Camino by crossing the river at Puente San Pablo and walking along the cool tree lined and landscaped Paseo de Espelon before entering the old city of Burgos by the 14th century City Gate of Santa Maria. Sorry, that’s a really long sentence.

As I passed through the gate onto the Plaza del Rey San Fernando I was awe struck by the beautiful 13th century Cathedral of St Mary of Burgos. No, it’s not as grand as Il Duomo in Milan or the Kolner Dom in Cologne. No, it is not as commanding as St Paul’s in London or have the scale of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona and it certainly is not as colourful or sumptuous as the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence but, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it looks truly magnificent. It fills the Square and it’s smart white limestone colour dazzles in bright sunlight. It is impressive no matter which side it is viewed from. It’s elegant towering spires and incredibly detailed facades lend it a grand nobility. I love it.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t get to see inside the Cathedral. It is supposed to have a particularly ornate altar with brilliant gold plating. I have read too that it has an unusual wood and leather crucifix which just has to be seen and, of course, there is the tomb of El Cid and his wife. I couldn’t understand why nobody was being allowed into the cathedral (I spoke to a Camino “pilgrim” and he was particularly disappointed at being denied entry) but there was a very strong police presence in the Square and rich blue carpets and flowers were being laid at two of the cathedral’s entrances – something was afoot.

Next to the Cathedral on the Plaza de Santa and alongside the Camino Santiago is the 15th century Iglesia de San Nicolas de Bari. This church at least remained open to the public and I took time to admire it’s impressive altarpiece (lacking gold plate) which I understand was designed and constructed by a Simon de Colonia

Burgos is resplendent with buildings of significant historical heritage and none fits this bill more so than the 15th century gothic palace of Casa del Cordon in the Plaza de la Libertad. This is the building in which Fernando II and Isabel I received Christopher Columbus upon completion of his second journey to the New World in 1497. It is also where King Felipe I died of suspected poisoning in 1506 within a month of being crowned king. This type of building, with all it’s history and drama, really does it for me.

Another once significant building in Burgos is the 9th century castle. It is one of the oldest castles in Spain although little remains of it now. It was used as a headquarters by Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies during the Peninsula War and was largely destroyed by them when they retreated from Spain. There is a small museum there now but otherwise it is little more than a viewpoint over the town (and not a particularly good one because trees now obscure the best views).

I’ve written a little bit about the numerous modern sculptures around Burgos…

Honestly, there are so many and the great majority are life sized. In addition to those already featured in this blog I personally saw the Camino Pilgrim seated on a bench in the Plaza del Rey San Fernando, another of an old couple on a bench (reminds me of a photo I took in Aegina a few years ago), a drummer and another of a cleric or teacher with a young boy (these two were in medieval costume). On the Paseo de la Atapuerca in front of the Museum of Human Evolution there’s another sculpture of a man and boy, wholly naked this time. How attitudes have changed over the years.

Vanya and I walked into Burgos that first night in Burgos for a meal (I’d already made the return journey once already that day) and we took a table belonging to the Larruzz Restaurant in front of the Cathedral. As we ate, the police presence I had noticed earlier in the day heightened and the already large crowd in the Square grew. We asked our waiter if he knew what was going on and he told us that on this day 800 years ago work started on the Cathedral. He explained that the King of Spain would be visiting Burgos the next day to attend an 8th centenary celebration in the Cathedral and that meanwhile, once it got dark enough, there would be a special light show on and from within the Cathedral and that thereafter there would be a fireworks display. What timing! What luck! And we had front row seats from our restaurant. We immediately ordered more drinks and settled in for the evening. It was a great evening.

Burgos was great but it was rather hot for the dogs and after a couple of days in the city we set off back to the north coast (because the weather appeared to be improving up in the north and, in any event, it was much cooler).

Lekeitio (Basque Country), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Joy of Joys! We found an excellent campsite on the edge of Lekeitio which could accommodate us for as long as we wanted.

However, it wasn’t easy going. The SatNav played up almost immediately after we left Bermeo and was at it’s worst ever as we reached Lekeitio. It led us into a particularly narrow, winding lane in the old town centre and once there offered us the choice of either going down a pedestrian precinct (impossible because of a long line of concrete bollards at the far end of the precinct) or going the wrong way up a one way street (before anyone noticed). Any thoughts I had of making a run for it down the one way street were dispelled as the street in front of me filled with a long line of oncoming traffic. There was nothing to do but try a quick twelve and a half point turn, make our way back and find another route through the town. Fortunately, a local guy offered to act as banksman for me (and a good job he did too) and Spanish drivers are so much more patient than the Italian drivers we encountered in Italy last year. We made it in the end but I made a promise to myself that, when moving on from Lekeitio, we would not drive back through the town, no matter the size of the detour we would have to make.

The camp site was perched on a high hill with magnificent views back towards Lekeitio. I’ll not talk about Vanya’s histrionics as we inched up the 40 degree slope with its steep hairpin turns but she had recovered sufficiently by about midnight when she took the second of the two photos below.

The next morning Vanya elected for a bit of a rest day while I strolled down the hill into Lekeitio. I think I got the better of the deal because touring in a Van is not all holiday and rest days are great days for changing the bedding, catching up with the laundry and generally tidying up – Thanks awfully Vanya!

Lekeitio has been described as one of Spain’s best kept secrets. I think that description goes too far. The truth is that much of the truly picturesque parts of the town are surrounded by blocks of flats (and that ain’t pretty) but, it certainly is a pleasant enough place to chill out for a couple of days. It’s primary interest up until the 18th century was whaling but as that industry died with the whales, the town switched to more general, local fishing. There still is a fairly strong fishing sector in Lekeitio but the town is now much more about tourism. Having said that, Lekeitio has not prostituted itself to tourism in the same way as so many towns and villages have on the Costas and it is mostly the Spanish who holiday here.

This small town of some 7,000 people sits on the River Lea on the Basque Coast, almost halfway between Bilbao and San Sebastian. There are two fine beaches either side of the River Lea estuary, the Isuntza on the left bank (which was very busy as I arrived) and the much longer Karraspio (which was starting to fill) on the right bank. Just offshore and facing both beaches is the small island of San Nicolas (also known as Garraitz Island). It is an easy swim to the island or, if you wait until the tide is out, you can actually walk to it along a raised sandy pathway. It is said that the island was used to house a colony of lepers back in the Middle Ages but there are only rabbits there now.

Following the left bank around to the Isuntza Beach and on to the promenade you will pass in front of the Basilica Ascuncion de Nuestra Senora and on to the picturesque old town and harbour. The views back towards the town and across the bay towards the Karraspio Beach from the far end of the harbour are quite special.

It was well gone noon (and getting very hot) by the time I had finished my walk to the far end of the harbour and ambled up and down each and every one of the old town’s narrow streets. I was ready for a glass of wine or beer. It wasn’t difficult finding a bar with an empty seat and table on the harbour front and there is something about a 30 degree heat that lends itself to a couple of glasses of well chilled Rose wine.

Of course I didn’t leave Vanya to all the chores – Upon my return I helped with the laundry by stringing up a clothes line and I started on my Spanish Chicken & Chorizo dish.

Bermeo (Basque Country) Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

I should have remembered that getting a spot in a campsite on the coast at weekends during the holiday season is virtually impossible in both France and Spain. Vanya tried ‘phoning a few but all were full. So, more in hope than expectation we made our way to the coast anyway, thinking to do a wild camp if we were unable to find an Aire. Our target was Lekeitio, a small fishing port in the Basque Country Region but our route took us through Bermeo first.

Bermeo is perhaps the most important fishing port in the Basque Country. So many small ports in the Basque Country have given up fishing for tourism but Bermeo remains primarily a fishing port. It was very much a whaler’s port and this fact is reflected in the town’s coat of arms which shows an open whaleboat chasing a whale

Sadly, we couldn’t hang around Bermeo for very long. We needed to find a spot to park the Van for the night. That was a shame on two counts actually because, just along the coast from Bermeo is a place I would have loved to visit – the beautiful islet of Gaztelugatxe which is connected to the mainland by a narrow man-made bridge. Gaztelugatxe featured as a film location in the HBO tv series ‘Game of Thrones’ when it became Dragonstone, the former home of Daenerys Targaryen.

And so we continued our journey towards Lekeitio.

Logrono (Rioja), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

So off we went to the often overlooked capital of La Rioja region, the city of Logrono. Most visitors to Logrono head out to the Rioja vineyards shortly after arriving or they just stop over for the night while walking the Camino Santiago. We were determined to make the most of our time here and, after parking the Van up on a large, free municipal car park some 20 minutes from the town centre, we moved into the NH Logrono Hotel on Avenida Club Deportivo as a treat. We got a reasonably good deal (although as in so many European hotels we did have to pay a hefty “dog tax” – 25 euros per beast per stay for special cleaning of the rooms) – I find that ironic especially when cleaning up after Covid will create considerably more work than cleaning up after dogs.

What a find, Logrono is. We both love the place. We’ll certainly be back and would recommend it to all our friends as a place to visit. It is a beautiful beige city of wonderful contrasts – There’s a modern new side to the city (with bustling tree lined, landscaped boulevards and; countless coffee bars and shops; contemporary sculptures; fountains and; large green parks) and, best of all, a fair sized scenic old town (with picturesque narrow streets and alleys; wonderful old statues; churches and museums and; quite possibly the most exciting and best pinchos area (Calle del Laurel) I’ve ever seen – In comparison, Barcelona’s Las Ramblas is quite dull. The people in Logrono are so welcoming, especially in the Calle des Laurel area where so many went out of their way to welcome us and recommend particular dishes and wines and; everything is so inexpensive – two glasses of wine and a beer for less than three quid and excellent food at half the price!

I took far too many photos to include in this blog and, in any event, I’m not so sure my photos could do the place justice…

Across the city there are plenty of references to the Camino Frances, the most popular of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compestela. It starts in France at St Jean Pied de Port and travels 790 kilometres to Santago passing through Logrono on the way. It was the increasing popularity of this pilgrimage route which helped the city gain importance during the Middle Ages. Camino pilgrims will usually enter the city by crossing the Stone Bridge (sometimes known as the San Juan de Ortega Bridge or the Bridge of Lions) over the River Ebro.

During our stay in Logrono we took the Van out for a run down through the Parque Natural de Sierra de la Cebollera to Soria. It’s a pretty enough place, mountains, rivers and a lake (well, a reservoir actually) but we were both keen to get back to Logrono for a second night eating pinchos and drinking in the old town.

Best of all is the Calle del Laurel and the surrounding lanes (Calle San Agustin & Calle Albornoz) in the centre of the old town. The Calle del Laurel is the most popular street in Logrono and made for a pinchos crawl where the focus is on food as much as the beer or wine. Most of the bars do not have seats and you are generally required to stand as you eat and drink. This is fine because most of the bars on the Calle del Laurel specialise on just one or two pinchos (which are shown on picture menus outside the premises); so you eat and drink their wares and then move on to the next bar.

We were there on both a Thursday and a Friday night and the atmosphere on both occasions was tremendous. It started to get busy both evenings by about 6pm and within an hour or so was truly buzzing – the whole area being crowded with people of all ages intent on having a good time and with the party mood continuing well beyond midnight (especially on the Friday). It’s loud; it’s noisy and yes there were some “tipsy” people but there was never any trouble and the mood remained friendly throughout. We could eat there every night; it was so alive.

And the food itself? Outstanding!! Special mention must go to the Passion Por Ti bar for it’s “Trufoie” (truffled foie gras with egg yolk and olive oil boiled at a low temperature for two hours). It was soooo tasty and it was accompanied by a really good Rioja (Baron de Ley Reserva 2016). Other bars worthy of mention include the Bar Angel for it’s Setas (mushroom caps on bread crowned with a shrimp) and the Bar El Perchas for their Orejita (Pigs Ears). I had the Orejita Picante but I confess I could not finish it – I like Pig Cheeks but Pig Ears just don’t do it for me. There was one other bar that Vanya and I both enjoyed but I cannot recall it’s name – they did really good Croquettes (probably the best we have ever eaten) and they introduced us to a great cheese (Queso Idiazabal). By the way, Pinchos is a Logorno term; in the Basque Country, where this style of eating originated, such dishes are known as Pintxos and; in the rest of Spain, they are known as Tapas. Don’t let anyone try and tell you different.

Valfarta (Aragon), Spain July 2021 (Tour 4)

Back to Spain. Drove back down from Andorra via La Seu d’Urgell (stopping at the supermarket to pick up some food – No really, it was just food this time – don’t forget that Andorra is duty free) and then on through Catalonia to Aragon and the very small village of Valfarta.

On the way to Valfarta we paused briefly at Coll de Narga by the Oliana Reservoir (the Panta d’Oliana); as much for photos and to break the journey as anything. This place is renowned as a climbers paradise (witness the 27 crags) but it is also known as the last area on Earth to be inhabited by dinosaurs, some 65 million years ago. We didn’t visit it but there is an area open to the public here called the ‘Mirador del Creataci’ where you can see dinosaur footprints, fossilised plant and animal remains and dinosaur nests and eggs (including the largest dinosaur nest in Europe, belonging to a titanosaurus).

Vanya chose Valfarta as an overnight stop on our way to Logrono and, while it is quite remote and there’s little to see or do in the village itself, it worked well for us. It’s dirt cheap and very clean with friendly management and all the facilities you need (and more) and; it is situated right next to the village swimming pool and just 5 minutes walk from the village bar – restaurant. You couldn’t ask for more.

Andorra La Vella (Andorra), Andorra July 2021 (Tour 4)

And so we set off for Andorra – a new country for both of us – Vanya’s seventy first and my ninety eighth. We have visited more countries but for this count we only include countries which entail a stay of at least two days and require a sleepover (airport sleepovers not included).

No problem getting into Andorra. It isn’t a member of the EU but clearly has special status since there was no sign of immigration or customs as we drove across the border from Spain. It was different coming back when we were stopped by Spanish customs and asked how much alcohol and cigarettes we were carrying into Spain. There’s no VAT in Andorra and the Spanish are concerned about cigarette smuggling and the like.

The Principality of Andorra was formed in 1278 after a lengthy feudal conflict was resolved between the Comte de Foix (a position now held by the President of France) and the Bishop d’Urgell. That arrangement was updated in 1993 when a more appropriate constitution was formulated and today Andorra is recognised as a sovreign state and is the 184th member of the United Nations. It has the largest land area of all Europe’s micro states (468 square km) but only a small portion is urbanised; the great majority of it’s area being peaks, lakes and rivers. It’s capital, Andorra La Vella is Europe’s highest capital at 1,023 metres and it was to Andorra La Vella that we made our way.

Andorra La Vella has a small old town, the Barri Attic, but most of the city (and, indeed, much of the country) is modern and given over to tourism and shopping. The country’s initial prosperity was very much due to it’s tax haven status but with that status having been eroded by the European Union it is now more reliant on tourism (hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter and VAT free shopping throughout the year by nearby French and Spanish).

One intriguing feature of the city is the amount of modern art dotted around the place – the city has it’s fair share of museums and galleries but, honestly, there is enough on display on the streets and squares to keep me happy. The first examples we stumbled across were the Seven Poets by Jaume Plensa which stand on plinths at various heights in front of the Parish Council Building.

Some of the sculptures in the Barri Attic (but by no means all) have a more traditional flavour (the ‘Fountain of El Ball de Contrapas’ by Sergi Mas being one example).

My favourite of all those seen (and we saw many, many more – they are all over the city) is ‘La Noblesse du Temps’ by Salvador Dali which is down by the Pont de Paris Bridge in the newer part of the town.

We spent as much time in the new part of town as the old, window shopping and eating and drinking. We had one great evening at a restaurant right next to the Dali Bronze, sharing a Cheese Fondue and two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc. Another dish we saw included on a menu here and which I wish in hindsight I had tried was ‘Tartiflette’ made with the Reblechon Cheese we sampled when passing through Canet de Salars. Next time.

It was the old town, however, that most captivated me. There’s not a lot of it if you take away the Church of Sant Esteve and it’s immediate surroundings but it is this area which, for me, best reflects the lively cafe-bar culture that is very much representative of the city of Andorra La Vella.

I was never going to visit Andorra and not do a little hillwalking but, if I am honest, the trails I walked just outside the city are not that good. One particular walk to the ‘La Comella Viewpoint’ is supposed to offer “a spectacular panoramic view of of the Principality…and is one of the most photographed postcards etc” but it was a huge disappointment. The trail up through the woods to La Comella was never going to be straight forward after the heavy storm we experienced two days ago (fallen trees across the roads had quickly been removed by the local authorities but those which fell in the woods, and there were a great many, are a lower priority and will take weeks to dispose of) but, having made the climb, I found the views wholly unexceptional. They didn’t even warrant getting the camera out. Okay, so I did get the camera out and I did take some photos but they weren’t worth the effort.

I’ll not end this entry on such a sour note. Three days and two nights was time enough to see and enjoy the capital but there is clearly much more to Andorra and we are both keen to return We didn’t get to see the TdF because of poor planning on our part – perhaps next year?