An ‘Andorra’ble Adventure: Feb. 27-Mar.5

9 Mar

Well, well, well. We’ve made it to March. This week I hit my 6-month Spain-versary. Weird, my friends, weird. It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating surviving a month in Spain. Now, we are up to 6 months. I can hardly believe it.

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Accurate depiction on my thoughts on making it through 6 months. Am I happy (to be returning to the comforts of family, friends, dog and cookie dough quite soon)? Am I sad (to be reaching the end of the adventure or a lifetime and returning to regular life)? Idk. It usually changes by the hour….

So work this week. Up to this point, my office hours have been pretty dead. I mean, who thinks about their final essays in January/February? Nerds, that’s who. (Just kidding…) But, I have been gaining a lot of traction from the seniors who are writing their theses. There was one thesis advisor who sent an email to his advisees encouraging them to meet with me. And they all decided to sign up. I can tell you the exact day that this guy emailed his students (February 8) because that is when my office hours filled up like the Titanic post-iceberg. Thus, my office hours were popping this week. And, I only got stood up two times, which is a pretty big deal in my book.

Along with March, spring also arrived this week. I spent my Thursday afternoon post-Segovia in a part taking an ungodly amount of pictures in the hope of capturing some artsy moments. I’ll let you be the judge of how I did.FullSizeRender(7)IMG_6285IMG_7282IMG_7297

And then this weekend, I took a little trip up to Andorra, which is a small country between Spain and France. No, I did not know that it existed until this year. There happen to be 5 Fulbright Teaching Assistants up there, so they planned a ‘conference,’ the Andorra Spring Seminar, to allow the Spain Fulbrighters to experience their tiny country.

It was quite a hike to get there: a 2 hour train ride and then a 2.5 hour bus ride through the mountains.  I was expecting a coach bus to pick me up from the train station, but I was sorely mistaken. This little van rolls up and that was my ride through the Pyrenees mountains. What a pleasant experience. They did have wifi though, so that was all good for me.

So, Andorra. What an interesting place. It is essentially a country located in a valley between mountains. I almost missed the border crossing as it is just a street and you pass the Spanish flag and then the Andorran flag, signalling your entry into a new nation. (The bus did get stopped on my way back to Spain for the border patrol to check something. It wasn’t me though, thank goodness!) But to get into Andorra, we just sailed through. The country is very small. It is 181 square miles (to give you some perspective, Hunterdon County, NJ is 2.4 times the size of the entire country of Andorra). We were able to walk from city to city and didn’t even realize where one ended and the other began.

In Andorra, we spent the day getting to know the capital, Andorra la Vella. It is the world’s highest capital (elevation wise). On Friday night, we went to a Castellers practice. This is a popular sport in Catalonia, Spain that involves building human towers. It is very interesting, as it includes people of all ages who have no problem with physical contact/climbing over one another. While I certainly respect the inclusion factor, it is not the sport for me. Way too much touching of strangers. So, like the cultural ambassador that I am, I gave it a go twice before deciding to watch the rest of the rounds. It is pretty impressive to see how high they construct the towers and to watch these little kids scaling up so high.

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I think I’ll stick to rock walls, thanks

On Saturday we woke up to snow. It is an interesting phenomenon being surrounded by mountains as there was snow up in the mountains, but none in the valley. Instead, I was treated to views of snow covered trees at altitudes that I could not explore. It was lovely nonetheless.

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The Andorran flag

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Stairway to heaven (if your idea of heaven involves snowy mountains)

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Needed to get a pic with my face in it into this post

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View of the country from above

And then, we went to the spa. My life is so difficult that I really needed a pampering. Andorra happens to be home to the largest spa in Southern Europe. One of the baths is like a hot tub with floating grapefruits. In order to firm up your skin, you are supposed to rub the grapefruits on yourself. Weird, but it might have worked. I hope the fam won’t mind the new addition to our hot tub back home. The remainder of our spa afternoon included some jacuzzis, warm marble benches, and a questionable room that was dark except for blue neon lights on the ceiling. A very interesting experience.

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I’ve suggested matching white robes for our hot tub back home and after this experience I stand by my request

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The spa from the outside

We also explored a smaller town after our strenuous afternoon at the spa. It was further up in the mountains and it started snowing while we were there. Nothing like being at the beach one weekend and then finding yourself in the snow during the following one. The afternoon was capped off with a tour of the old parliament building in the capital. Nothing like a day containing hot tubs, history, and snow.

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When spring comes just a little too early

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For dinner we went to a German restaurant (yes, a German restaurant in Andorra, I know. Apparently there are very few dishes for which Andorra itself is known). Dinner consisted of a very large plate of meat, potato salad and, my personal favorite, sauerkraut. It was a delicious meal. The night was capped off with some Jaegermeister (which I found surprisingly enjoyable). The only problem was that you had to drink the Jagermeister at the same time as beer. I was not talented enough to do that and ended up drenching the tablecloth. Oops.

And on Sunday, I took the time to walk around Andorra and explore a bit on my own. I found this path that led up to the mountains a bit and then continued along a canal. Armed with my camera and my selfie stick, I went on a hunt for the best views of the city (and to enjoy nature). It was quite lovely. Nothing like finding yourself wandering down a path on a beautiful day. I admittedly took way too many pictures, but found that the photos did not do justice to the views. It was a very peaceful and relaxing end to the weekend.

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City of Andorra la Vella

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View looking up at the mountain- where the snow ends and the dirt begins

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Clearly when I leave Madrid, I can’t get enough of nature (Who have I become??)

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So there you have it. My weekend in the lovely country that is smaller than my lovely New Jersey county. Now that I have taken trips to the mountains and to the beach, I think it’s time for me to stay and enjoy the city life in Madrid for a few weekends.

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