Catalonia, An Aborted Drive to Andorra

Catalonia Spain

Breakfast at the Hotel Sèquia Molinar also turned out to be rather good although it was a boisterous and noisy affair because several families were using it as a Saturday morning rendezvous and competing chatter and conversation took the volume way above acceptable European Health and Safety levels.

It turned out that this was a Saturday morning gathering of family and friends who intended to go off hiking into the mountains because apparently Catalans like sociable company and communal picnics in high places and will walk all morning to get to a favourite secluded spot.  I began to worry that if they were meeting here to go off for a walk then our car would be blocked in and we would be stuck here for the day but the hotel staff assured me that this wasn’t the case and as soon as we were ready to go they would ask them to move their vehicles – and they did!

Together we have a plan to visit all of the countries of Europe and so far we have visited thirty out of fifty and today we thought that there may be an opportunity to add another because a look at the map seemed to suggest that Andorra was close enough for a day trip.  Actually this rather pointless objective seems to be getting tougher because every time I check there seems to be a couple of new countries that I have never heard of and to be honest there are two or three that we probably wouldn’t especially visit anyway.  At least if Catalonia or Scotland ever achieves their objective of independence then we can legitimately say that we have been to both of these.

And so we set off and once through the town of Ribes de Freser the problems started as the road crumpled like a piano accordion and soon we were swaying from side to side and climbing dramatically into the Pyrenees.  I rather enjoy this sort of motoring but there were several hazards to negotiate which turned this into a roller-coaster white knuckle ride which required one hundred percent total concentration and attention.

Natural hazards of course because I didn’t want to fall off the side of the mountain or get a falling rock through the windscreen because I was almost certain that sort of damage was excluded from the vehicle insurance, but also other road users, cyclists who insisted on riding two or three abreast, thrill seeking motor bikers who were driving at full throttle in the middle of the road, more crazy local drivers taking massive overtaking risks whenever there was fifty metres or so of straight road and then a herd of cows who were rather reluctant to give way as they made slow progress stopping frequently to graze at the verges.

The first thirty kilometres took almost an hour and a half and we were barely half way to Andorra when we pulled into a car park with a panoramic view of the mountains and the valleys that seemed to go on forever and we had short debate and agreed that this whole journey was just too ambitious and that we were looking at probably four or five hours of the same so we turned the car around and went back the way that we had come.  Andorra it seems will have to wait although a friend who visited at more or less the same time told me that in his opinion we hadn’t really missed very much so on that recommendation it might now have to wait a very long time before we cross it off the list.

It was rather tedious making the return journey through Ribes de Freser and then Campdevànol but it would have been a great deal worse if we had tried to carry on so we were both pleased with our decision as we drove through Ripoll without stopping and then picked up another mountain road through the Garrotxa Volacnic Zone and past the town of Olot.  This road was thankfully straight and undemanding and just after lunch time we arrived at our next stopping point, the town of Besalú which was lazily baking away in the wilting heat of the afternoon sun.

We found the Hotel Three Arcs and the receptionist told me that we could ignore the traffic restriction notices that seemed to suggest that the place was pedestrianised and bring the car into the main square but I was nervous about this because it involved driving over one of those solid steel retractable bollards that rise up from the centre of the road.

I was worried in case it raised up without warning and the CCTV cameras would catch the moment and I would forever be shown on television repeats of the Spanish equivalent of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ or ‘America’s Funniest Videos’.  I could sense that a local driver behind was getting impatient so I had to go and I revved the engine and popped the clutch, spun the wheels and dashed across as quickly as I could.  Nothing happened – the bollard stayed down of course and people sitting at a bar probably wondered why I had set off as though I was an Italian driver at a set of red traffic lights.

Besalu Catalonia spain

15 responses to “Catalonia, An Aborted Drive to Andorra

  1. No idea what a ‘bollard’ is, but the vision of you barreling across it was smile inducing.


    • Isn’t language wonderful!
      According to Wiki – A bollard is a short vertical post. Originally it meant a post used on a ship or a quay, principally for mooring. The word now also describes a variety of structures to control or direct road traffic, such as posts arranged in a line to obstruct the passage of motor vehicles. The American Heritage Dictionary describes this use of bollard as “chiefly British”, although the term has crept into the jargon of some American universities where dense traffic necessitates the use of bollards for access control.


      • Apparently the bollards haven’t reached the little backwater where I live. And, yes, I’m always fascinated by language… 😉


  2. That delightfully ramshackle door photo drew me in, Andrew. Loved your crumpled piano accordian analogy. 🙂
    I had a notion that Andorra might be rather lovely, but I’ll just have to wait now.


  3. Andorra sounds like a relatively easy and pleasant way to get another stamp in the passport. I bet there’s not much worth seeing in most of the 20 countries you’ve yet to visit.


  4. Are you counting Transnistria in the missing 20? It sounds a bit exciting there.


    • I’ll wait until it is officially recognised as an independent state. Hopefully it never will and I won’t have to go there.
      Scandanavia has a few gaps that I need to fill in (Sweden, Denmark, Finland), all of those new states in the east and still a few more in the Balkans (Macedonia, Serbia, Albania etc.)
      As well as Andorra I also need to drop in on San Marino and Monaco.


  5. I wondered what a bollard was too but as soon as you explained I recognised them right away.


    • So funny! You must have bollards in the USA – what do you call them?


      • I’m in Canada and have no idea what these are called here but our description made their concrete presence clear. We have them around corners of commercial buildings, for instance, if there is a driveway close by so the building doesn’t get crashed. Also some pedestrian areas which used to have vehicles but which are now prohibited, will have these short, round concrete pillars across the road at intervals to allow only people and not cars.


      • Sorry about the USA? Canada thing! Those concrete pillars sound like bollards to me!


  6. We were in Crete last week where bollards seem to be used as a parkling aid, locals know when they can reverse no further by the crumping sound of the bollard against their rear bumper, or the nearside passenger door!


    • I think that it fairly common practice in Europe. I once had a French friend who just shunted cars out or the way to get parked. I expressed my surprised and he said that is what bumpers are for!


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