Friday, 3 July 2009

The trip and Arrival in Andorra

We thought at first that there had been an accident, as we could see the flashing lights as we drove down the valley before the police stopped us. As there were no side roads we were a bit concerned. We were already running, if not actually late, without any more margin for error.

The day had been long for me, I had got up at 4am, to prepare my bags. I am not much of an evening person, and that was easier for me. I left, I had thought, a tad late, but got to the rendevous point in Lyon at 7:30 am. Isabelle joined me a short time later, and we headed off to pick up Sylvie at Valence. I knew the road, having done it with Jacques a short time before, and the first part went very quickly. A coffee stop and later lunch en route broke the journey up a bit. For the latter there were two coaches, that I guessed were on there way to or from Lourdes. That meant queues for the loos!

We chatted throughout the trip, about sophrology, wondered what it would be like in Andorra, our course to date, our teachers.....and also about families, ourselves, our hopes, our past.

Once we headed towards Andorra, off the motorway, things began to change; the road conditions, obviously, particularly as one of the tunnels was closed, so we went round Foix, but also the climate. As we were heading into the mountains, the heavens opened, and we went up the steep mountain roads under the rain. However, at the moment I took the above photo it wasn't actually raining. I've been stopped for cows, for sheep (in Scotland) even goats, but it was the first time that I've been stopped, by the police no less, to let horses go by. And as we went down the road, and could see their passage, we saw that they had come quite some way. The line of traffic stretching the other way was quite considerable.

The horses and what they represented, that until about the middle of the twentieth century, the Andorran economy was based on shepherding and the breeding of cattle and horses, was in stark contrast to my first impressions when we reached the built up areas. A lot of buildings, rather dark, an almost Ghormenghast feel, although of course the buildings here were new. However I felt them at times to be rather overpowering, often in dark granite, clinging onto the steep steep hills. These mountains are new, sharp, unlike the old hills of my native Scotland. These have not known as many glacial drifts, have not been scraped and reduced the way that those I knew in my youth had.

I was also struck by a feeling of wealth; Andorra is after all a tax haven. The city of Andorra oozed money, the shops, the banks, the cleanliness. But not always well sign posted. We missed our turn off, and drove round the city, interesting, but it did make us even later; we weren't able to do the shopping we had planned. Next time, all's well.

As we drove into the valley, towards our destination, the feeling of excitement mounted, at the same time as the hills became even steeper. At that point we were more concered with arriving than our surroundings, Our late arrival at the hotel meant that we started straight onto the course.....more of that at another time......

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