Meet a blogger. Want to meet me or try out my church in London?

After blogging for nine years about different things I’ve seen in various countries I have been to particularly and places that had historical value in works of Jesus, I’ve decided to do something new and different.

As a Christian, I often read about exciting testimonies of those recently following Jesus, some from those from different parts of the world which don’t have an established body of Christ or those from a different religious background.

I know it can be hard to show up to a church for the first time, and even with a welcome team, it can be a bit awkward.   It’s often better when going to a new church to go with someone you know.

See this picture above? This is my church Calvery Shoreline Church near Camden in London that I go to. In fact, this is a very small congregation of about 12-15 of us, which is a separate church which borrows the building of the main church meeting.   I’m not a pastor or leader, just a ordinary guy who writes online.

  • Are you new to London and looking for a community to join? Single, couple or family.
  • Are you looking to change from another church?
  • Are you from a different religious background with questions about the Christian faith or the works of Jesus?
  • Done Christian mission stuff? or just on holiday in London? want to go and visit for holiday or volunteer places related to the bible? I like chatting to people on these things.
  • Just want to meet and chat?

I’ve met up with other bloggers a few times, and other folks from different backgrounds both living in Jerusalem and London.

I notice some people may have a casual interest in faith, or joining or re-joining a community but don’t know where to start.

Want to meet me and come to my church? we can meet and have coffee before if you want.   I like churches with great teaching, worship and warm community.   I moved from a massive 600 seat church to this place around March 2018 and I’d like to open an invitation to anyone else who is looking for a place to fellowship.

I often go to this park before church, there are some great coffee places near by like this one.

So please message me here or privately, do tell me a bit about your background.

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Andorra – 10. Overall & Europe’s biggest secret?

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I’m glad I went to Andorra after I went to Luxembourg.  Luxembourg is old, has nice railways in big viaducts of the city, but Andorra is so much better!

Andorra is different because it has some many qualities that make it something of a tiny undiscovered utopia.   Here’s why;

  • Unemployment is only 3%
  • Salaries similar to UK.   Could be a great place to live you like me you work in IT and maybe a hospital or a school or banking.
  • 10% income tax and 3% VAT
  • It’s in the Pyrenees mountains!
  • There is almost no crime, one murder maybe every 4 years.
  • No problem with the possibility of Catalan state dividing Spain, that’s in Barcelona.  This little nation has a good amount of political stability.   Its already a Catalan speaking nation, with Spanish as a close second language.
  • Cheap property starting at 85k (Euros) where you are almost guaranteed to get nice views of the mountains out of the window.
  • Plenty of places to go shopping, nothing is far away.
  • Good healthcare system, I’m not sure why, but Andorran people have some of the longest life expectancies in the world.

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I am probably going to get in trouble for this – it’s not part of the EU!  When UK leaves on 29 March 2019, you could sit in your cosy little apartment which you can afford on a normal salary, keep more of your wages to raise a family and have fun in outdoors and drink Spanish hot chocolate or 2 Euro bottle of wine, relax and watch people have a meltdown on social media.

The only downside is for Christians like me, I don’t think this country has much faith here.   There is one Anglican church I think.   But you know what.   Someone could take on the job of moving there and planting house churches in these small towns.

You definitely need a car here.    Buses are fine, but it is hard to get in and out of this little state.  If you can learn the Catalan language and also speak Spanish, this could be a wonderful place to live.

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Previous 9. Distilling ideas

The end.

As part of my little countries travel and social media experiment, I really want to visit Liechtenstein in 2019, which is another tiny state next to Switzerland, stay tuned.

Related:  Other tiny countries I have seen:- Malta, Iceland, Monaco, Gibraltar, Luxembourg, Andorra

Andorra – 9. Distilling ideas

I went to this unusual supermarket and tourist shop near my youth hostel in El Tarter.

IMG_20180930_094926576Ok, so lots of British people go to France and Spain to buy cheap alcohol.   But here in Andorra I was shocked how cheap booze can be.

Yes, those are three bottles in a set for 11.98.   Did I mention there are a lot of shop signs in Russian?   This reminded me of the Cappadocia in Turkey also did this as they were a favourite with Russian people.

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In my hostel, a young British man, myself and a Canadian woman in her 50s shared a reasonable quality bottle of Spanish wine that was 1 Euro and 79 cents whilst having dinner.   The cheapest bottle of wine I could find in a store in a town just outside of Calgary was $15.

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Local made chocolate is pretty good starting from 3 Euros.

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Ham, lots and lots of it.   I got a packet of the nice thinly sliced Iberian ham you often get at Christmas and some French bread which made a decent lunch whilst hiking the mountains.  A whole leg of pork is expensive to buy whole though.   Jamon / Jambon is ham in Spanish or French (not jam bun 🙂 )

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Distilling equipment.   Later I found this is possibly not for making your own beverages but more likely for making perfume, as the shop across the road shows.

IMG_20180929_144842051_HDR-EFFECTS 1024Not everything in Andorra is a bargain, in Andorra Le Ville, there are big clothing brands like other glamourous shopping locations.

Andorra seems to blend in its own products as prestige from elsewhere.  Shops in the main city centre had Scotch Whisky and liquors from other places also.

Previous 8. An abundance of cosy mountain apartments 

Next 10. Overall & Europe’s biggest secret?

 

Andorra – 8. An abundance of cosy mountain apartments

IMG_20180929_140746870I really want to buy a house, but that’s not going to happen in London.

Here are some flats in Andorra advertised in the main part of the city.  One is 85,000 euros!

Some apartment blocks here are boarded up or new builds that aren’t finished.  My experience living in Israel shows that houses in the middle east are sometimes sold without windows, doors, kitchen and bathroom as sometimes the buyer will finish it off with his choice of design.

These flats are 120,000 each and they look new.

This flat needs doing up, as the ad says its ‘in need of modernisation’  Only 49,000.   It’s by the main road and has all those nice views.   The ad was in English, French, Spanish, and German.   But, wait – I’ve illustrated this house not from the blurry picture I took with my phone, but Google Maps, so it has been on the market for four years.  Hmmm.

Spain’s economy is in terrible shape with lots of unemployment but Andorra seems to be a happy contented little nation with 3% unemployment and almost no crime.   To me this looks like a great place to bring up a family in salaries similar to Britain.

Previous 7. No snow, but mountains are still fun

Next 9. Distilling ideas

 

 

Andorra – 7. No snow, but mountains are still fun

One of the other great things about this country was it was still warm when visiting in late September.  Outside of winter, Andorra has mountain biking and hiking to attract visitors.

It seemed that much of lifts that take you on to the mountains were dismantled and mothballed for the time being.

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This big ticket office and waiting lounge with storage for skis should be really busy during the winter, but I was only there with a tiny handful of people.

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I just spent a brief time on top of the hill.

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Smaller ski lifts not working.

IMG_20180930_141506024 1024 IMG_20180930_134416895-EFFECTS 1024Mountain golf.   Buy the balls from a vending machine, and practice your swing to hit them off of this platform next to a cafe and try and get them in this small 1m or so wide basket.  Locals keeping the foliage tidy

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On the way out of the lift hall, I could see that big expansion plans for this place.

This was about 3km of so from El Tarter.

Previous 6. El Tarter’s youth hotel and growing little town

Next 8. An abundance of cosy mountain apartments

 

Andorra – 6. El Tarter’s youth hostel and growing little town

I stayed in this place.   It’s on the main road up from the main city.

Actually I keep forgetting that this is a small country this is on one of small handful of main highways in the country.

There aren’t many youth hostels in this little country.   So little competition would mean not so good standards right?

Actually, this youth hostel is outstanding, with a nice shared kitchen, lounge, hot tub, friendly staff and has a 9.8 rating on Hostelworld.

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There is a hot tub and rooms are small-ish but are cosy and this town is a great place for outdoorsy folk who want to explore on a budget.

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There’s a little church on the opposite side of the car park of the youth hostel.   This looks very old, maybe 400+ years old, but the locals told me its shut and opens about twice a year for weddings maybe.

Wikipedia’s Spanish site says this town only had 672 residents in 2014.   There are now 800+ and a lot of new apartments for sale and some not quite finished.

The restaurants and shops here in the town were shut and I didn’t see them open the three days I was here.   Because this resort is based on tourism and I was here in September, and there is no snow, I’m wondering if there is other sources of employment here.

https://www.mountainhosteltarter.com/en/ 

This hostel I would thoroughly recommend for a solo traveller or couple or a group travelling to Andorra.  Getting to the rest of the country is simple by bus, and you can walk about 3km up a hill to one of the ski lifts.

There is some other ski lifts closer to El Tarter, but these were out of action.   It seemed like these had been partially dismantled and being serviced out of the season.

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Andorra – 5. What sort of mini country is this

and plateWell, Andorra is a principality.  This is a funny term.   It seems to refer to a country that still has a monarchy.    The only other nation that uses a principality term is another little country I visited which was Monaco (Between France and Italy this time)

Andorra doesn’t have a conventional monarchy.  The PM is Antoni Marti.  But there are two part time ‘princes’ one is Catholic Bishop Joan Enric Vives Sicília who lives in Barcelona, and the other is French premiere Emmauel Macron.   Confused?   I was.  I guess Andorra needs a local, and two leaders of ‘parent’ countries, with one knowing French and the other knowing Spanish and Catalan.

Some other bloggers told me they visited Andorra and thought it was boring.   Actually, I liked the small town of St Julia, the main capital city, Andorra la Ville, and the small village of El Tarter next to the mountains where I stayed.   Ok, so this bus station and surrounding town aren’t that exciting, and yes, it’s very touristy with shopping malls and cheap booze and cigarettes.     But I did plenty of walking around seeing what makes the place tick.

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I wanted to see Andorra’s own government buildings.    Here’s is what I think is the main government.    Here’s another perplexing question.   On the left and right, are three flagpoles only populated with one flag in the middle, the blue/yellow/red Andorra flag.   What are the empty ones for.

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Here is the police station.   I don’t know what the little sitting men are on the poles.  They aren’t Buddhas, I think they look more like the thinking Greek man statute.

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Opposite the government offices is this facility.  I’m not sure exactly what it is, there are snow ploughs and maybe its specifically for clearing up the roads in severe weather.

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There’s a decent sized football stadium!   You could maybe watch from up on these mountains instead.

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Only maybe 10-15 kilometers away, I’m being dropped by the bus driver to my youth hostel at a small town called El Tarter.   I actually miss the stop as a fall asleep, the driver tells me to stay put and he would drop me of shortly after.    I got to see these cows being herded across the main road.

Previous 4. Smoking is good for the economy

Next 6. El Tarter’s youth hotel and growing little town

Andorra – 4. Smoking is good for the economy

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One of Andorra’s biggest industries in the past is tobacco products.

St Julia had this tobacco museum in this yellow building.   I really wanted to go to this, but realised on the Sunday evening that it was shut Monday all day for some reason.  So was the car museum.

I actually hate smoking, but I am curious how things are manufactured and how many industries operate tiny countries.

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When was the last time you saw cigarettes being advertised, like in sport or on the street?   In the UK, I remember posters and TV adverts stopped in around 2001 I think as I used to walk past places where they used to be.    Here, it’s like nothing changed since yesteryear.

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massive discounts on cigarettes compared to UK with freebies thrown in.

There are still usual type health warnings on packets, but the grim pictures of diseased organs and cancerous tumors I have seen which are in the UK and the rest of Europe on packets, have not reached here yet.

Here cigarettes are 25-35 Euros for 200 of an established brand like Marlboros, or 18 Euros for local made Andorran brands.    Often these come with a freebie of a one or two singlular packs of 20 or a small bottle of liquor.

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Cigar shop

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Davidoff shop, this is a more premium brand of tobacco products and accessories, complete with old tooling in the window.   The company are based in Switzerland.

I think smoking is disappearing in the UK and other places with e-cigarettes appearing instead, this is a good thing, even if health implications are not quite understood and our governments will need to make up taxes some other way I guess.

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Andorra – 3. Sant Julià de Lòria

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My first real place I set my sights on was St Julia de Loria.

This is the closest town to the border.

Look around 360 degrees and you realise this lovely town is neatly in between the Pyrenees mountains.   Because I was here the last week of September, its neither summer or winter and no snow to be found, nor tourists seeking the slopes, hence I found myself surrounded only by locals.   You can see the tourist information office and Andorra’s own local banks.

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I found myself stuck in a party atmosphere, local families were out and about with a medieval festival.  This looks like an enlarged school or church fete, and everyone is dressed up and having fun.   There is locally produced food, kids jousting event and other games.

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This a stand with “Churros” which are elongated doughnuts which are served with Spanish style Hot Chocolate which looks like the viscosity of engine oil.   I had this before at a cafe in Asturias in northern Spain just before a close friend’s wedding in 2010.

If the X doesn’t look very Spanish, you are right.   Andorra’s main language is Catalan, which is spoken also in Barcelona.   It looks close enough to look like Spanish and a bit of French, but X is pronounced “ch” sound.   In fact, Malta which uses its own Semitic language (ie: like Hebrew and Arabic) also uses X as ch, so does Greek.

Of course, Spanish is used as a close second, and French and Portuguese are spoken a lot.    Some sources say, only 35% of people in Andorra were born there, I can see why many people would make a move to this mini country.

I got off here by mistake.   The bus stopped and the 5/6 other people got off rather at the main bus station at the capital city Andorra le Ville.     So I took another bus a little later.  More soon.

Previous: 2. Motoring in a tiny country

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Andorra – 2. Motoring in a tiny country

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IMG_20180929_134542549Andorra has a fair few but not a huge amount of prestige cars, unlike Monaco.    Cars have these small US style licence plates and an usually and oval sticker with the letters ‘AND’.

There are in fact, a lot of motorbikes, and the capital Andorra La Ville has dealerships and repair shops.

This country is only 40kms to drive through taking about 45 minutes.

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This Opal dealership has an extra floor underneath with roof racks and other accessories for skis, bikes and sports equipment to carry on your car.

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The old first generation Fiat Panda with its unergonomic boxy looks has disappeared from most European cities, but here seems popular and used as a vehicle for government use here.   Some of these were supplied as an ultra simple 4×4 run around.

I’ve seen one of these before, but I can’t remember what it is called, its an off road buggy with very high suspension travel to go up steeper hills than most SUVs can go.

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I like the fact that many apartments and hotels here have their own Batcave style underground car park also.

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Meanwhile the long winding roads around the mountains in Andorra, look like they would be a lot of fun for a race or a motorsport event.

1. The mystery small Pyrenees mountain state, EU or not?

3. Sant Julià de Lòria