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

Next: 4. Smoking is good for the economy

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

This week (end of September 2018) I had some time off work to use up and found the need to try out another one of these mysterious small countries which aren’t all that well known.

I tried to visit Andorra in October 2017 and gave up due to the fact that transport links are really hard unless you have a car.

So this time I took a flight to Barcelona and found a bus ride which goes there, which is pretty much the only way to do it.

Actually, Google has this quite wrong.   This takes 3 hours and was 59 Euros return which I bought online.

Note! there is only one toilet stop and no loo on the bus!

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Yes, this place has a border.   Just like I discovered Gibraltar has with Spain it seems.  I thought we were supposed to be in Europe?

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Everyone has told me that Andorra isn’t in the EU, so this sign was a bit of a suprise.

Nevertheless, there are flags up everywhere by all the hotels and sports resorts with French, Spanish and EU flags up.    I didn’t get to stop at this border crossing, as cars stopped and the bus was diverted into another lane, where stopping wasn’t needed.  I already had my passport details given at a kiosk at the bus company’s office in Barcelona.

I like small countries in Europe, they usually have tax breaks, race tracks, eccentric monarchy and often overlooked as places to see, so I had to figure out what kind of tiny country Andorra was like.

Next: 2. Motoring in a tiny country

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

Luxembourg 4. Transport

The city centre is small enough to walk around for anyone reasonably fit.  The park which has a path that encircles the city with below views of the viaducts makes a great place to take a walk.

lux platesSome cars here have a prominently large EU flag on their number plates without a country identifying prefix.  I’ve seen this on Luxembourg vehicles in the UK, and only the separate L oval sticker reveals when this car is from.  Maybe Luxembourg is the least nationalistic nation in Europe?

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My flight to Luxembourg from London Stansted was the cheapest flight I’ve ever bought.   It was also one of the worst.   Not because Ryanair have many hidden costs on things like many other budget airlines, but that my flight home was canceled because of industrial action with their staff.  I had a nice hotel paid for, but I decided not take another flight the next day as I had already missed a day of work and made my own way home (which I took a long bus back to London via the Eurostar)  The staff in Luxembourg’s airport were actually really polite and helpful with me and the mostly very angry passengers.

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Like a lot of European capitals, the railway station is large and has connections to get all over parts of Europe.   I spent one day in Metz, France which was quite a simple journey but required a bus first to Bettembourg, a Luxembourgish town outside the capital city, due to railways works.

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Outside of the station was one of these French style urinals, although this one is less crude then some I have seen before.

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Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like? – 2. EU building – 3. What sort of mini country is this – 4. Transport – 5. Faith

Trip to Malta – Community in Malta

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Having greetings on a door frame like this, reminds me of the small diagonal things fixed to the frame of Jewish houses in Israel.

Incidentally particularly around Valletta, I saw small postcards with photos announcing a death of someone from their family.   Kind of like people used to do in newspapers in the UK.

This is also exactly whats done in Israel among Jews, Arab Muslims and Christians, to announce a bereavement to the local community.

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Malta has the largest numbers of churches in the world, but seems there a few others as well as Catholicism.

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I like the sense of community here in this island.   As I mentioned earlier, Maltese is a Semitic language, so its related to Hebrew and Arabic.   It actually sounds spoken about half way between Italian and Arabic.   When you consider its half way between Italy and Tunisia it shouldn’t really be surprising.   Its also the only Semitic language that uses ordinary Roman letters and not a right to left type system.

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Beware of Jellyfish!!!

St Julians Bay – Quite homely for the British – Marsaxlokk – Valletta the old capital – Community in Malta – The best nativity scenes in Europe? – Go Gozo