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. 

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.

Previous 5. What sort of mini country is this

Next 7. No snow, but mountains are still fun

Luxembourg 1. Whats this mini nation like?

Taking a break from Israel, the Middle East, and China, as part of my obsession of the littlest countries of Europe, I decided to take two days off work and spend a long weekend in Luxembourg.

Tiny countries often have some nice perks.    Monaco, Bahrain, and San Marino have race tracks, some like Macau and Monaco are big on gambling and glitziest nations for the uber-rich to hang out.  Many have eccentric monarchies and tax breaks and opportunities (Gibraltar) to buy cheap fags and booze.

Dead centre in the middle of Europe, Luxembourg is often described as being part of the BeNeLux countries (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg) so my thinking without research would be that this little country would be Flemish/Dutch type of culture.  Actually, I was completely wrong, this nation is a lot more like France.

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Luxembourg’s most immediately stood out character is the hilly terrain and these stunning railway viaducts.

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Holland and Belgium and much of northern France has most of the residents cycling, the steep roads in this city are a bit too much for all but the most extreme bikers I think!

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

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

Magnificent Morocco – 23. Jewish treasures hidden in a Islamic city

There is many interesting souvenir shops in Fez

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A cheap popular gift is a small metal teapot (which is probably made in China)

As part of a tour I was with, we were taken into this particular store;

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The man behind me is an imam, hes a Muslim priest who works part time taking tourists around Fez, and to these stores.   I think they earn most of the money in commission from the shopkeepers rather than the modest cost of the tour fee itself.

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Seder plate used for Passover

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I love this lamp!   I don’t think think these metal lamps would transport easily in my airline case though.

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Metal Torah in frame behind the shopkeeper’s counter on the wall.

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I think a lot of the Judaica items here are vintage, or recent pieces made by Muslim people who make them as a copy from another piece or from some drawings.   Its hard to see any Jews left here.

I’ll explain more about the Synagogue and cemetery and Jewish history of Fez a little later on.

Previous 22. Buying a magic carpet in Fez

Next 24. Lost in a maze in Fez

Back to Ramon Crater, camping in the Desert

Camping! I went and spent a weekend with some friends, two from the Netherlands, one South African and one Hispanic Jew who has been Israel for some years now.

Its funny in an age where we try to make our lives more complicated with technology and creature comforts we still want to escape to basics of living under a piece of canvas with just the bare minimum to enjoy being out in the open air.

The Dutch seem to be the most hardcore campers in Europe, and where as I have had a fair bit of experience in camping up in Yorkshire and the New Forest as a child, my friends from this part of Europe seem to be very savvy as using gas cookers and putting up tents.   In addition to that my friend from South Africa was brought in a farm so is very adept at outdoors living also.

I have been to this site before back in about August 2009.    This is inside the Ramon Crater in the middle of the Negev Desert.

Some people opt for a more sophisticated camping experience, needing proper showers.   We opted for a site just rocks and bushes to use the bog.

This site we passed on the way home, just being a bit cheeky using the toilets that were by the road.

Here you can park your tent on the ground or inside the bedouin style huts, which look nicely made.   There is a kids playground in the middle which stands out as a bit odd!

This picture I took out of the window of the car is not that great, but it was a small clip of a large shanty town style village, these are Druze, traveling Arab people who live Bedouin style today often by the side of busy roads.  They may have cars or camels or donkeys and often grow their own groups in their communities.