Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Andorra - The Pre-Internet Amazon

If you're old like me, you might remember back to a time when you'd run all over town comparing prices on something you wanted to buy. Maybe you were interested in a VCR. You'd get in the car and go to the mall, Circuit City, maybe Best Buy, or even Crazy Eddie's (was that only a Philadelphia thing?) to look at every model and try to figure out what the best deal was. It's funny, now that we have the internet, you'd never do something like that.

Okay, now imagine an entire country where you'd go to buy something because you knew you'd always find the cheapest price. That place exists, or at least used to. It's called Andorra and it's a tiny speck of a country that sits in the Pyrenees between the borders of France and Spain. (And, yes, there should be snow everywhere. It's been like spring all winter.)

Back in the dark ages (before the internet), people from all over Europe would go to Andorra to buy anything and everything because it was way cheaper than they could find at home. Well, other than select items like alcohol and tobacco, the internet's changed all that and it's no longer the must-do shopping destination it once was. Today's visitors are more likely to be there to enjoy another Andorra must-do activity:

Yep, winter sports, baby! A group of twelve of us went to play in the snow for a few days. Inside the gondola at Val Nord in Andorra:

Since moving to Europe about six years ago (!!!), I've only been snowboarding once, if you can believe it. Back in California, there were years where I'd go almost every weekend during the winter. In other words, it was good to be out again especially with a big group of friends.

We did two full days on the snow and it was great. For someone like me who spent most of their lives at smallish east coast and southern California mountains, the resorts in the Pyrenees are ginormous...and the one we were at isn't even considered particularly big.

Mountain-top selfie showing just a small part of the resort:

Diana had a great time too. Even though she spent most of the time taking the beginner's area conveyor-belt-in-a-tube...

I did manage to get her to take one trip on the "adult" lift for what turned out being the longest-distance run of her life.

There's even video proof!

She did great, didn't she?

Oh, and don't think we didn't check out the shopping. It's definitely no but the center of town is basically a giant shopping mall with prices that are at least as good as the best I've seen in Barcelona. For folks from northern Europe, it's probably still worth the trip moreso if combined with skiing and/or snowboarding. I picked up a new Icebreaker shirt (I love me some merino wool!) and a bottle of brandy for the cabinet back home. Both good finds at nice prices!

I didn't mention it yet but Andorra is a Catalan-speaking country that seems to exist today as a banking center. A bit more Switzerland and a bit less Crazy Eddie, I guess.

We spent part of the day exploring town, which is filled with nice plazas, family-style shops and cafes, and some interesting art like this one I'm "floating" in:

On our way home, while our friends were filling up the tank with cheap gas (the other item that makes the trip worthwhile), Diana and I went to price check La Casa Del Formatge (The House Of Cheese), which, unfortunately, was closed for lunch. Damn southern-Europe closed-for-lunch schedule!

Thanks to our friends who made the trip fun. Let's do it again soon so I can get some cheese to go with my brandy!

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