Sunday, November 03, 2013

Andorra After Thoughts

Sometimes, a writer just doesn’t want to write. For the last week plus my fingers have had some allergic reaction to the keyboard. There has been an aversion to having to write out more than a phrase here and there. This has not allowed me to skip over the things that I had to do. I have papers to read for four classes, necessitating my having to write. This is not fun writing.

What happened was a bit different. When we were in Andorra, I was so completely relaxed, enjoying every minute of each hour. There was no planning ahead. There was nothing to think about except to be in the moment. It was an idyllic feeling. When we left the US in 2001 for our ‘year abroad’, I had forced myself to stay in the moment. Ron does this very well, inspiring me to do the same. For me it was a struggle, but I managed. We never planned anything any farther ahead than the next hour. Andorra allowed me to do this once again. Hence, our days were full; there was no time to write. I was in the moment every moment, but those cumulative moments added up to being very tired by late night.

Andorra was shortchanged in my writing. I will backtrack a bit to say it is a glorious little country. Population figures for 2013 were 85,293 people. This is divided into seven provinces, which caused a problem for the parliament. When we took our free tour of the old parliament, we were shown a wooden chest that had seven locks on it. Our guide explained that each province has a key for their lock. For centuries, there were only six provinces, but due to a population explosion, they had to create the seventh province. This made it imperative that all locks be removed and replaced to accommodate the newest member.

This tiny country has a strange form of government, which I will only briefly mention. It is jointly protected and governed by the French and the Spanish (Bishop of Barcelona), yet they have their own parliament. Andorra's first written constitution was drafted in 1991; approved by referendum 14 March 1993; effective 28 April 1993 according to the CIA website. Andorra has no military. They use the Euro, but do not have their own coins.

It takes one hour in good weather, no snow, to travel from one end to the other end of the country. We took a bus from La Vella to the shrine of Our Lady of Meritxell about 40 minutes away and close to the French border. It cost us €1.70 each for a one way ticket. When the bus left us off in the middle of nowhere with only the highway and a traffic circle in sight, we thought for sure he misunderstood us. He pointed to a partially hidden road that wound up a mountain. Sure enough we discovered the sign to the Our Lady of Meritxell shrine. This is supposedly where Mary appeared to some child. Apparently, this child was part mountain goat, because I cannot think of why she would be up this mountain otherwise. After two mile hike at a 50 degree gradient over winding roads, we made it to the shrine. It was closed from 1pm to 3pm. It was now 1:20pm.

On the same hill was a hotel – closed, a grocery store – closed, and a souvenir shop that served coffee, which was open. The sky looked ominous and the shrine was ultra-modern so we decided not to stay and returned to the highway. We had to wait on the roadside for a bus and flag it down. It turned around the traffic circle and picked us up after a 20 minute wait.

Besides the mountain views, the clear crisp weather was just cool, not cold. We were able to get by with thin jackets without getting a chill. In the country, there are no indoor museums, but one art gallery, which had a phenomenal exhibit spread over three floors. Their one museum is the Andorra Geological Museum. We kept following the signs and checking the map, but could not find it. Then it dawned on us that it was an outdoor museum and we were walking right by it. Various boulders were placed along a path with markers.

Andorra surpasses just about any place we have been for their outdoor artwork. Every couple of blocks, you will discover a public stature ranging from a Salvador Dalí creation of a melting clock to a young woman sitting at her work station creating lace. In addition to the artwork, there are a tremendous number of children’s play areas with interesting and non-conventional play equipment.

For shoppers, Andorra is a paradise. They brag about having over 4,000 shops and no taxes at all. You can shop duty free to your heart’s content. With this in mind, we looked for wedding rings, checking every jewelry store we could uncover, but nothing reached out to us.

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