I'm (NOT) in Love with Andorra

Trip Start Jan 06, 2007
Trip End Aug 10, 2007

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Flag of France  , Languedoc-Roussillon,
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sorry about the title. A play on words recognisable to the poor, sad souls who can admit to having read 'Adrian Mole'. 

Rieux Minnervois. Not to be mistaken for Caunes Minnervois, Peyriac Minnervois, Argens Minnervois, or the half dozen or more other places with Minnervois in their names. 

It makes reading road signs a very interesting experience. 

This area is so into wine that in every direction the eye wanders, there are fields of grape vines and they produce very good wines too. But to say it was like stepping back in time would be an understatement. This place hadn't changed for centuries. But what an amazing area

Our apartment was built inside the ramparts of a 1000 year old chateau and the street outside was so narrow that I scraped both side mirrors on the walls when dropping off our bags at our door. I heard quite a few other cars adding their paintwork to the walls too in the time we were there. 

Three times a week on market days, a town loud speaker blares out some horrible music and then launches into a diatribe I can only assume is aimed at encouraging the lazy locals to get out of bed and keep the street sellers busy. 

Every settlement in the area, from tiny hamlet upwards in size has some sort of amazing old chateau, fort or abbey at its centre located alongside a town square. This hosts the hub of human activity from 10 am to midday and from 2 pm to about 6 or 7 at night. Every town and road even magically empties for siesta time for their very civilised 2 hour lunch of red wine and food. 

The highlights in the area were many and varied from the tiny medieval fortress of Minerve and the much larger fortress at Carcasonne, to the spectacular Pyrenees mountains and even the modern marvel of the Millau Viaduct

There is one place I won't be adding to the list ... Andorra. 

Think of Thredbo multiplied by 100 and plonked in the middle of some beautiful, remote mountain range. Now I have nothing personal against Thredbo. It's just that it is new, glitzy and indistinguishable from any other modern ski resort built around the world. And so it is with Andorra. The difference with this little principality is that you have to drive through some of the most beautiful French countryside containing some of the most exquisite old villages to get to it. The overall impression is of disappointment. Its like walking along a gold lined road to reach the pot at the end of the rainbow only to find it full of brand new 20 cent pieces. 

One final word about the much maligned French. In general they were as friendly and as welcoming as people anywhere else and on more than one occasion were far more tolerant to very rude Anglophiles demanding their attention than I would have been. We will definitely return.
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