woke up refreshed to the sound of the church bells ringing from the church just outside my room.
checked the computer before heading for breakfast to find it at about 85% of the tasks I gave it the night before and that it was still transferring! *urg*
I have a 20mbit/s uplink at home, uploading gigs of data usually takes not much longer than copying it to a local disk!
from Limoux we start a long climb up to 1443 meters.
the whole feel of our surroundings is distinctly alpine – when we arrive, we are greeted by a sign telling us that we are entering the Ardennes occidentaux – and that from here onwards we would be in a mountainous region.
we get close to the top of the hill, we are engulfed by clouds and are greeted by some cold humidity > this is why we don’t stay too long at the top…
for us however, this means that we, from here onwards can roll downhill and recuperate most of the time during the next 800 metres downhill to ax-les-thermes.
ax-les-thermes is an older french higher-altitude health resort and still tries to sell itself that way.
as we arrived at ax-les-thermes, this however, didn’t draw too much interest from us – we wanted to get to Andorra today. with another 36kms in our batteries, we chose to try to get to a communal camping site about 22kms away, along the road to Andorra – factoring in the climb, we thought the remaining battery capacity should just be able to take us there.
well, we just about got there, with 0% remaining capacity and 0km calculated remaining kms…
we didn’t wait around too long to get our batteries charged again – with some friendly (French) words with our camping site manager, we were back charging at 32A and myself uploading photos and writing entries using the camp site wlan.
during the charge we got hungry and walked towards l’hospitalet. on our way there we found a very futuristic camper-van parking lot complete with cee-plugs which were payable by credit card!
after our charge we continue climbing towards Andorra. the road is wide and winds its way up the mountain.
rather unceremoniously we arrive at andorra’s border at 1800 metres above sea level and are greeted by very ungainly buildings, ski lifts and shopping centres, since Andorra is a tax free zone.
from the french sides Andorra itself can be reached by tunnel or via a mountain pass. we decide to climb the mountain and drive all the way up to 2500 metres.
as we arrive at the top, except for a stunningly beautiful view of the surrounding mountains nothing special waits for us there – so we set out to roll down to Andorra la veilla.
having been to samnaun and livorgno, both tax havens at the end of the world somewhere in the alps, tax free shopping and tax free fuel (diesel is at €1.10 in Andorra, instead of €1.55 elsewhere) has no real appeal to us. Andorra seems a bad example of this status coupled with a desperate wish to be an internationally renowned ski resort.
as we arrive in Andorra la veilla at about 3pm, shopping seems to be the only thing everyone is interested in. big shopping centers, all big brands, lots of electronic stores… we found one TWIKE related product which we wanted to buy but would have serious problems importing it to switzerland, since it is illegal there…see for yourself!
I then decide that after all these days on the road it is time for some real relaxation – we will be staying in Andorra for the afternoon/evening instead of heading to spain and will use this half a day of our swiss head-start here. in order to support our need for relaxation, I consult some of my hotel room broker sites to find a rate of €65 for a executive suite at the 5-star carlton plaza hotel.
we pay another extortionist €17.50 for parking and charge guerilla-style by opening a off-limits infrastructure room in the park garage otherwise devoid of sockets.
since I am usually in this class of hotel about every other week when travelling on-the-job, I feel very much at home and whilst jean-claude stays in his room, I head to the hotel’s spa area and relax in a Jacuzzi and go for 2 sauna cycles.
since we have some time on our hands, we then hit the city. as I said, there are more shops here than anybody would ever need. a real find, however, was a shop stocked with about 90+ types of gin. the owner was happy to discuss the different types and tastes and then offered me to make me a g&t with his favourite gin and tonic. (not gordons, not Schweppes!)
after a good hour, happy and even more relaxed, we both left the shop with a shopping bag full of rare alcohol!
I tried to send some pictures home today, but our hotel had a very strange “free” wifi policy. you get 2mbytes/s uplink, but only 300 mbytes of volume per day. I didn’t know that from the beginning, and just started a 1-gig upload which was used-up in just under 2 minutes. more data would cost lots of money – this is why I was not able to update any entries for TDE2012.
tomorrow we head to spain. I’m really looking forward to crossing spain following the blue line.
I personally have driven from switzerland to spain about 6 times myself when I lived there, but never took any other route than the motorway along the coast… this promises to be really interesting!