Part One: Barcelona to Arinsal in Andorra…
We’ve recently returned from a double holiday, an eight day adventure involving snowboarding, Geocaching and sightseeing in Barcelona and Andorra. We managed to squeeze in a lot over that eight days and the next few lines you are about to read is the story of the first half of our adventures from Barcelona to Arinsal in Andorra…
The night before the flight we’d been in full panic mode when MrBizkitz had accidentally put some incorrect information onto the easyJet online pre-boarding pass for one of our passports. If you’ve ever been in that predicament you’ll appreciate our horror as we thought we might end up being denied our flight if the information wasn’t corrected in time. At the eleventh hour, after a fraught phone call with easyJet however, we eventually managed to get it sorted and we were back in the game. Phew!
Weighing our snowboard bag before we left we realised that it was slightly overweight, with two snowboards, two sets of bindings, two pairs of boots and a couple of pairs of snowboarding trousers inside, the 20kg allowance is always up to the max. To keep costs down on the flight we’d opted to have just the one snowboard bag and two pieces of hand luggage, which by the time you’ve added two helmets into the equation ends up being a very tight squeeze…we just had to hope that we’d get lucky at the checking-in desk at the airport.
At 5am on Saturday morning we left for Gatwick airport with two pain au chocolats in our bellies and that slightly apprehensive feeling that we’d forgotten something in the back of our minds. What should have been a nice simple 40 minute journey to Gatwick turned into a bit of a nightmare when a badger ran out into the road in front of us. All I’ll say is it was horrible. We spent the rest of the journey in silence with me crying from the shock. The mood was sombre as we waited for the bus to take us from the car park to the airport. Not the best start to the holiday to say the least.
Waiting in the queue at the check-in desk we noticed a couple having to rearrange their suitcase to offload some weight into their hand luggage and I prayed we weren’t going to get that person checking us in. Of course, as is the nature of these things, we did. I put on my best smile and edged my way over to the desk putting my passport down and trying my best to be as distracting as possible whilst MrBizkitz put the snowboard bag onto the scales. It was only marginally over the restricted weight. I did a silent prayer and after a tense few seconds he wrapped the flight details onto the bag and asked if we had anything else to check in. ‘Nope’ we both said in unison and he pointed us in the direction of oversized baggage and told us to have a pleasant flight. Beaming at each other we thought that maybe the worst of it was over and we could relax a little and in a way we did.
As is the case with most early morning flights I fell asleep almost instantly after finding my seat, the flight was fairly empty so we had the row to ourselves which gave us both a bit of extra room which was a nice bonus and made for a pleasant journey. Tail winds in our favour meant we arrived in Barcelona a little earlier than scheduled which gave us time to hunt for our first Geocache of the holiday before our coach to Andorra. 🙂
The Geocaching starts…
One of the things I love about Geocaching is that it gives you something to do at airports, I’m all for people watching but sometimes even that can get boring and so it’s nice to get out in the fresh air a bit. It’s always a little trickier when you have baggage with you but some airports have lockers that you can leave your belongings in whilst you go out exploring.
We fancied a bit of a challenge so we took our snowboard bag and hand luggage off to visit Trackables Hotel T2 BCN Airport. The Geocache was hidden away from the terminal building near one of the car parks, the cache itself was a drainpipe placed against the wall. It fitted in well with its surroundings but I knew the cache had to be fairly large to house trackables (TB’s) and so, happily, it was the first item I checked. 🙂
A few days before I’d looked on the internet to see if any of the TB’s had missions and I noticed a couple of them hadn’t been to the UK. Not wanting to deprive them of that experience I made a mental note to take those ones back home with me and so I pocketed them both before signing the log book and returning the cache to its hiding place.
By the time we made it back to the airport terminal we had just enough time to grab some food before getting our coach to Arinsal in Andorra. We opted to book through arinsal.co.uk which was really straight forward, the coach stops are very clearly labelled outside the airport and we had no problems finding the right one. Although before putting your bags onto the coach I’d recommend double checking with the driver where he’s going as two coaches pulled up at the stop and one was going to Pas de la Casa which is on the other side of Andorra. That could have been a nasty balls up although I think by that point we were pretty determined that nothing else was going to go wrong on this holiday…famous last words!
On the way through Andorra it all felt very similar to Switzerland, maybe it’s because they are both low tax countries and residents have a bit more to spend on the best building materials, who knows, either way the buildings and in fact all of the infrastructure was fairly nice.
Arinsal is a small resort reaching a dead end at the top of the hill. The buildings are fairly typical of ski resorts but I’d say they were much more modern than some of the other places we’ve been. There was plenty of building work going on which after being there for a few days seemed strange to us as the resort was so quiet. We put it down to the fact that we weren’t there in peak season or holidays and that the snow conditions weren’t quite at their best. We also thought that it might be more of a summer resort for hikers and climbers, either way it was nice not to be in an overrun ski resort for a change.
After around three and a half hours, with a short stop somewhere in Northern Spain, the coach dropped us at our hotel door. We were staying at Xalet Verdú, one of the cheapest places we could find (as we both love a bargain) at around €28 a night, and after arranging breakfast for ourselves for the rest of the week (for an extra €5 each) and picking up keys for the ski lockers (more €’s for a deposit) we settled into our room.
The food seemed to be at fixed prices throughout Arinsal of between €9-15 for a meal which wasn’t too bad for a ski resort. We opted to eat at Cisco’s, a busy restaurant with plenty of choices – a good first stop for the start of our holiday. The added extra of a free shot after our meal in the bar downstairs meant that we ended up staying for a game of 501 on the electronic dartboard where, to the horror of MrBizkitz, I won. To be fair we both ended up in the ‘mad house’ (needing a double 1 to finish using only one dart) and it could’ve gone either way…I just got lucky. 🙂
Getting back to our room I quickly realised how hot it was in there but didn’t think to see if I could turn any of the radiators down, this was my undoing for the week…
The following day MrBizkitz paid for our lift passes but ended up being charged double for them as the card payment was ‘denied’ the first time and then ‘worked’ the second. Obviously it just went through both times and unfortunately MrB didn’t know that until we got home. It was a bit of a pain to sort out through emails back and forth between the lift pass office on our return but eventually he did get a refund although lost out a bit on the exchange rate (£30) for their mistake which didn’t seem fair but what can you do? My advice, if you are unsure whether a transaction has gone through, check your bank transactions whilst you are still near to where it happened so you can get a refund there if necessary. Particularly in places where the reception isn’t great or the transaction takes a while to go through. Those chip and pin devices can cause a lot of stress, I know from working at festivals where the signal is terrible.
Snowboarding in Arinsal…
Anyway, as we were oblivious to that fact at that point we had a great first day on the slopes after catching the ski bus to La Massana. The gondola took us up to the Pal Area of Arinsal where the snow was perfect and the slopes weren’t too busy. There was a good selection of blue runs which are the right level for me and so I really enjoyed it, we came back down to resort in the afternoon because we didn’t want to overdo it on our first day but we were off to a good start. 🙂
On the way back on the ski bus I’d started to get a bit of a cough but didn’t really think anymore of it until the next morning when my throat had pretty much seized up. Despite feeling pretty lousy we took another ski bus over to Arcalis but I just couldn’t get into it, opting to take a very slow green run didn’t help matters as I had to keep taking my board off and walking which is one of my snowboarding pet peeves. However there was a silver lining as there was a cache called STARGATE ANDORRA just off from one of the runs. It was supposed to be a cache with a view but it was pretty snowy so we didn’t get much of one which was a shame. There were some photo’s on the cache page though which were good to look through.
By the time we got back down the hill to the restaurant where the ski bus had dropped us off I was pretty shattered and the visibility was pretty poor so I opted to relax in there and have a beer whilst MrB went back out to do a few more runs.
I couldn’t even face breakfast the next day. MrB came back up to the room to tell me that everyone else at breakfast was coughing too, so it wasn’t just me I thought! I couldn’t handle going up the slope that morning so I knew I had to do something about the ridiculously overbearing temperature in the room, which I’d decided was definitely a factor in my throat feeling so sore. After fighting with the radiator I managed to turn it down slightly and I left all of the windows open to get some fresh air in which helped. I drifted in and out of sleep for most of the morning and woke up when MrB came back to see how I was feeling.
I didn’t want the day before to be the last time I got up the mountain on this break so I forced myself up and we headed out for the rest of the afternoon up to the Arinsal side of the mountain. It was a lovely day but it was really windy up there. Throughout the night the wind had been hurtling through the resort and so all the fresh snow had been blown off the mountain leaving very icy conditions in its wake. I managed to get a few more runs under my belt before once again calling it a day. Feeling a bit dejected I’d sort of decided that the holiday was out to get us by that point!
MrB went back over to the Pal side on the last day as the conditions were much better there than in Arinsal (and the runs were slightly better too) and I stayed in and used the free (intermittent) wifi to catch up with a blog post I was working on. When he came back he did manage to tempt me out with the promise of a Geocache just up from our hotel although it took a while for me to walk up the hill to find Patagonia through all the coughing I was doing! However we did eventually make it and we soon had the cache signed and replaced. I’d hoped that by staying in for most of the last day I’d feel a little better for the second part of our holiday in Barcelona but alas that wasn’t to be!
Stay tuned for part two next week to see if we managed to avoid any other disasters when we got to Barcelona!