Across the Pyrenees mountains to Andorra
This was a drive Shani was NOT looking forward to! Our plan was to leave the wonderful Le Floride Camping Village just north of Perpignan, France, and drive through the Pyrenees and into Spain and then on to Andorra. It’s not a particularly long drive but for us things take a lot longer than Google suggest they will. Plus, this was going to be on thin winding mountain roads with little to no shoulder and heavy trucks barreling past in the opposite direction.
I was more curious about the quality of the Spanish driving and for the record, it was the worst we’ve seen so far on this grand adventure in Europe, but more on that in a later post!
Our first order of business after leaving the camping village was to find a Decathlon store. This is similar to a Big 5 or Sports Authority in the States. We needed some camp chairs and foolishly had not acquired them at the proper camping store in Germany and had subsequently missed out on buying them at multiple Decathlons along the way. The season was over and there were none to be found! We somehow had an epic communication failure and didn’t stop at the Decathlon I could see from the freeway and didn’t stop at the one somewhere in the city center that Shani was navigating us to. Frustrated we moved on. (Driving the camping car into the city center can be a recipe for disaster in Europe!)
So with the anxiety of the impending drive and our frustrations in navigation I suggested Shain crack open a hard cider to take the edge off! I didn’t have to twist her arm. As it turned out the drive was mostly uneventful and we spent a sizeable portion of it crawling up the road behind a large simi. This was actually preferable for Shani as she felt they were ‘clearing the way’ for us and the tractor trailers coming down the road had to slow down a bit to pass in the opposite direction.
Without incident the French Pyrenees were behind us and we were into Spain. We did have a minor issue once we were in Spain heading down a road going through the center of a village. The road was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time with small turnouts for us to use and wait our turn. We almost lost a wing mirror a time or two; this time I did heed the ‘Slowly but with great enthusiasm!’ advice and we escaped unschathed.
The worst part of the drive to Andorra was the crazy Spanish cyclists. There are plenty of road signs indicating that motorist needed to give plenty of space to bicycle traffic (and I respect that) but these guys were obnoxious. They would ride 2 and 3 abreast on a two lane road with small shoulders and would not fall into single file for anything. I would have liked to tell them about my spacial awareness learning curve with the camping car and that might have made a difference! To the best of my knowledge we managed to not brush into any of them and tried to give as much space as possible but, like I said, it was obnoxious
Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain out of the Schengen Zone that also has no VAT or taxes. I read somewhere that the only reason Andorra exists is for skiing and tax free booze and cigarettes.
At the River Park shopping center they have a whole large parking lot that allows overnight camping for free provided you do a little shopping there as well. It even has a waste water dump and drinking water if you need it. As it was the off season there were plenty of spots available but during peak season the place looks like a RV dealership!
We spent the afternoon wandering around town but most things were closed. A little disappointed we headed back to the camper for the night. As the parking lot didn’t have electrical hookups this would be our first night off grid and an opportunity to test out our leisure battery system, not something we had really tested before. The Hymer is equipped with two solar panels and one battery but we know next to nothing about how well it works.
At the dealership when we bought it we had inquired about which outlets would power devices and were told that was not possible. We scoffed (in our heads). Turns out, none of them work off grid so now we’re in the market for an inverter! We also learned that the 12V to USB converter from the States doesn’t seem to work either so that’s something for us to look into too. All of the LED lighting worked and our water pump did as well. So the lesson here is charge your devices before going off grid until you get an inverter to connect to the leasure system. We were in a parking lot in Andorra so not a big deal.
The next day we decided to take advantage of the tax free shopping and pick up some needed supplies. We didn’t find the deals to be that impressive and I had read about not going over your booze and cig limit heading back into Spain or you would risk forfeiture. We had already been getting good deals on wine in France and knew Spain would have plenty of cheap wine as well so we only picked up a few bottles and some other supplies but didn’t find any major items or deals we couldn’t live without.
On our way out of Andorra we did get stopped by Spanish customs. Good thing we were under our wine and cig limit! We did have to open our garage for an inspection and even show the agent our 4 liters of wine.
As it turns out it was some Spanish holiday as well. The road into Andorra was backed up for miles and miles and our timing turned out to be perfect, although maybe more of the shops and bars would have opened for the influx of tourists. Who knows. We came, we saw and we conquered?
Stay tuned as we barrel through Spain on our quest for Portugal.