Sidetracked In The Pyrenees

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shifting into fourth gear I started to wonder if the world was coming to an end. The ray of sunshine shadowing my car had gone, suddenly replaced by a large black cloud that loomed almost directly over head. A shot of lightning streaked across the horizon followed by an earth-shattering boom. The heavens broke and rain clattered down on the windscreen.

I pulled over in the nearby rest area, expecting the worst. Before I had a chance to turn on the windshield wipers, the cloud burst had ceased. I exited the car to survey the sky and found myself looking out into the most awe-inspiring Turneresque landscape. I stood transfixed. A single ray of sunshine penetrated the cloudy sky, lighting up a small remote village perched upon the mountain top. It stood in true rustic glory as it has for over 100 years. I had to pinch myself. Yes, I really was in the Pyrenees.

Our goal: Barcelona to Andorra for a dinner reservation in one of the principality’s most renowned restaurants, a reservation which was now becoming an increasingly difficult task. Cable cars, funicular railways, a Benedictine abbey and, finally, a guilt-ridden after-lunch walk to the peak of Montserrat — Catalonia’s most emblematic mountain chains — did absolutely nothing for our punctuality.

Later on in the day, making terrible time in the Cerdanya Valley with an ever-increasing haste, we motored round the next mountain and another Kodak moment presented itself.

Like mountain view paparazzi we stood on line with group of day trippers and jostled for photos. “Oooh” sighed a heavyset Russian man next to us. “This is just like IMAX,” he remarked, his eyes never straying from the camera viewfinder.

Every so often we pulled over to play our newfound game: “Spot the hidden village.” In between valleys and mountains, a small hamlet or random church would appear in the distance, leaving us wondering what life would be like in amongst the clouds.

Bewilderment kicked in when it began to rain heavily as we entered the Tùnel de Cadí only to find clear sky and sunshine on the way out. This happened more than once as we threaded our way through the Pyrenean road tunnels.

As we neared Andorra, the last of the spring snow could be seen at the top of the rising peaks. Every so often rustic taverns reminded us our dinner appointment was edging increasingly closer. Once we had made it to Puigcerdà — one of the largest towns in the Pyrenees — we knew we were almost there. Radio Andorra signaled us in Spanish, Catalan and French, and it wasn’t long before the twisting mountain roads rolled out into Andorra.

After a frantic last-ditch attempt to find our dinner reservation, and with only seconds to spare, we made it, and all we could do was sit in the restaurant’s exquisite dining room, giggling, drunk on pure sensory overload.

By Anthony Bain


About the Author

Anthony’s intrepid writings and accidental ramblings from deepest darkest Barcelona can be found at his blog The Barcelona Review.

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