jeudi, septembre 18, 2008

Three Countries in Three Hours

Um, hello there! It's been a while. But, hey, you know how everyone in France takes the whole month of August off, right?



So what on earth have I been doing this whole time?

Well, Handsome and I spent a lovely few weeks in the Aude region near Carcassonne staying at some friends' house built from a mill dating back to the 14th century. Unfortunately, you can't really see any mill-like characteristics. Unless you squint really, really hard.

Anyhow, on this foray into the region, we explored many castle ruins, a hat museum, lots of local markets, and a tiny town reputed to be the resting place of the Virgin Mary,* and otherwise famous for its inexplicably creepy holy water basin.

On one day trip, we drove all the way to Andorra to take advantage of the VAT tax haven. The countryside was breathtakingly beautiful - a mix of Switzerland, Austria and Spain - but the architecture was 70's and cheap and horrifyingly ugly. There was a creepy, unhealthy feel about the place as well. When people call it 'the largest shopping center in Europe', you understand why. People are only there to buy, buy, buy. Andorra is jointly admistered by France and Spain, so it's equally strange that from store to store you have no idea what language to use - French, English, Spanish, Catalan? Not that I could pretend to string a sentence together in Catalan. It always sounds so silly to me - like someone got mixed up between Spanish and French and just made some shit up. (Apologies to my Catalan-speaking readers. Ha! Like I have Catalan-speaking readers.)

Handsome and I made our purchases and got the hell out of the first border town, thinking it might be better in the capital, Andorra La Vella.

I have never seen an uglier city in a prettier setting.

See if you can see what I mean. This is the countryside. This is the capital. Just have a gander at all ten of those lovely photos on the second site and see if you don't agree with me.

We drove through the town, silently incredulous, craning our necks to see if we could identify any place that might remotely appeal for lunch. Handsome looked over at me with an expression on his face I immediately understood. Something akin to, 'I am very hungry, but hell fucking no to this place.'

"Let's get the fuck out of here," I proposed.

Handsome's face immediately lit up. "Let's have lunch in Spain," he said, rubbing his hands together excitedly.

"Onwards to Spain!" I declared.

We had lunch here.

I fucking love Europe.

* It is obvious that I was not indoctrinated in any religion, and most of the time, I'm perfectly comfortable with my lack of knowledge. Last night, however, while telling some friends about our trip, I suddenly realized my very big mistake.

"Oh fuuuck! Guys, I put the wrong Mary!!" Oops.