Three Countries in One Day tour

August 17, 2015 - Barcelona, Spain

Oh, good grief, it was dark outside when we stirred ourselves for the much vaunted Three Countries in One Day bus trip. At least we had walked by the meeting point yesterday so we knew where we were heading and could point ourselves in that direction without much need for thought. There was no time for breakfast, or even coffee beforehand and breakfast was included as part of the tour package but I think ours were not the only growling stomachs that gathered at the Julia Travel office at 6:45am. The office was closed of course and our little party of about twenty stood nervously in the Calle near the Palau de la Musica Catalania while we waited for a guide, a bus or someone to open the office. Our minds were put at rest when a guide arrived, then someone to open the office and check our tickets and then a bus driver. The 25 seat bus was parked on the major street nearby and we trooped around to climb aboard and get our seats. I agreed with Margaret's choice of seat but once chosen it was too late to change. The last four rows of seats are higher but the windows are not so it meant dipping your head to see above the horizon.

We were out of the city without much fuss, no traffic at this hour in either direction, and soon had views of Montserrat and the monastery clinging to the side of the mountain. This was the perfect time for the view with the golden light of morning picking out the yellow sandstones of the mountain and the buildings. We would have liked the opportunity to stop for photos but had to content ourselves with snaps out of the window as we rushed by on the way to a little cafe where we grabbed some coffee and croissants to keep us going. The cafe had a terrace with a view over a reservoir but not the same sort of photo opportunity. We need to remind ourselves that this is for tourists not photographers.

Our first real stop of the day was in the Spanish (Catalan) medieval walled town of Baga where we were led around part of the wall then in through a gate to the town square for a talk on the history of the area before walking on to meet the bus for the drive to Mont-Louis in France for breakfast. Even just the simple coffee and croissant breakfast (our gastronomic French breakfast as included in the tour) was most welcome at this stage and then we had forty minutes to explore part of this old military garrison and walled town. There wasn't a lot of time for anything but a walk up to a high point on the wall for a look at the the valley with a backdrop of the Pyrenees Mountains. After a walk back down the centre of the town we boarded the bus once more and headed back along the valley to then turn toward Andorra.

We had been warned the traffic might be heavy and it was actually at a complete standstill before we reached the border. We sat for several minutes before the traffic got moving again with the help of several traffic police blocking two roundabouts so that our traffic lane had a free go. When we arrived at the border our passports were taken in for a stamp and we then shuffled along in the traffic into the capital, Andorra la Vella, where we had ninety minutes to find some lunch and look around or possibly do some duty-free shopping.

Margaret and I didn't fancy the immediate rush to the recommended cafes so took a walk to see a little of the town before heading back to the cafes. The first did not look inviting and the second had a line on the footpath waiting for a table so we pushed on. By now it was beginning to spot with rain and looking threatening so we pushed on. After looking into several dives and American style places we found a cafe, the Casa del Bistro, in a side street with a €20 plat de jour menu and an empty table. Grilled shrimp followed by pork medallions with roasted vegetables (potato, aubergine slices and red pepper), followed by coffee made a good and filling meal so we were ready to go again. While we ate lunch the rain had poured down outside but it was finished when we walked back to our meeting point. There was plenty of time still so Margaret took advantage of the time and a sale at Punt Roma to buy a light cardigan to add to her wardrobe/suitcase.

From Andorra la Vella the tour backtracked to the border again and then headed toward Barcelona around the west of Montserrat. We stopped at a little bar for coffee, wine or beer as part of our tour package. The bar had an outdoor terrace with great views of the Pyrenees and this time we weren't speeding by on a bouncing bus and, although early, we could try some photos in the low afternoon light. As we passed Monserrat the afternoon light was highlighting the rock colours again but we could only snap a few shots as we flashed by. To the photographers - f/11 and be there, huh not on your life, here it is a case of 1/300 shutter speed priority and be ready NOW, oops that was a tree, post, embankment etc.

By the time we were dropped off in Barcelona and had walked back down Les Rambles to the hotel we were ready for a beer or two by the pool accompanied by patatas bravos which is becoming our simple but sufficiently filling evening nibble.


Our first sight of Montserrat
Walls of Baga
Streets of Baga
Baga - town of cats
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