Feb 17, 2010 - Iberian excursion, day 6 - Zaragoza and Andorra
Intended as a waypoint between Madrid and Barcelona (before we tacked on Toledo and Andorra), Zaragoza is a large modern city, halfway between Spain's two largest.
We spend the morning meandering through its streets and cathedrals.
Ella's enjoying the tour, too.
We find that Zaragoza's large and striking cathedral, 'Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar' (which is free to tour) has an elevator that takes you up one of its towers for a vista of the city.
We didn't realize that there were about 3 flights of stairs, then another 3 floors worth of a spiral staircase,
but we toughed it out and it was worth the view!
The basilica's eleven tile cupolas provide a unique foreground to a beautiful, but otherwise-typical old southern European cityscape.
Done with our morning walking tour, we head back to our hotel to check out.
As mom and I go get the car from the parking garage a few blocks away, Jill and Ella enjoy a few minutes of freedom before another 4-hour drive.
Ella makes the most of the free time.
The drive is dotted with castles, reminding you that you're in the old world...
...and bull-shaped billboards serving no other purpose but to remind you that you're in Spain,
Here's a surprise; we're coming up on the Prime Meridian, which goes through eastern England and central Spain.
I didn't think about that.
They have a little line across the road to show you when you cross from the western hemisphere to the eastern.
Both sides have vinyards
and crappy little dead Spanish towns.
A small dam in the middle of nowhere.
Buford Dam isn't quite as fancy, though it holds back waters forming a much larger lake than this Spanish dam.
As we get closer to Andorra, we drive in and out of tunnels lasting for a as little as 50 meters and as long as 2-3 km.
Our first up-close glimpses of the Pyrenees.
The Andorran border is a joke. They'd waive you on though as quickly as they can if they were even paying attention. Instead, there are about 4-5 guys standing around in raincoats, smoking and talking.
Government workers are the same in all countries - the mail runs on time and that's about it.
But we're in...
Our first stop, which required a Griswald-like roundaboud maneuver, is the 12th century La Margineda Bridge.
Our bridges fall after 40 years (e.g. MN) and some of theirs are going on 900. Amazing.
We head into the capital city of Andorra La Vella and stretch our legs.
My girls are so happy to be out of the car and experiencing a new country (their 45th and 3rd, respectively).
Our first stop is Sant Esteve Church.
Also built in the 1100s, this one was rennovated in the 1900s.
We go inside, but like most churches [outside of Barcelona, anyway], no pictures.
Just these few of the outside.
Stop #2 - Casa de la Vell(a), the parliament building of Andorra.
The year below the crest reads 1580 AD.
(I cannot explain the ram humping the cow other than to say they are supposedly oxen, though I beg to differ.)
Cute building, eh? Did I mention that the parliament has 28 members?
We can't tour the building, though we walk right on in and aren't bothered.
So, we play with the furnishings in what I surmise passes as the lobby.
OK, done with touring for now, we head for some tapas.
We have grilled baby squid (garlic-buttery cuttlefish that are really good, so long as you want to ward off evil spirits with your breath in the middle of the night), calamari (which we saw on numerous menus) and bread with Manchego (a nice Spanish cheese, for which, now that we're closer to Barcelona, we decice to finally start our taste tests). Everything has this 'Russian salad' side dish, which is like a slaw.
We go back out that night for a late dinner.
They have what I associate with a Bavarian style of painting their building facades.
They even paint this church, which illustrates how to be a good Christian (be humble, compassionate, peaceful, etc).
I like this one.
So, we really just have wine and cheese.
Ella was a complete pain for about 45 seconds, then passed out on the seat next to Jill.
(She was a great kid the whole time. I just loved this shot, though.)
today's original itinerary