Andorra, Andorre, anglais, Barcelona, Barcelone, beach, desert, English, espagne, espagnol, Espanya, Europe, francais, France, French, Grabels, hiking, IES, La Vella, Llac d'Engolasters, Montpellier, mountains, Pyrenees, solo, solo travel, Spain, Spanish, student, study abroad, tapas, tenting, topless beach, travel
Johannes and I were mistaken. We had not found a hidden spot, our tent was not next to a pile of dirt, and the people here were not permitting of campers. My alarm went off at 7AM, I turned it off and looked to see that Johannes was still sleeping. Just then, a motor came up the hillside. I could hear it slow down as it came closer. Suddenly, it stopped just behind the tent. I could hear a voice shouting from the top of the retaining wall behind us, saying in Spanish “No camping here!” and whistling loudly. I woke Johannes and he poked his head out to reply to the guy that we would leave. The truck continued. We stepped outside to find our car was visible from the road and village, that we were in fact next to a pile of manure, and that it was so unbearably cold all night long because we were across the valley from snowcapped mountains. We packed up quickly and headed into town to find something for breakfast.
We grabbed a quick coffee before heading over to meet the others. Then, all five of us piled into the car with our gear and headed just northeast to Llac d’Engolasters. This was a large lake situated on the top of a mountain. We got out and took pictures of some farm animals, the lake, and the trails around it. We walked the trails for an hour or so and came back to ask someone at the nearby hotel where we could find a good view of the city. We heard another woman speaking Catalan to the man as she walked out and were surprised that this man spoke also French and Spanish. He directed us to a trail just down the hillside.
We walked down one switchback and followed the trails we needed to take us though a stone tunnel. Gina was wearing a pair of Johannes’s boots, which was completely the wrong size, looked proportionately ridiculous, and thus extremely funny. A random hiker even pointed them out as we walked. We found the tunnel, went through it, and turned to see a metal staircase. We climbed the stairs to a shaky platform made of weathered wood and took photographs of what appeared to be the city of La Vella far below in the valley to the southwest of where we stood. We continued down the path a little farther and came across some men practicing combat with wooden sticks. That’s when we decided to turn around, walk back, and head into the city for lunch. We passed a wedding in an old chapel along the way back down the switchbacks.
We ended up eating at Mama’s in town where they sold a lot of tapas and pizza. I got tapas, the rest got pizza, and we shared a pitcher of Sangria. We then passed through a large shopping complex where I bought an enormous Tolberone chocolate bar, Johannes bought cigarettes, and Erin bought tobacco for her host mom. The prices were ridiculously low. Johannes also picked up some wine for his dad and some Spanish San Miguel beer for us to try. We walked back to the smaller shops on the way to the car and were upset to find all of the stores were closed for the afternoon. We were unable to buy postcards unless we went back to the large complex, so we packed up the car, filled up on extremely cheap gas, and headed towards the Spanish border.
In virtually no time, we were passing signs for “Espanya” and going through the customs gates to enter Spain. For the next two or so hours, we drove south and southeast through the countryside of northern Spain, passing wide plains and towering cliffs that reminded me of my days in Arizona’s desert. There were vineyards much like we had seen on the whole trip and the only significant different in the towns from southern France was that the license plates said “E” for Espagne instead of “F” for “France”. In Andorra, the plates are smaller like the ones in the States and say “Principat d’Andorra”. A lot of oval stickers on cars would say “AND”. We continued our drive farther and farther into Spain and, when we got near to Montserrat, we could see a towering chain of ragged tops looming in the distance for miles. We hadn’t intended to, but we ended up in the heart of Barcelona. Johannes cussed at his GPS and later told me he wished the other girls hadn’t already booked a hostel in Montpillier; now we were bound by their travel plans and missed a chance to see the Saturday nightlife in Barcelona, passing Montpillier in the morning. Instead, we headed just north of the city to a beach on the Balearic Sea.
We swam for 20 or so minutes in water that was cool but considerably warmer than what Johannes and I had swum in at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The break was good. Johannes and I swam out very far with his underwater camera and were doing backflips in the swells. A couple of us found a jellyfish in the water. Johannes told me I might find shark teeth, but I sifted through the pebbly sand and didn’t see any teeth, shells, etc., only some beach glass and rocks. Gina and Kate didn’t have suits with them so they swam in underwear. I told them they didn’t even need a bra; there were several women around us who were swimming topless. Children on the shore were running and shouting “Bar-ce-lo-na!”. On a rocky outcrop to the south, men were casting lines for fishing. To the north, there was a dock with several boats at harbor. On the horizon we could see sailboats and a couple cruiseships in the distance. The area was full of blooming, bright flowers, including vines full of Morning Glories. When we were done relaxing, we walked through an underground tunnel that bypassed the train station and got back into our cars.
The others pressured us continuously on the drive to make it to Montpillier by 11PM. Johannes was so stressed trying to make this deadline that, when Kate took a picture and her camera accidentally flashed, he cussed loudly in German, thinking it was ticket number seven in his rearview mirror. We finally rolled into Montpillier by 10:30PM, then had a fun time finding the hostel without anything but the street name. The others hadn’t looked up where it was in the city. We got the GPS to find it and eventually got near the hostel, but so many streets were closed down due to the people out drinking. There are posts that rise and sink out of the street and all of them were raised, so we dropped the girls off as close as we could get and passed back through the illuminated Arc de Triomphe to find a camping site.
Johannes had camped here once before and opted to head north into the countryside rather than go south to the beach. We thus passed through the town of Grabels and into a remote area that appeared to be an industrial park with a construction site. We drove on a curb to get around a barrier on an exit on a roundabout and found our way to a dead end that looked isolated. We set up camp next to our car, tying the tent to the side of the car to defend against the wind and the fact that we couldn’t pin the tent into the asphalt. Half of the tent was on the asphalt, the other half on gravel that we were able to sink the pins into. We could hear a metallic door rattle somewhere in the wind and see the outlines of a building in the distance. A car came down a sideroad, but Johannes reported that the person didn’t seem to care that we were there and attended whatever it was by the metal gate instead. I took the asphalt side, Johannes took the gravel, then we had some San Miguels and fell asleep much more soundly in the warm, breezy air than we had on the mountaintop the night before.
An attempt to get us all in a picture with the view of the lake and the snowcaps.
Johannes watching Llac d’Engolasters.
The other girls walking along a road in the park.
Me in front of a view of La Vella from a mountain.
Giant chocolate bar, woo!
Us at the beach just north of Barcelona; mixed choice of swimming attire haha.