Sep 182014

After fueling up at Starbucks…


…it was time to find terminal 3 at CDG. I made my way to the CDGVal train, which was pretty self explanatory, and then there was the maybe 200 meter walk to T3. It seemed kind of silly, but I’m used to the C-terminal train at Dulles which also involves a long walk to the terminal, so I’m used to strangely planned train systems.

What I’m not used to is airport terminals that feel like a warehouse. Or bus terminal. Some place that not only doesn’t have first class facilities, but no lounges whatsoever. It was a terrifying place. I started to break out in a cold sweat. What’s this…a line…and there’s no way to cut to the front of it. What’s worse, after 20 minutes standing in it, I was still stuck in the line!  Dear God, I take back every thing I’ve said about how being elite on United no longer is what it used to be…it was traumatizing.  30 minutes later, I was at the front of the line…and based how slowly the line moved I expected the Spanish Inquisition (see what I did there?) before I could check in.

J’ai déja enregistré et j’ai besoin seulement de mon carte d’embarquement….” (looks at passport, tap tap tap, clunk clunk clunk) and out comes my boarding pass. That’s it.  15 seconds. I waited in line for 30 minutes for a 15 second transaction. Dear Vueling: YOU NEED KIOSKS. KTHXBYE LOVE YOU.

I still had about an hour until my flight, so find a little store selling bottled water…it was reasonably priced and I decided to head for security. Took all of 5 minutes to get through, and the waiting area on the other side was just a large collection of seats for 5 or 6 “gates” which were really just doors to busses since T3 has no jetbridges.

Bus to the plane at departure time, and we finally left about 20 minutes late. I’d paid an extra 10 euro to sit in the exit row, which at 6’3 is more than worth it. I shared the row with two very lovely ladies from Kansas who were going on a Mediterranean cruise.  They spent the next 90 minutes telling me all the fascinating things they’d discovered in their few days in Paris. I did lots of smiling and nodding and pretending to be fascinated 😉

Vueling flight 8243
Paris, Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Barcelona, Spain (BCN)
Depart 9:50, Arrive 11:35, Flight Time 1:45
Airbus A320, Registration EC-JSY, Manufactured 2006, Seat 14D

So, what was it like to fly a low cost carrier?  Well, not that bad.

I had legroom.  Chatty, but nice row-mates.  I got a Coke Light…it cost me like 3 euro, but I got one.  We were only 30 minutes late, so all in all, I can’t really complain too much.  The best part was the exit row briefing…you had to speak and understand either Catalan or English to be allowed to sit there.  I got briefed in Spanish, which I was super proud of being able to pass well enough in, and the nice ladies from Kansas got briefed in English.  All went well.

Then…it was off through Barcelona to find my car.  I have a confession here.  I can’t drive a manual transmission.  About 100 countries ago I said I’d learn.  I still haven’t.

My options?  A Mercedes E Class at 199 Euro a day (for two days…ouch!) or a Smart Car for about 50 Euro a day.  You can guess what I chose.  The rental agent spoke basic english, and combined with my basic Spanish we got the song and dance done…including the “are you SURE you don’t want extra insurance?”  Yes.  “Oh, and one last thing…se llama Pépé.”  Yes, my car had a name according to the rental agent.



Now, it’s important to remember.  I’m not a small guy.  I’m 6’3 and north of 200 pounds.  There was enough room in this car for me and my one tiny bag, but that’s about all.  I was welcomed with this hangtag in the car:


She’s winking at me…there’s something she knows I don’t.  Oh, wait, it’s how to drive this thing!  Wait, I have to shift even though it’s an automatic?  Yes, there’s no clutch, but still the shift from 1st to 2nd up to 5th etc was a manual shift.  Once I kinda got the hang of that…I was off.  Fortunately it took a long time to get out of the car park, which gave me lots of practice.  Programmed Google Maps on my iPhone to read me directions to Andorra…and I was off to brave the highways of Spain!

The first hour was a bit of a hot mess.  I made several wrong turns, forgot to shift, got stuck doing 80 kph on the highway, it was a wreck.  But eventually after 90 minutes or so I was getting the hang of it.  Just in time to pull into a rest stop and refuel.  I needed caffeine and calories.  See, isn’t Pépé gorgeous in the sunlight?  It was about 85F and a gorgeous day.


So what did I find?  That’s right…Red Bull and ham flavoured potato chips…lol.  They did the trick, however.  I was ready to continue on.


Another hour or so later, I reached the Andorra border.  Pull up to the agent, hand him my passport, and attempt to tell him in Spanish…and then in French, that I would like a stamp in my passport.  He responded in rapid-fire Catalan.  I tried again….”Pourriez-vous le tamponer svp?”  (accompanied by a stamping motion.)  NO!  Hands my passport back, and waves me through.  Sigh.

At least there was a welcome to Andorra sign.  In Catalan of course:


Made it no problem to Andorra la Vella maybe 20-30 minutes later, and got lost trying to find my hotel.  I mainly got lost because there are pedestrian streets in the centre of town, which are ok to drive on IF you are going somewhere on them…like my hotel.  I think I went around the blocks a few times until I saw someone else do it (and this was after getting lost in a random parking garage) and finally found my hotel and parked.

Checked into the Hotel a Casa Canut (recommended by a friend), and the doorman took my car away, and parked it in a garage somewhere for me.  Room was decent ,and I sent out to wander before the sun set.  Walked to the old city, and first sight was a church:



Square in the old town:


View of the mountains from old town:


Another view of the church:


The mountains:




Selfie in front of the mountains…didn’t realize how rough I was working after a night on the plane…or from flying a low cost carrier…not sure which…


Sun was starting to set, which I took as the cue that it was tapas-o-clock.

Some “white sangria” along with octopus and some fritters.  Delicious.


Some sightseeing on the way back to the hotel:


River through the centre of town:


Ferris wheel near the hotel:


Hotel a Casa Canut at sunset:


Grabbed a shower and changed.  I wasn’t in the mood to do anything super long or formal for dinner, so had the hotel recommend somewhere for me.  They recommended an “italian restaurant popular with locals” just a few blocks away.  It was authentic…to the point only Catalan was spoken, and there seemed to be only locals.  Excellent!  The name was Pizzeria Angelo.

At least water and wine are universal:


Had no idea what I wanted, so communicated to the waiter I want three courses…bring me what you think the best things on the menu are that “are good with this wine.”

We started off with a gaspacho which was absolutely amazing:


Next was the “specialty de la casa” – the “Pizza Angelo” – a half portion:


…all followed by an amazing warm apple tart with ice cream.  YUM.


I was absolutely wiped out after a long day of driving, flying, and two nights on a plane…and headed back to my hotel and passed out for nearly 10 full hours.

  2 Responses to “Paris to Barcelona, and driving to Andorra in a little Smart Car”

  1. Great job making it to Andorra! Another country down, and an interesting way to get there yourself (most take a bus from BCN).

  2. I’m exhausted just reading the report, but I enjoyed it very much!

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