Nestled in the Pyrenees between Spain and France lies the Principality of Andorra. It is the smallest of the European Union (about 1/5 the size of Rhode Island) and only about 1/3 of it’s 83,000 citizens are actually from Andorra, but that doesn’t mean much when it comes to what it has to offer… great shopping (much of it tax free), lots of outdoor sports, fabulous weather and pristine views of mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see. The time we spent in Andorra this weekend was in Soldeu, in the northeast corner of this tiny country and I think that the entire town could be seen in under 5 minutes! Yes, it was that tiny but soooo worth a trip for our anniversary!
We started off our trip on Saturday morning, a little later than planned and then we were only delayed once again by accidentally not staying to the right when the GPS told us to and got on the wrong highway! 20 minutes later we were on our way to Andorra, less than a 3 hour journey by car. During the 3 hours we actually were in 3 countries which I also thought was pretty cool – Spain, France and of course, Andorra. Interestingly enough, it was only when entering Andorra, once again need I remind you, the tiniest country in the EU, that we saw anyone from customs.
By now we had been driving thru the Pyrenees for quite a while and while these mountains make many in NH seem rather small, it was still very reminiscent of home, without the fall foliage. The drive was stunning. And in between many of the mountains were small villages that had houses that appeared to be hundreds of years old with slate tile roofs, the slate never the same size twice which only added to not only it’s authenticity in my mind, but the simplicity of life here – you take what you can get.
A little after one, after driving along many switchbacks to inch our way up the mountain, we arrived at the Sport Hotel Hermitage in the town of Soldeu. Soldeu was about as big as my apartment and I think the Sport Hotel group owns pretty much all of it. They certainly have a monopoly for sure! This is an area that focuses on outdoor sports – skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking – if it’s outdoors, they probably have it. The hotel is more than happy to organize any excurisions you like, though for this particular trip, Josh and I only have relaxation in mind!
The hotel itself was gorgeous. It had the typical feel of a lodge to it with wood beams, views of the river below and the smell of the spa throughout the entire hotel which made you relax just by inhaling the calming scent. The only thing Josh and I noticed was that it seemed to lack fireplaces given that it’s peak season is in the winter ski season. We only saw one… but ah well, tons of comfy chairs to sit in, a nice bar and stunning views! http://www.hermitagehotel.sporthotelsandorra.co.uk/
Our room was luxurious, all browns and warm tones. With bathrobes perched on the bed, normally they would go unnoticed, but these were warm, fuzzy and brown which just only added to the luxury as far as we were concerned. We had a balcony with two chairs and a small table in which to take in the view. After a quick lunch by the picture window overlooking the mountain, we decided to head to the spa before our first treatments. After all, the spa was 4 floors and needed to be seen!!
The spa, the Sport Wellness Center, http://www.sportwellness.ad/en, also took great advantage of the view with all of the main facitilies overlooking the mountains in front of us. The first main floor had 4 large hot tubs (I’d say big enough for 15 people at least!) though thankfully because we were off season there were very few people and Josh and I got to soak by ourselves. We had a good laugh because all 4 hot tubs were lined up next to each other and our bubbles stopped about 2 minutes into our relaxation. Josh tried pushing the buttons but to no avail. There were still some jets but no bubbles… hmmm… about 10 minutes goes by and we see the tub next to us stop bubbling when all of a sudden our jets come back on full force, enough so to splash us in the face. Turns out the system alternates every other tub with the jets so that they aren’t constantly on. Makes sense and gave us a good laugh or two!
From there we went down to the pool, and oh my, I’ve never seen a pool so luxurious in my life!! First off when most places say they have a heated pool, it’s not really all that warm. Perhaps tepid if you are lucky… just not as cold as it would be if you were outside in the dead of winter. This pool was not only heated, but so warm it was almost too hot!! Within the pool which took up the entire floor and was broken up into sections, there were several areas that had tiled beds built into the side that had jets – so you could lay into the bed while being in the pool and get a massage. There were waterfalls that felt very cool as they splashed onto your head and then there were ones that were more like super powerful showerheads, though they were a little too powerful and kind of made my neck hurt a bit. Then you had the option to swim outside via a small curtain that cut off the inside from the cold outside.
After our swim we dried off and got ready for our first treatments. As a part of our anniversary weekend away I had arranged for a couples spa package which included a massage (hot and COLD stone), a facial and a scrub that included a milk bath and massage. The first day we had the massage and facial and it was Josh’s first facial… I think he may be hooked as he’s been obsessed with his skin ever since and asking me how often he should do this!
Sadly the massage finally came to an end and it was time to leave the spa to get ready for dinner in the hotel. Much to our surprise we came back to our room to see a bottle of cava chilling for us! We weren’t aware that it came with our room, but hey, when in Rome (or in this case Andorra), do as the Romans do and drink up! So we toasted to a wonderful, relaxing weekend and got ready for dinner.
Sadly dinner was a bit of a disappointment. The Hermitage is supposed to be a 5 star hotel and so we expected the same of their restaurant. Not only was the food subpar but so was the service. The waitstaff seemed hurried and were not knowledgeable of the food or wine when we asked questions and for recommendations. Now I don’t expect my waiter to be knowledgeable when I go to Bertucci’s but I do when I dine at somewhere that’s supposed to be considered upscale! The final insult was the desert that was supposed to be an Austrian Black Chocolate Tart… yum… but yet it wasn’t. It was like a very dry brownie with some whipped cream stuck between slices. We finally had to ask for that one to be taken off the bill and left the restaurant most definitely disappointed but at least we still had another morning of spa to look forward to!!
Sunday morning we awoke to some rain and chilly temps. You could see the fog rising to the right and left of us and there was a chill in the air that hadn’t been there the day before.
Once we got to the base of the mountain we were no longer engulfed in the fog but it was amazing to look up so high and see where it was so dense that you couldn’t see the mountain and know that we were just up there! We managed to get home just before 5PM. Our 2 days away felt like 5 UNTIL we walked in the door and were bombarded with whiny children. Ahhh well, only 2 weeks left until our next trip!!