Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Visiting Andorra had eluded me during my previous European travels. Tucked into the Pyrenees Mountains on the border between France and Spain, this tiny country has no airport and no international train service. Other than driving, the only way to get to Andorra is by bus from Barcelona and Girona in Spain, or Toulouse, France. This year, however, I had planned a visit to Toulouse, so I set aside three days to explore what Andorra had to offer.

An hour into the ride, I realized why there is no airport or rail line to Andorra. My bus turned off the highway onto a narrow, twisty two-lane road and began its ascent into the Pyrenees. Before long we were surrounded by exquisite green hills and knife-sharp black peaks, where patches of snow still showed in mid-summer. Scene of astonishing beauty lay in every direction. I wanted to ride forever, circling endlessly through the Alps.

Visiting Andorra required taking a bus from Toulouse, France, but the upside was the magnificent scenery along the way.

Visiting Andorra required taking a bus from Toulouse, France, but the upside was the magnificent scenery along the way.

After checking into my hotel, I set out to explore the capital city of Andorra la Vela. It didn’t take long; the entire country is only 181 square miles in size, and I walked the capital city from end-to-end in a couple of hours. At the eastern edge of the capital, I continued into the adjoining city of Escaldes-Engordany, home to Caldea Spa. While duty-free shopping, casinos, and winter sports may be the main reasons for visiting Andorra, I had come for the spa, which is reputed to be the largest in Europe. There was no trick to finding it. It’s 262-foot high mirrored glass spire is Andorra’s highest building. Read More

Surrealist Salvador Dali sculpture in Andorra la Vella, Andorra

Click on title to view photo in large format. Sandwiched between Spain and France, the country of Andorra may be tiny but it has some BIG art. This Salvador Dali sculpture in Andorra la Vella is displayed in the capital city’s main plaza. A simple plaque confirms it is a piece by the famous artist, but its surrealist melting clock leaves little doubt.

The bronze “Nobility of Time sculpture” is quintessentially Dali. The 16-foot tall piece was donated to the Andorran government by Enric Sabater, who was Dali’s agent between 1968 and 1982. Given its immense value, I was astounded Read More

Glass spire of the Caldea Spa in Escaldes-Engordany, Andorra, dominates the city skyline

Click on title to view photo in large format. The glass spire of Caldea Spa dominates the skyline of Escaldes-Engordany, neighbor to Andorra’s capital city of Andorra la Vella. With more than 460,000 square feet of space, Caldea is said to be the largest spa in Europe. Completed in 1994, the 262-foot high glass building is also the tallest building in Andorra. Read More

Children romp in the fountain at Promenade du Paillon in Nice, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. The Promenade du Paillon is a broad piazza that separates the historic center of Nice from the new town. At its center, water spouts dance in the air, sometimes high, sometimes low. The fountain attracts families with children from early morning until late at night. Some kids try to block the geysers by covering them with their tiny hands. Other try to catch the dancing water or dance to its rhythm. At night, colored spotlights Read More

Sun sets over the Port Lympia in Nice, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. While most of the focus in Nice, France, is on the town’s beaches and the historic Old Town, the nearby Port Lympia is worth a stroll. Port Lympia was once a bustling commercial port. These days, one of the few commercial activities that occurs at the port is shipment of cement, an important export in the area. Beyond the cement plant, however, the port is a veritable showcase of luxurious Read More

Beau Rivage Beach in Nice, France, looking toward Opera Beach

Click on title to view photo in large format. Nice, France is perhaps best known for the string of beaches that line its beautiful crescent bay. Some are public and free, while others are private and require either an entrance fee or a chair rental fee. This photo is of public Beau Rivage Beach in Nice, looking toward the private Opera Beach. Read More