I don’t know many people who know about Andorra, much less have traveled there. Everyone is missing out.
Once we dropped our rental car off in Toulouse, Abby and Szymon headed north to Bordeaux while Keith and I hopped on a bus down to Andorra. As awesome as Bordeaux sounded, clearly I can’t be stopped from visiting tiny countries when within their vicinity. (And let’s be honest, I’ll find my way to Bordeaux in the near future.)
The bus ride from Toulouse to Andorra la Vella was beautiful and well worth the trip in and of itself. Andorra is situated right in the middle of the Pyrenees, which is the mountain range that forms the border between Spain and France. Coming from France, you ascend pretty quickly and remarkably into the mountains. I was pretty blown away by the beauty of it all when our bus dropped us off in little downtown Andorra la Veija, the capital of Andorra. It felt like the opposite of Monaco; awesome and inviting. We spent our time hiking around the area and relaxing in our off-season ski resort. [I think people go to Andorra for two reasons: tax-free shopping and skiing. It being June, we were some of the few people in the country not there to shop!]
It was admittedly a little difficult to find good food in Andorra. There weren’t a lot of restaurants (or grocery stores?), and those we did walk by seemed generic. But one night, we had perhaps my favorite meals on this trip, perhaps one of the top ones in all my time traveling. [It actually reminded me a little of the dinner we ate in Kanazawa, Japan, which was maybe my favorite meal ever abroad.] Keith took to researching places with dedication, partly due to uninspiring previous meals in Andorra. Not finding much information about anything online (reviews, menus, opening hours, whether a place was still in business…), he suggested we take a risk on a tiny little restaurant about a forty-five minute walk from our resort that was open, according to the internet, from 20:30-22:00. Okay, no problem!
When we arrived at La Borda Xica, it was a little past 21:00. The door to the house was open (the restaurant was in what looked like a small stone home), and upon seeing nothing but a staircase, we went upstairs. We were greeted on the landing by an older woman who popped out from the closet-sized kitchen. I held up two fingers with an expectant smile, and felt a sense of relief when she gestured to an older man (her spouse, whose name I learned was Enric) who guided us to a table in the corner of a small and cosy dining room. It was charming and perfect, full of heavy wood furniture and things like portraits and crests hanging on the stone and timber walls. It was the kind of place I could see myself running one day. There were maybe sixteen or eighteen seats total; all empty except two guys lingering over some drinks and chatting with Enric. The menu was only in Catalan, Spanish and French, so I got to spend the evening speaking French with Enric (his spouse stayed in the kitchen mostly) and translating for Keith.
The food turned out to be exceptional, and while I don’t think I ate anything distinctly Andorran, I thoroughly enjoyed what came out of that tiny kitchen. The meal felt more like eating at an attentive friend’s home rather than a restaurant. You could tell Enric took so much pride in the whole dining experience at La Borda Xica, especially where wine and spirits were concerned. He provided a great recommendation for a Catalan wine that paired well with what we ordered and showed me a trick for how to cool a bottle of wine down quickly. Apart from the food, perhaps the best part of the meal, for me, was spent translating a discussion between Enric and Keith of which whiskey to order with dessert. (That exchange definitely put my French vocabulary to the test!) We ended up leaving well past the closing time, grateful for both the evening and the walk back to the resort (to burn off that decadent meal).