Andorra is a tiny country of about 80,000 souls tucked into the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. It has a reputation as a place to live if you want to avoid paying tax, but this may be less true these days. Quite a few professional bike racers call Andorra home for at least part of the year due in part to easy access to terrifying climbs and descents.

I thought today’s post would be full of photos of the country, specifically the town of Andorra La Vella where we are spending the night. But things turned out differently.

First, we came across a charming French village along the way and spent more time there than expected. Second, while Andorra’s mountain setting is spectacular, the town is pretty Euro-modern dull. Clean? Yes. Filled with high end shops? Yes. A little soulless. Kind of like the Interlaken area of Switzerland.

So, today’s post has been hijacked by Villefranche-le-Conflent. It’s very small, old, surrounded by mountains and watched over by a castle. It also has a strange tradition involving friendly witches that I did not entirely decode.

…in case you thought I was exaggerating when I mentioned the volume of plastic grot sold in these places.

A cunning way to guard against intruders: no ground floor entrance! A ladder was used to enter from the first floor and was pulled up for security.

Quite a few of the shops use hanging black metal signs to advertise their wares. I got kind of carried away photographing them.

Anyone who’s watched a Pyrenees stage of the Tour de France, has an idea of what the roads are like. Let me just add that driving in Pierre Peugeot with another car riding your bumper and a large truck coming the other way, things can get a bit tense.

But once you climb up to the high mountain plateau, it’s really pleasant. The first photo is looking back towards France, the second is from our lunch stop along the roadside.

A few photos from Andorra La Velle. Am I being too harsh on the place? You decide.

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