How do you spend a Summer’s day in Andorra? Hike! 

Andorra is usually known for it’s skiing, but La Vella being the highest capital City in Europe I knew there must be some great hiking trails. I headed to the tourist centre by the river and gathered the info I required. Stopping off at a supermarket I grabbed supplies and had some very chocolatey croissants to energise me. 

I had been told to take a bus from Carrer de la Valira up towards de la plana. It was pretty easy using basic Spanish to get up there and the driver pointed me in the direction of a path up into the mountains. 

The view from here was pretty good so I couldn’t wait to get higher up. The first part of the hike was a gentle incline through  some shaded woods along a little stream. I had an idea of where to head towards but after hitting a couple of forks in the path I wasn’t quite sure where I was going apart from up. 

I got to a bridge and crossed over a mountain river I had started to follow. This was the first point of meeting some fellow hikers, a family of 5 walking up. They would be they first of only 3 groups I would see in 6 hours. I was completely surrounded by nature, and it was magnificent. I had my headphones in and my indie/folk playlist to keep me company as I continued up a path that was becoming steeper and steeper by the minute. To make matters more interesting it was also getting hotter and hotter. 

I went past an old stone church and farmhouse, the last piece of civilisation I would see for a while, and emerged out of the trees to views that were breathtaking. 

I had already climbed pretty high, following the path that wound up into the wilderness and stopped to re-hydrate with some spicy gazpacho. Another couple of hours into my journey I would be cursing the fact that I thought a 500ml bottle of gazpacho would keep me hydrated for 6 or 7 hours of hiking. Right now though I was thinking how delicious it was as I popped a few olives into my mouth and grabbed a babybel. 

I continued my walk, passing a stream pouring out of a crack in a rock, as it was getting warmer I splashed the ice cold water over my face. It was so refreshing as I began to walk through more forest, the dappled floor ahead of me dancing as the leaves moved slowly in the wind. 

The peacefulness of it all was great but by this point I had been walking for around 2 and a half hours I decided to keep hydrated by filling my empty gazpacho bottle with the fresh mountain water from the river. I wasn’t sure how much longer it was to the top, luckily Google maps was working up here! It said about 2 km longer but now it was getting steeper. I made my way (slowly) up, following the river before emerging into a beautiful mountain meadow.

The last bit of the climb followed the river up but it was now nothing more than a little stream flowing underground beneath me. It was really hard going now, I was tired and had to stop every 5 minutes or so because of the heat. I finally made it to the top, 2200 metres above sea level! 

I was hoping that the mountain but on the map would be similar to one I hiked to in Romania, with food and drinks and somewhere to sit and enjoy the view. Unfortunately it was just a camping hut with some beds, tools and signs of recent use. It would be great fun to camp out there in the Pyrenees with your mates. Exploring the area and having bbqs, another time maybe! 

I spent a little time up here catching my breath and recharging my batteries, knowing it was going to take at least 3 hours to get back down. Once ready I started the long descent down, it wasn’t actually so bad, I managed to emerge from the forest looking over the City and followed the roads down, I stopped at a shop and treated myself to an ice cream and downed a huge bottle of water. 

I followed the river back towards the hotel, going past more statues, and finally making it back after 7 hours of walking. I loved every minute of it and the best part was only seeing about 8 people in total. Great to have all of that nature to yourself, I collapsed on the bed and chilled out for a bit before going downstairs and having a couple of beers at the bar and chatting to the locals. 

At this point it was late but I was starving so I quickly googled nearby restaurants and found a cool sounding burger place called ‘and burger zero’ It was amazing, chilli cheese fries and incredible burger. Not sure if it tasted even better because of the hike though. It’s my last day of travelling tomorrow and another early bus journey down to Barcelona, Spain. 

Beziers and the solo traveller. 

So after a bit of a work change I have more flexibility to travel than ever before! So I decided to test out solo travelling my destination? Southwest France, incorporating Carcassone, heading into Andorra for a Pyrenees hike, and finally a quick stop in Barcelona. 

Budget airlines do really cheap flights to Beziers, my starting off point. With sights such as the cathedral and canals I couldn’t wait. Packed up and ready to go, I grabbed a burger and pint in the airport. The flight was all cloud up until we got to the South of France, when beautiful sunshine lit Beziers up as we flew overhead. It’s a quick and easy bus journey direct from the airport, and even at 6pm it was hot hot hot! 

The bus drops you off at the train station, and unfortunately my cheap hotel was about a mile or so from the centre. So off I trekked, sweating in the evening heat but loving the views of impressive churches and a huge arena on the outskirts. I dropped my bags off at the hotel, had a quick shower to freshen up and, with no buses available walked back to the City centre. 

Now at first I wasn’t so sure about Beziers, walking around as night fell I felt a little intimidated by the feel of the place. It was very quiet and there were lots of little streets which I tried to avoid as best I could. I walked across Allees Paul Riquet, a huge boulevard that cuts through the City centre. From here I headed down to the river Orb to catch a view of the cathedral all lit up on the hilltop this made me feel better about Beziers, it was beautiful. 

Oh I forgot to mention Beziers is located on a big hill, so lots of steep streets winding up to the cathedral. I took one of these streets to a pretty square with some nicely lit up buildings and, following a little street found myself walking beneath lovely coloured umbrellas. It was getting late now and being on my own I struggled finding somewhere to eat. So I walked back to the hotel and got some stuff from the vending machine… so spent the night eating and organising my full day in Beziers tomorrow. 

Seeing as it was such great weather I decided to walk along a stretch of the canal du midi, regarded as one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. It’s 240km long and runs from Toulouse down to the Meditteranean. 

I walked down to the station, picking up some food and drinks for the walk and quickly found the river. It was stunning countryside and I saw a majestic bridge going over the river. This was my starting point on the canal, climbing some steep steps up on the canal I started walking, enjoying the warm sun and peaceful tranquillity of the place. 

I was headed for the famous Fonserannes lock, where 8 locks and 9 gates allow a boat to rise 21.5m over 300m. Unfortunately I branched off left at the locks, followed a dried up old system of bringing the boats up, and didn’t find a way to cross back over further up! 

I tried to walk around but ended up back near Beziers so decided to explore the town. I stopped off by the bridge looking over to the cathedral, I think it’s even more magnificent in the day. Here I are my snacks, one of which was a weird seafood pasty which was actually really tasty! It’s called Tielle Setoise and it’s stuffed with a tomatoey octopus filling. 

I sat on a little park bench and marvelled at the views for a while before crossing the bridge over to the base of the hill. A steep climb upwards and I was back on the square I had found the night before. I headed straight to the colourful umbrella streets and wandered up and down them all with my face permanently looking upwards. 

It was so hot I needed to cool down so I got a couple of ice cold drinks from a little shop. Used my best Merci and Au Revoir, then linked myself down by the Eglise de la Madeleine, a pretty church and a nice spot to test before I hit the main site. 

The cathedral in Beziers was built in the 13th century, and you can see for miles from the viewpoint at the courtyard looking over the river. 

Inside glows with the stained glass windows colourful depictions, and for a donation you can climb up to the top of the cathedral tower. It’s definitely not for the faint hearted, going up the winding spiral staircases, the steps worn away by hundreds of years of use. However, the views once you get to the top are amazing. You get a 360° look at Beziers and the surrounding countryside. 

I spent quite a bit of time up here, the breeze was cool and there was enough to look at to keep me interested. 

Eventually I took the descent back down and noticed a couple go through a little door round at the front of the cathedral, I was so glad I followed them, finding a lovely courtyard which led to some gardens on the slope of the hill. 

I headed back towards the Allees Paul Riquet and spent some time relaxing in the nearby ‘poets’ park. Plateau des poetes is unsurprisingly dedicated to various poets and is seen as conducive for writing them. It has a few pretty fountains and gardens to walk around, and sculptures of poets dotted about the place. It also has a very grand monument at one of the entrances.

I had been out for 9 hours at this point, and had seen most of the sights I could find about Beziers, so I started the long walk back to the hotel. I arrived back and was knackered, so I enjoyed the aircon in the room, packed my stuff up and checked my itinerary for the next day. I was headed to Carcassone and couldn’t wait! 

As hunger drew me out of the room I realised there was a McDonald’s 5 minute walk away. Shamefully I stuffed my face with a blue cheese and bacon based speciality burger. Sat on a balcony loolimg over a busy main road, I was finding it difficult to go to a restaurant as a solo traveller, preferring to get picnic food or takeaway. 

Full to the brim I staggered back to the hotel, ready for an early train in the morning to make the most of my day in Carcassone.