The SLCenic Route – Episode 9

Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.

When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!

In this episode Graham falls for Andora, thankfully without falling off it.

The SLCenic Route

Episode 9 – Pamplona to Andorra (275 miles)

Still thinking about yesterday’s trip to Sad Hill cemetery so need a nice relaxing day to think about how to organise a trip back there with friends. Two words came to mind, invigorating and tranquil. Don’t understand how it can be both in equal amounts and at the same time but it is, sometimes we just have to accept what we feel.

To bring me to my senses I forgot to concentrate when driving out of the carpark first thing this morning, drove down the wrong side of the road for 50 yards. Thankfully only my pride dented! Although on that note, driving on “wrong” side has been easy, but walking and then crossing roads has gone through the stage of checking the wrong direction for cars approaching to now not knowing which is the wrong direction. Sad wee brain is confused.

And back down to earth with a bump, Pamplona, I was interested to see what the attraction of a Bull Run is all about. The impression you get from pictures and videos is that Pamplona is a typical small beautiful Spanish town that because of history still treats the bulls to undue stresses and a slow painful death. Perhaps seeing the town and talking to people, they might show and teach me why it happens…

Pamplona itself is nothing like the impression the pictures give, it is a big sprawling modern horribly commercial new town of 200,000 people full with blocks of ugly flats and high rise buildings. I didn’t stop and left them to their cruelty.

Obviously, there are a number of towns in Spain and Portugal that do Bull Runs and I did check before travelling when and where they took place so that I could avoid being caught up in anything. You would have to be stupid, not to check before going to the towns during the summer and the Bull Run season.

The drive to Andorra, traveling east along the edge of the Pyrenees was as expected awesome, avoiding the toll roads once again turned out to be full of jaw dropping sights as we seemed to bounce along the edge of the Pyrenees waiting for a gap to turn left and head for Andorra.

Of course there wouldn’t be a drive along Spanish roads without seeing a hilltop adorned with a Castle, Monastery etc. except as it is the Pyrenees, the hilltops are a wee bit bigger. The “Our Lady of Pueyo Monastery” survived being attacked, something to do with its walls having open doors inviting people in.

And then more breath-taking scenery until eventually the Pyrenees opens the narrowest of gaps and allows you to turn left to Andorra.

A few little known facts you need to know about Andorra:

Residents are very friendly, relaxed and as it is unburdened of too many religious influences it treats every day of the week the same with workers having time off as required.

The water is fresh and tasty, no need to add flavourings to make it drinkable. Not sure if those 2 things are significant, but it has the highest life expectancy in the world at 81.

It has more petrol stations and perfume shops than people, honest.

If you want to build on a cliff employ an Andorran builder.

Only a small part of Andorra is on top of the Pyrenees, once you get to the Andorran/Spanish border you still have what feels like 5 mountains worth of slopes to climb.

There are more middle aged Valentino Rossis on the roads than anywhere else and by the number of roadside bouquets of flowers it is probably also the organ donor capital of the world.

It has the highest capital city in Europe and so far the best Airbnb I’ve stayed in. Highly recommend a visit; as a tax haven it’s streets ahead of Gibraltar.

Click here to read Episode 10