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Friday, January 22 to Sunday, January 31, 2016

We took off at the beginning of a snowstorm, which turned out to be the 3rd largest snowstorm in DC’s history. We were 4 1/2 hours delayed, as we had to wait in line to be de-iced, only international flights could take off, airport closed to all other flights.

We were 21 participants on this flight, 3 other participants met the group at hotel in Andorra. We flew Air France via Paris to Barcelona. On arrival in Paris due to the delay, we had missed our connection, however, Air France had already re-booked the whole group on another flight, turned out we had to run not to miss this one too. All this meant that most of us did not get our luggage on arrival in Barcelona going to Andorra. Air France managed to have most all luggage delivered to Ski Plaza Hotel in Andorra late the next day.

The bus trip from Barcelona to Andorra was a smooth and relatively easy 3 hour trip. Our vendor had joined our group with another group of 8 people from Over the Hill Gang from New Jersey / New York area, I was informed of this upon arrival in Barcelona. They had arrived at 7 am, we arrived at 5 PM, they were not happy, and being the trip leader I did hear about this more than once during the week!

The Ski Plaza Hotel in Canillo (a small village) Andorra was a very nice hotel. They served buffet breakfast during a few hours in the morning (no need to rush) and the dinner was also served buffet style with all complimentary wine and champagne, all you wanted. The buffet changed slightly every night and had plenty of choices for everyones tastebuds.

One night during the week there was a band playing blues at the hotel, did not see many in our group attending, however, there were other groups at the hotel, equally loud as the band playing.

The hotel was about a 5-10 minute walk to the Gondola. The ski mountains was not very crowded during this week, at most there were 10 people in line at any of the gondolas or lifts.

The snow was ok, but it was spring skiing during this week. Andorra had not had any new snow for a couple of weeks, and during our week the daytime temperature was about 40 degrees and mostly sunny with clear blue sky. I understand from the expert skiers in the group that they found plenty of runs with good snow and challenges. I had arranged with the vendor for a Mountain Tour (at a cost of Euro 35) on the first day of skiing. Many in our group participated and I understand it was great. I did hear from several in our group that skiing the whole mountain range (ski area) without stopping took about 3 hours.

Our group included a few new group members, who did venture to the other ski resort in western Andorra called Vallnord. It was a much smaller area and not as big as the one we were at called Grandvalira.

Mid week I had arranged, again with the vendor, a full day excursion trip to Carcassonne, France which is a double walled medieval town from the 12th century. Trip included a guided tour of the fort (the guide was a historian and very passional about this town). A typical lunch from this area was included as was the wine. Most participants in our group signed up for this excursion.

A few of the participants did not ski much or did not ski at all, but Andorra has a lot to offer besides skiing, it is a great place to go shopping (tax free) or sightseeing or go to the spa.

On Saturday morning we checked out of the Ski Plaza Hotel going to Barcelona for an overnight stay at Hotel Catalonia Plaza Catalunya which was located very conveniently in middle of town, a block from La Rambla (main street in Barcelona). I noted several people taking advantage of early afternoon arrival in Barcelona to go sightseeing and having a typical Spanish dinner, paella.

Early next morning most participants in our group (some stayed behind, extending their trip) and the OHG group, went on the bus to the airport for the return trip home.

A footnote, the OHG group’s trip leader (also our vendor) had to leave mid week to rush back to the US due to a family emergency. A few additional “issues” was added to my responsibility as a trip leader, e.g finding missed luggage, this time left behind by participant in Andorra; handling vendor’s ski equipment to be sent back to the US; being the news bearer of none to be had promised soccer tickets for a few participants who had signed up to go. However, to my knowledge everything has worked out to the best.

All in all it was a great trip.

Anneli Sexton

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