We’ve just got back from a weekend in Andorra. It didn’t get off to a brilliant start in that the car decided to die the on the school run that morning. After Alex and the kids had walked the two kilometres or so (uphill all the way) back to the house as he had forgotten his phone, the garage told us that, basically, we need a new engine. Brilliant. Our other car has a habit of cutting out whenever it feels like at the mo and we didn’t really trust it in the mountains so instead we hired a tiny Ford Fiesta and manage to cram in four pairs of skis and boots and a few pairs of pants. So all’s well that ends well.
We had never been to Andorra before and stayed at Hotel Bonavida in Canillo, which was recommended by friends. I booked a superior family room as I liked the look of the little half-wall which ran between the kids’ beds and ours and the room was massive – it even had a little separate lounge area and was very reasonably priced.
The hotel was great, really friendly staff and very child-friendly – it had a nice little playroom right by reception and close to the bar where we felt confident enough to leave the kids while we had a much-needed beer. All too often hotel playrooms seem to be tucked away in the basement, which isn’t really ideal for anyone. It also had an excellent boot room with a heated rack – it’s amazing how much easier ski boots are to put on when they are not freezing cold – and was just across the road from the big cable car which takes you up to the resort.
Normally we ski in France, and whenever we ski anywhere else it somehow always seems much more relaxed. We had booked Toby and Livi into ski lessons for the morning and dutifully arrived at the ski school at 9.40am. “Lessons start at 11 today,” we were told, but in such a lovely, Spanish way it somehow wasn’t even annoying. So we skied about a bit and took the kids back for 11am, where about four small children were being presented with their bibs. The teacher asked me what kind of standard the kids were and said it would probably be boring for Toby as he is quite fast now and he’d probably be better off skiing with us.
Which was fine – Toby is very whizzy now and really I had only booked him into a lesson as I thought otherwise Livi would complain if Toby was skiing with us and she wasn’t. The skiing was good, the snow very well-groomed (although thinning – it was so warm!) and there is an incredible snow park, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Livi’s lesson finished at 2pm, and it felt very racy having lunch so late as it would be almost UNTHINKABLE in France. We had a very uninspiring meal at the canteen in Canillo and then both kids said they were too tired to ski any more, so they went to the guarderia for a play. Again this was very difference to France – no form-filling, no prebooking, just “OK if we leave the kids with you?” and a phone number. Fabulous.
One problem with travelling with children in Europe, and in particular in Spain (or Andorra in this case) is that it is often hard to find somewhere to eat early. The hotel restaurant didn’t open till 7.45pm and we weren’t hopeful of finding anything bar burgers at 6.30pm, so we were delighted to find La Roda just over the road, serving decent food, reasonably priced. The kids were in bed by 8pm, exhausted, while we read and chatted quietly on the other side of our half-wall.
Despite the early night, Livi was complaining that she was still too tired to ski in the morning and she did look utterly exhausted – so we took a last-minute decision to cancel her lesson and put her in the guarderia instead. As she hadn’t taken the lesson, we didn’t have to pay for the creche and when we picked her up at lunchtime, she looked and seemed much happier.
We got her back on skis and went to Trattoria Vuoi in El Tartar which was a thousand times better than the previous day’s lunch and cost about the same, plus it had an excellent view of people doing jumps in the snowpark.
This winter in the south of France has been incredibly mild – we had lunch outside today – so I’m not sure how much more skiing we’ll get this season but if it gets colder again, I’d recommend Andorra highly. If you’re planning to take your family skiing, don’t forget to read my tips.