- Idiots Abroad (the Sequel)
- Barcelona: Russians, Strikes, Lingerie Billboards and Man Buns
- Welcome to Mallorca! OK, Time to Leave
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After our crazy whirlwind tour of Mallorca, you would think we would relax and kick back for a day or two, right? Wrong. My sister-in-law booked us an all-day excursion from Barcelona, with stops in Andorra and France. She paid for all of us, so there was no way I could back out. Plus, as tired as I was, the idea of visiting France seemed kind of cool.
You can find more tour info and booking details by clicking this link: Three countries in one day: France, Andorra and Spain ($139 for adult ticket, $104 per child)
Friends, this tour is incredible and I highly recommend you splurge on it. Sure, for a family of four or more, we are talking a significant chunk of money. Plus, not everyone is into this type of travel, aka “follow the leader” arrangement. But I can honestly say that it was one of the highlights of our visit to Spain.
Sure, it’s a lot of time to spend on a bus. But all the logistics are taken care of (aside from food, which you can easily find at a local cafe). The stops are fairly short, but you see a lot in one day.
Let me share few highlights and photos of our busy, yet exciting day.
Village of Baga
This was our first stop on the tour and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Baga is a picturesque Spanish village that was built during medieval times. I seriously doubt the population has grown much since then, but that’s part of its charm.
We had about an hour to wonder around, so we went to a local cafe and picked up some fresh pastries. They were delicious! There were no famous sights to worry about, so we just walked down the quiet main street that seemed to be stuck in a time warp. It was quintessential Europe you see on the postcards.
Visiting France at last
France has eluded me for some reason. We’ve been to many countries in Europe and I just never got a chance to check it off my list. Untill now. Sure, Ax Les Thermes town isn’t exactly Paris, but I was still excited to officially add France to my country count. Well, I don’t technically count the countries I’ve visited so far, but you get the point.
Even though Ax Les Thermes is located only few hours from Barcelona, there is something unmistakably “French” about the city.
Of course, being in France, I just had to try real French food or as they refer to it here, simply food. Finding a place where they spoke English was a challenge, though. We’ve stumbled upon a cute cafe, but the owner only spoke French. Once it became clear that serving us will be a challenge, she simply walked away. Ok then.
We took the hint and moved on, eventually coming across a restaurant where the owner spoke a little bit of English. He had to translate everything to the waitress, so dealing with us was a bit of a nuisance for them. But they did their best, even though it was clear we were an annoyance. Service was very slow, but according to many travelers, that’s very normal in French culture. People usually linger for hours in a restaurant and nobody finds it odd.
Unfortunately, we were on a schedule and had to forgo the dessert in order to be back on time. The prices at this restaurant were fairly reasonable. If I remember correctly, we spent about 50 euros on five of us, which isn’t bad for Europe. Bread and water were complimentary.
The food wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was pretty good. All the ingredients were fresh, typical in French cuisine (from what I’ve heard)
Some sort of polenta dish
Just being in a French restaurant in France got me feeling all giddy. I know it sounds lame, but as my husband always says, I’m an easily excitable person. Apparently, that’s what he loves about me. Travel and new discoveries still make me feel giddy, in a child-like way.
Welcome to Andorra: a Poor Man’s Switzerland
Andorra is not part of EU, so before crossing the border, our tour guide went around the bus and collected everyone’s passports. As a result, I added an Andorran stamp to my collection.
Before the tour, I didn’t really know a whole lot about this tiny country. Rick Steves didn’t seem to care for it a whole lot, but his disdain mostly had to do with bland architecture and lack of unique cultural identity. I can relate to this sentiment based on few towns we have passed along the way:
But Andorra has so much more to offer. It truly is a hiker’s paradise.
Above: My daughter is walking through the valley and picking flowers along the way
When I look at that photo, I start singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music” in my head. You know, the one from the movie “The sound of music.”
My husband and his sister
Scenic lake views along the way
Our wonderful tour guide who went out of her way for all in the group to enjoy the experience. Thumbs up!
Using points to offset the cost of this tour (and others like it)
Viator.com purchase should code under “travel” category. As such, it would be reimbursable if you get Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or Capital One Venture Rewards Visa. Those bonuses give you flat rebate against travel purchases.
This tour is listed in Ultimate Rewards travel portal, so you can use your UR points to cover the cost:
If you don’t have any UR points, you can sign up for cards like Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Ink Business Preferred. You will be able to redeem points at 1.25 cents apiece towards travel, including tours. If you happen to have Chase Sapphire Reserve, you can redeem your UR points at 1.5 cents apiece which, in my opinion, represents excellent value. Here is Nancy’s personal referral application link if you choose to apply
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This type of tour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and I totally get it. If you like to do your own thing without being tied to a schedule, you probably won’t enjoy it. But if you are in Barcelona and want to experience beautiful mountain scenery while taking a quick look at French life, definitely consider it. I don’t recommend it if you have very small kids, though. Ours are 6 and 9, and they did very well (with the help of electronic devices).
All in all, I’ve enjoyed the trip tremendously. This tour was fast-paced, but it lacked the stress and complicated logistics of our day-trip to Mallorca. Highly recommended.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.