Of all the faraway places with strange-sounding names, the one that always intrigued me the most was Andorra, the tiny principality tucked into the Pyrenees between France and Spain. How did one get there? In my imagination I decided that one took the highway from north or south, arrived suddenly at the bottom of a steep slope and then transferred to burro-back. After a while the path became too precipitous even for the burro, and one clambered up pitches of solid rock, inched past grazing ibex and chamois, groped along narrow edges worn smooth by centuries of smugglers. At last, breathing heavily, one arrived to a tumultuous welcome from the natives, gaily dressed in bright yellows and reds, dancing the Sardana and generously proffering goatskin flasks of carmine-colored wine. "Welcome!" they would say in the peculiar Andorran tongue. "You are the second American to arrive in our land. There was one named Lowell Thomas here in 1937." Then I would go off into the woods to hunt wild beasts and catch fat trout till my arms ached.
Well, I have been to Andorra now, and let me be the first to admit that my conception of the country was a trifle wide of the mark, say about nine miles. Not that my wife and I are entirely stupid. I mean, we checked. After we had tentatively decided to vacation in Andorra we sent for the available information. Both of us have a tendency to judge places by the sporting possibilities, and we were practically frothing at the mouth as we read aloud from .the literature.
"Listen to this!" I said, leafing through a pamphlet put out by Credit Andorra, the country's bank. " ' Andorra is a paradise for fishing and shooting. There are trout, woodcock, chamois, vultures and eagles.' "
"You can't hunt eagles," my wife said.
"It's not their national bird," I said.
A few minutes later my wife muttered, "They've got to be kidding."
"What?" I said.
"It says in this pamphlet, 'In Andorra one finds foxes, squirrels, otters, wildcats, hares, rabbits, wild boars and gamecocks. At a higher altitude we find the eagle, the hawk, the snow grouse and, most famous of all, the agile and elegant izard.' "
"You mean lizard," I said.
"No, I don't. I mean izard. It says here the izard is the eastern Pyrenees version of the chamois. What's a chamois?"