I’m not really sure why anyone would want to visit Benicarló. It’s a medium-sized town developed on a grid system so easy to navigate, the beach is small and the harbour is industrial. There’s a small fishing fleet here that lands a wide variety of fruits from the sea that can be purchased in the local market. The impression is that this is a town where the Spanish live.

The locals have a talent for graffiti. The walls of undeveloped plots between the buildings are decorated with the contents of numerous spray cans. Whether by conscious decision of the community or planning department there seems to be something systematic about this public art that suggests it’s encouraged rather than frowned upon. The work is more than malicious damage and tagging, some is of a very good standard – old skool more than Banksy – and makes a positive contribution to what would be a very dull town.

The only other place to see colour and vibrancy is the market on a Wednesday where you’ll find a great selection of fruit and veg, meats, fish and seafood – some so fresh it’s still wriggling about amongst the ice. The stallholders are constantly gutting, filleting and serving. Nothing is wasted, you can even buy a bags of chicken carcass if you fancy soup for dinner.

Markets have been one of the most surprising discoveries in recent weeks. The quality and price of our purchases at Boulogne-sur-Gesse was a real result. While in Barcelona we were lured away from La Rambla by the sights and sounds of the La Boqueria with its busy eateries, ice cream sellers, sweets, meats, fruits and fish – such a great place to pick up a tasty snack or treat.

Looking down on Peñiscola.

Looking down on Peñiscola.

Just along the coast from Benicarló is Peñiscola (snigger). You have the choice of getting on one of the regular buses or walking along the seafront, both are pleasant options. Well before you arrive you’ll see the star of the medieval town, a fortress at the end of a peninsular jutting out into the Mediterranean. There’s plenty of history here complemented by an abundance of photo opportunities. Surrounding the castle you’ll find numerous places to eat and drink and as you stroll along the promenade you’re sandwiched between hotels and a long sandy beach.

We’ve been trying to make our way south for quite some time now, the original plan was to be in Seville or Malaga for the winter months. Our very limited wardrobes are strongly biased to warm climates and the shorter days combined with evening chills highlight these short-comings. There’s a possibility that our housesitting skills are required back in France. This could be swiftly followed by an assignment for a new customer just the other side of the Pyrenees in Spain so, at present, our next destination is unclear.

After several emails I’m plotting a course north and back to where we were just weeks previously. I investigate different itineraries that don’t take us back to Barcelona or Perpignan and book a hostel in Monistrol de Montserrat and a self-catering apartment in Soldeu, Andorra.

Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery.

Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery.

Monistrol is an historic little town north-west from Barcelona. It sits amongst the Montserrat mountain range over-looked by the Santa Maria de Montserrat monastery that can be reached by a winding road that slowly works its way up the mountainside. But why would you want to take the car when there’s several fantastic walks – and here’s the best bit – a rack railway, not one but two funicular railways and a cable car?

After just one night – should have booked longer – we’re back on the road and heading to a new country. You can’t spend this much time near the Pyrenees without popping into Andorra. To date we’d seen the mountains from a distance but now we’re going right into the heart of them.

As you approach them most of the peaks are brown or green, in the distance you get a glimpse of one that’s white. Call me dumb but this really confused me, I couldn’t decide if it was snow or not – why would one be snowcapped and not all? Then all of a sudden, you drive around another hairpin and all of the peaks are white. The road is hemmed in by thick banks of sparkling snow, my brain finally balances what it thinks with what it sees and starts to process the beautiful scenery that surrounds us on all sides.

We’ve arrived in the first weekend of the ski season so the town is pretty quiet and the man on reception tells us we’re the only people staying in the block of apartments that night. Being Andorran he speaks both French and Spanish as well as English so I ask him for some language help. I’d noticed that nobody we’d met so far in Spain said ‘adious’, why? Apparently, adious is rather formal, better to say ‘hasta luego’.

The next day, clothed in multiple layers, we take the cable car to the nearby deserted slopes and wonder around in the thick snow being occasionally passed by brightly – and sensibly – attired skiers and snowboarders. We pass the day sunbathing and relaxing while taking in the views. Our pass allows two trips so we go back down in the cable car then, five minutes later, go back up again.

Two nights in Soldeu is sufficient as we’re not here for the skiing. We could easily have stayed four or five nights in Monistrol but only had one. This is one of the hardest decisions when travelling – how long to stay in one location. When possible I plump for five nights which previous experience suggests is optimal.