Thursday
Sep292011

Andorra - worth a look

Admittedly WoW was the guest of the Andorra Tourist ministry - so the wallet was not troubled too much.

But it is a fascinating country and if you live in Languedoc Roussillon - it is perhaps worth a visit.  

There is a lot more to the country than the duty free.

So next time, instead of heading up the hill to the Brent Cross experience - take the road to the right and down through the tunnel to the real Andorra.

 

HISTORY

Legend has it that Charlemagne founded Andorra in 805 because they offered to fight the Saracens.  No-one we met seemed to believe that one at all!

However, one way or another is survived as a seperate state.

It was under Napoleons rule in the early 1800's that the strange dual Princes were instituted.  To this day there are 2 Princes - one the Bishop of Urgell from Spain and the other the President of France.  No-one we spoke to thought they ever met or had anything to do with running the country.

Andorra has taken a long time to join the modern age and until the first Hydro plant in the 1930's there were virtually no roads and the population was around 4,000.  The electricity and a road system followed and so did progress - though it has to be said that Andorra declared war on Germany in 1914 - an oversight meant they were not included in the treaty of Versailles - and thus stayed at war with Germany until 1957.

Though they have had a democracy since 1866 - Male suffrage was only extended in 1933 and women did not get the vote until 1970.  Mind you they don't hurry things in the principality - they only set down a constitution in 1993 - they same year they became members of the UN.

 

TODAY

The country is one of the richest (and one of the smallest) in Europe with an average income of €23,000 a year, a life expectancy of 89 years and a fine health service.

 The population is now 85,000 - for morel statistics - go to the bottom of the page.

 

 

The country is all enclosed within mountains - is two Y shaped valleys.

 

There is a huge amount of work going on to join up the valleys with tunnels - each is worth the travel.

The "other" valley - is not the little one you can see on the right - but way over beyond the large mountain range on the right.

 

 The town centre of Anddorra La Vella is calm and quiet - no noisy scooters, dog mess but lots of nice happy people.

 

The town centre is busy - but not at 10.00 in the morning.

Shopping is not controlled by the State and they can open when they like - often until 10 at night.

Town centre - deserted in the early morning


Lots of nice little touches - while smoking is not banned (yet) there are plenty of reminders not to litter with cigarette butts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is not a lot of flat space but they have been careful to create play areas for children - this in front of the Spa complex - rave review will follow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the clever tourist attractions are the three preserved and immaculately kept houses which represent the "stately home", the yeoman farm house, and a peasant dwelling.

 

 All interesting but the farmers house - which provided digs for workers, spaces for celebration, cellars for curing meat and sausages as well as a home.

 

it is outstanding as a hand held guide in excellent English re-enacts the life of the household through the voices of the people who lived here.  

 The people who lived here until the '30's bought little from outside - olive oil, paraffin for the lamps and not much more.

 

One of the great luxuries of the visit was the spa 31,000 square meters of it - and soon be be greatly expanded.

There is every sort of hot, steam, cold, mist, rooms, places where you can walk on pebbles pools against the water flow, jacuzzis (inside and out). There is too much to bore you with - suffice it to say - this is a temple to the hot water which flows up through the rocks at 32 - 34 C.

 A few photos will do better than words - but if you like 5 star pampering - it doesn't get much better than this

 Swimming with grapefruits would you believe?

 

Yup - and a lot of this sort of thing too!

 

And the pool has a canal so you can swim outside where there is a clever pool which propels you around in a gentle circuit

 

See the whole story at www.caldea.ad

 

So - a country just 20% bigger than the Isle of Wight - but it packs a lot in - and that is without mentioning their winter sports facilities.

Take the road to Carcassonne and it is signposted all the way.  The last bit of the road would doubtless thrill Jeremy Clarkson - but it is worth it.

2 - 4 hours from most parts of Herault.

 

Tourist Office  http://www.andorra.ad/fr-FR/Pages/default.aspx

CIA stats on the country http://www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/andorra/andorra_people.html