Andorra at the top of Europe a strange neighbour to France

Written by on June 13, 2017 in Guest Blogs

Many years ago I was working as an impoverished flying instructor at a country airfield, it was a job that enabled me to use the club’s Cessna plane and I loved to fly to France as often as I could.

On one trip I took my boss with me and we landed our little aircraft at Toulouse aerodrome, weaving our way carefully amongst the constantly arriving airline traffic. We were allocated an isolated parking stand and secured the aircraft to the ground with rope as protection against the gusty wind. We hired a car and set off in the evening dusk to discover this rather intriguing place,  setting off for the Pyrenees Mountains and arriving in the land locked country of Andorra, right up high in the hills.

Andorra is the smallest independent country in Europe at just 181 square miles. It has the highest Capital city, Andorra la Vella, in Europe at 1023 metres above sea level. Andorra also has the seventh highest life expectancy in the world at 82 years. It’s a difficult place to get to. There are no airports. The nation is served by Toulouse airport in France and Barcelona in Spain. Both of these are a three hour drive away by car. There is a railway service but it passes short of the national border by about 10 kilometres. The trains are run by SNCF and connect to several major French cities. Roads are limited with only two major highways into the centre. Internal country roads though are serviced by a good private nationwide bus service. If you want to visit Andorra, it is best to use a car.

The politics of Andorra are odd to those of us used to having one leader. The country is a sort of duo Principality presided over by two separate Princes. One is the democratically elected President of France. Only the French get to vote for him though. The other is the current Bishop of Barcelona, appointed by the Spanish Church. They both oversee a separate government or council that is internally appointed by the Andorran people.

Andorra is a member of the United Nations but not of the European Union. It does, however, operate under an agreed association with the EU. The national currency is the Euro. The country is bounded, high up in the hills, by France and Spain and shares their joint cultures. The national language is Catalan but French and Spanish are widely used and children learn all three languages in school.

Due to its high elevation Andorra can be rather cool. It has a sort of Alpine climate with much snow in the winter and good skiing; it has lower average temperatures than southern Europe in the summer. Football is a national sport.

Andorra is a tax and duty free haven although this is undergoing a change. The national economy is largely based on tourism due to its attractive tax haven reputation and annually it has around 10 million visitors. Andorra is rather quaint and charming with classic mountain timber style buildings and there are plenty of very reasonably priced hotels and hostels. In the capital there are  plenty of shops, restaurants and nightlife. If you love mountain scenery, tranquil little villages, old churches and somewhere that really is off the beaten-track, then Andorra will charm you.

Bob Lyons is an ex pilot turned travel writer.

Related Articles

Gaspard de Besse The Robin Hood of Provence 

Gaspard de Besse robbed from the rich (who detested him) and gave to the poor (who adored him). Often compared to the British Robin Hood but whilst the latter’s roots are shrouded in mystery, there’s no doubt about the identity of the famous French outlaw. Gaspard de Besse Gaspard Bouis, later known as Gaspard de […]

Continue Reading

The Cross Of Lorraine Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises Champagne-Ardenne

The Cross of Lorraine and Charles de Gaulle Memorial, Haute-Marne, Champagne-Ardenne. In the little town of Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises in Champagne-Ardenne you will find an incredible monument, the Cross of Lorraine, and an exhibition centre dedicated to General de Gaulle and the main historical events that marked his life. De Gaulle was born in Lille in 1890 […]

Continue Reading

My Personal Shopper in Paris

My Personal Shopper in Paris

Written by on July 12, 2017 in Guest Blogs

“Approaching the age of 60, I decided to update my style for a new, more mature me” said Martha McCormick from the US. She decided a shopping experience in Paris was what was needed and tells us about her experience. Older French women are my ideal. If only I could look as elegant and alluring […]

Continue Reading

Department 46 | Lot, France

Department 46 | Lot, France

Written by on July 10, 2017 in Guest Blogs

Although it is over ten years since we moved back to the UK, after two houses and several years in France, whenever I spot a French car, I still have to look for the départment number on the plaque. And if it’s 46, I give a little inward cheer and find myself smiling stupidly, or […]

Continue Reading

The Belgian side of Flanders

Once a nation in its own right, Flanders today straddles two countries – France and its northern neighbour, Belgium. Ypres A short drive from Calais in French Flanders will bring you to the picturesque walled town of Ypres, in Belgian Flanders. A memorable way to enter the town is through the monumental Menin Gate. Its […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top