Andorra La Vella

  • Date
  • 1 December 1999
  • Lodging
  • Hotel President
  • Distance
  • 197 KM
  • Total
  • 50381 KM

1 December 1999 – Andorra gained independence in 1993 upon becoming a member of the United Nations. Prior, France and Spain jointly ruled Andorra – a legacy of the medieval feudal system. Since I come from North Carolina and my Grandfather Anderson farmed tobacco, I was interested to learn, and surprised, that high atop the Pyrenees, tobacco is a major crop.

I imagined Andorra would be a sophisticated tax-free haven like Monte-Carlo and Liechtenstein, but, instead, the principality is similar to a developed San Marino. The small parishes that make up the 464 square kilometers (179 square miles) of Andorra are industrial. On both sides of Andorra, entering from Spain or France, we saw several Commercial Centers, resembling Wal-Mart, where everything from produce, silk ties, perfume, underwear and jeans to dog food is sold to the masses piling in as Christmas draws near.

The principal city, Andorra la Vella, is packed with stores, some high-tone. Hermes is present, in a tiny store allowing only five people inside, along with Escada, Bally and oodles of watch stores, selling Rolex, not Bulgari or Chopard. Neighboring Escales, a lively village that is worth a visit for the scores of restaurants and bars, offers even more stores. Andorra is a want-to-be, and, thus, is on the way to defining herself, perhaps as a tax-free, mid-range shopper’s paradise.