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Thermal Route corssing Andorra, the country of the Pyrenees

ANDORRA THE VELLA

At 10 kilometers o from the spanish border is Andorra the Vella that means "old" in Catalan, the official language. Although Spanish and French are as well spoken. To arrive here we should use the Andorran general highways CG1, CG2 and CG3, net well maintained that we travel in car. There are a regular service of taxis Barcelona ?Andorra and service of buses that make this journey 5 times a day. It is curious that a country that lives mainly from the tourism, with several millions of visitors a year, don't have airport. 

In Scald ?Engordany, there are waiting for us other friends of the route that come from France, taking the train Paris - Tolouse - Ax-les-Thermes up to l´Hospitalet and connection with buses to Andorra. Other are coming from Biarritz to joint us. They will travel about 451 kms by car. From Madrid another group will make the route Madrid ?Zaragoza ?Lérida ?Ponts ?Andorra. In total 613 Km until arriving to the pyrenean country. 

In the Spanish border we have only to produce our community passport. We are in the oriental area of the Pyrenees and almost we are caught between the mountains of France and Spain. The landscape is impressive. We leave to the right the forest of Solobre, with their centenial oaks and holm oaks. Here is Santa Coloma, framed between plantations of tobacco and healthy groves, and some borda - the traditional housing of the Andorran peasants - we Make an stop in this village to visit one of the most representative and well-known churches in the pre-románic and Andorran románic. 

The church of Santa Coloma, is a built whose construction begun in the IX century, from this period the apse and the nave are preserved. In the XII century it is decorated the apse and the victorious arch with mural paintings of which some pictorial vestiges are conserved. Most of these paintings are in the Prusian State Museum of Culture in Berlin. In the XII century it is added to the church the bell-tower of Lombard románic style one of the most singular since their plant is circular. The temple is the custodian of an image in polychrome carving of the Mare de Déu del Remei (XII century). 

Among gas stations, big surfaces and housings, we arrive in Andorra the Vella. It is the European capital located to more altitude, 1.013 m. and is surrounded of mountains that reach up to 7,870 feet high. Here are concentrate most of the main commercial and hotels. It is the cultural, social, commercial and services nucleus more important of the Principality. 

The new constructions have maintained the slate and the stone as basic constructive elements. We can check that in the Antic Carrer Major, Pui and Cap del Carrer. A good example of the perfect coexistence of the architectures of different centuries it is Sant Esteve's church that has one of the most beautiful heads that can be found in the Andorran románico. Beside the lateral door of the church that is the modernist architect's Josep Puig work i Cadafalch, the Architect Fontbernat's Corner, with the old baptismal pile and a sculpture dedicated to Sant Esteve, work of the Italian artist Luiggi Terruggi.

The foreigners flood the sidewalks of the avenue Meritxell ?main street- where the river Valira, crosses and whose waters are channeled. We try to maintain the calm and patience before this multitude of pedestrians that walks slowly, stopping to converse and occupying the sidewalk from a side to side. The avenue changes name according to the tracts and along this avenue it is also the City council or Comú, the post office and several important monuments. 

Being such a minuscule territory, and at the same time, a traffic place toward the own country and toward their Gallic and Iberian neighbors, the space becomes in ccasions scarce for so many vehicles and people. For the Andorran, the roads chaos has only the meaning that the world continues recognizing in Andorra a pleasant place to spend some days, to buy and to have a good time. Far from the asphalt, it becomes present immediately, the calm spirit of the mountain. 

The population of the pyrenean country, little more than 66.000 inhabitants, one can say that the 25 percent it is Andorran of Catalan origin, more than 50 Spanish percent and scarcely a six percent, French. 

The visitors move to the Principality to practice the sports of snow in the mountains, since there are some of the best ski rinks in Europe. But we are in summer time, and the great majority comes especially to make purchases, since the articles are tax exempt. The trade is so important that there are department stores that have a bus to transport its clients free. 

We walk along the avenues of Meritxell, Enclar and Santa Coloma and we enter in some shops. Clocks, perfumes, clothes, cutleries, drinks.. This is the great " pyrenean bazar" it is a temptation for restless wallets. We recommend to have some reference prices when making purchases. 

Something that gets our the attention is to find two mail services, one Spanish and another French at very little distance one from another. Although everything has their explanation. Andorra is a very peculiar country, governed by a Parliamentary Assembly, has two copríncipes: The President from France and the Bishop of Urgel, in Catalonia, Spain. 

In fact the Country of the Pyrenees, as it appears in the official promotion that gives us the Office of Tourism of the Principality of Andorra, it had until hardly the year 1993, a system of government semifeudal, still when already in 1982 the Govern was established ( Executive power ) that jointly with the "General Consell" ( parliament ), it governs the destiny of the country. 

Precisely, one of the emblematic buildings of the Andorran capital, the House of the Vall ( House of the Valley) it is the headquarters of the General Consell of the Valleys of Andorra, organ that constitutes the Andorran Parliament and where the justice is administered. It is located in the Old Neighborhood, very near of Sant Esteve's church. It is a visit necessary to know the institutional operation of Andorra. The entrance is gratuitous but we have to request a guide. It is obligatory.

House of the Vall

 

The House of the Vall is a magnificent civil Gothic building, constructed in 1580, as country house of the family Busquets, with the typical structure of the elegant farmhouses of Catalunya. In its facade one can see the current herald of Andorra that was placed in the 1763. To their side it is the old herald, later than the XIV century. The Consell de la Terra acquired it for its use, in 1702. 

In their interior we can see some painting works of great interest, as the paintings murals of the Room dels Passos Perduts of the XVI century that remind us the medieval tapestries. Among the dependences of this building we highlight the Room of Sessions of the General Consell, where it is the closet of the seven keys, an old piece of furniture in which stayed the files of the Consell and that it opened up with the keys of the representatives of all the parishes, the administrative entities in those that the country is divided. 

In the exterior we meet with a dovecote of tower and in the gardens, a baptismal pile, a monument to Josep Viladomat dedicated to the Nova Reforms, other commemorative of the VII centennial of the formation of the first Pariatge, in 1278, and other allusive to the Constitution, erected in 1993. 

They recommend us to visit the Plaça del Poble, a calm and unsuspected corner from where we enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the Valley of Andorra. We discover, once again, the natural beauty that hides in the heart of the Principality.


 
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