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The Pyrenees border region between France and Spain is a beautiful route which we recently undertook to discover the heart of the Alps and the Cote d Azur. There are remnants of ancient borders everywhere as wars and politics have seen lines and treaties move in every possible direction.
There are obvious historical variances like the Principality of Andorra. It is mountain locked and unique in its culture and history and we also experienced a far lesser known but equally curious exception, the Spanish enclave of Llívia. This town is significant because it is legitimately part of Spain yet is completely surrounded by France. It is a little square island of Spanish territory that sits just a mile from the Spanish border.
If you are taking any of the routes into or out of Spain/France and coming from Andorra it is well worth it to see this curious town. Residents scarcely break 1000 in population and it is a quaint historic city which might not be otherwise recognized except for its geo-political exceptionality. As we drove down the main street the proud Catalonian flag flew at the center of town. There are 45 official border markers, stones which residents have set up to distinguish where France ends and Llívia begins. It is fascinating to see these local establishments.
The town is famous for having one of Europe’s oldest and best stocked Pharmacies. The origins of the town’s exceptional status come from a time when villages in the area were ceded to France. The treaty included only villages and because Llívia is a full blown town with importance back to Roman times, it was not considered a village and thus stayed part of Spain.
There are some local cafes and restaurants at which to take in some of the local culture. Everything can really be found along the main road and there is plenty of parking available. Souvenirs are a must when visiting this unique enclave. The municipal museum is a place to soak up local history and the town has a strong tradition of classical music performance.