Half French, half Spanish
„Meitat de França, meitat d’Espanya, no hi ha altra terra com la Cerdanya ” – these are the first lines of the hymn of Cerdanya – Cerdagne, in French – and they perfectly apply to the winter sports village of Llívia.
Llívia is a Catalan village which forms part of Spain, but is located in the French Pyrenees. The Spanish enclave in the French Département Pyrénées-Orientales – depending on the legend you hear, it was founded by Hercules or Julius Caesar – originally had been the capital – under the name of Livia – of the Romans’ province Ceretania. In 8th century, Llívia became the capital of the county Cerdanya, until in 1177 Puigcerdà was founded as the new capital only five kilometres west from it. In 1528, Llívia was conferred town privileges by the emperor Charles V. In 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees ceded 33 villages to the French crown, including Llívia. The llivians, however, referred to their town privileges and achieved to stay under Spanish rule. The new Spanish enclave was connected to the Catalan village Puigcerdà by a 5 kilometres long and “neutral“ road.
The historical centre of Llívia is part of the Spanish heritage conservation programme. Medieval houses with slate roofs and wooden balconies and shutters line the narrow, coblestone-covered streets, towered above by the well-fortified church of Nostra Senyora dels Àngels. Next to it, is located Bernat de So tower from 12th century.
Llívia houses the oldest pharmacy in Europe. The “Farmàcia Esteva“ – founded in 1415 by Jautne Esteva – was run by the family Esteva until 1942 and has then been converted into a museum. Above the city flies the Catalan flag and marks the ruins of the old castle.
An excursion to Llívia is especially worth it on clear days. Between green meadows in summer or white summits in winter, the panorama of the mountains and the fresh air is always inspiring. Off season the village is caracterized by calmness and tranquility.
In the small restaurants of the centre one can enjoy the delicacies of the regional cuisine; in autumn, mushroom dishes are especially recommendable. Moreover, a visit to Llívia can be perfectly combined with a shopping tour in Andorra, which is nearby.
Cabriolet and motorbike drivers will love the curvaceous road from Olot over the mountains to Puigcerdà and Llívia. For the way back, one might take the route through France to Perpignan, passing the Canigou massif. If you have some time left, make a stop at Vilefranche-de-Conflent. Thick walls surround this picturesque and historically preserved village, which might at best be visited out of season.
Once more this excursion has shown us the singularity of this region between mountains and Mediterranean, with its numerous architectural and cultural highlights on both sides of the Pyrenees.
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