This just in.
After hosting thousands upon thousands of visitors from all over the globe, my drinks Web site just got its first visitor from Andorra.
That may not mean anything to most people, but for someone like me who has had a lifelong fascination with maps, geography and tiny, out-of-the-way countries (see San Marino, Liechtenstein and Kiribati), a real-time connection with someone in Andorra is like striking gold.
I've visited a couple of tiny countries -- Luxembourg, located at the confluence of Belgium, France and Germany, and Antigua & Barbuda, an islands-nation in the Caribbean, for example -- but they're easily reached.
The Principality of Andorra is a bit more remote, tucked into a 174-square-mile pocket in the eastern Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain. Local legend says it was founded in A.D. 805 by Charlemagne the Great. The earliest document known that mentions Andorra is the act of consecration of the cathedral of Santa Maria of Urgell in 839.
Despite its location,10 million tourists manage to find Andorra each year. That must agree with the 72,000 locals since tourism provides 80% of the country's income and the population has the highest average life expectancy of any nation in the world (80 for men, 86 for women).
One of the biggest attractions is the large amount of area for skiing. This Sunday, for example, the main race of the Andorran Ski Championship will be held and thousands of fans will flock to the mountains for the event.
But that's the touristy stuff. When I visit a country I prefer to find something offbeat. In Andorra, that can be the bordas, the old traditional mountain homes. More than two dozen of them have been converted to public restaurants, most of which are known for a signature dish. Thus, a tour of the bordas is a gastronomic treat that comes highly recommended.
I'm making out my dining list right now. If I can just link up to my Web site visitor, I may even be able to get a personal tour.
ON THE WEB
• About Andorra
• Lonely Planet's Andorra Overview
• CIA World Factbook: Andorra
• Dowd's Guides