High up on the hills overlooking St Jean de Luz and the Cote Basque, straddling the frontier between Spain and France, lies the village of Col d'Ibardine, dedicated to the art of shopping.
It is not exactly duty free, but Spanish taxes are lower than the French, and the social charges much less, so the prices are much less. The border runs down the main street, and you can see immediately the effect of the different tax regimes: on the French side a few shops, not much more than stalls, mainly selling food and ice-creams, while the Spanish side throbs with shops, restaurants and the ubiquitous tappas bars.
Below a magnificent panorama of the Basque coast fades distantly into the blue haze; but must of the visitors come here for the closer views of what is in the shops, for it is not just the prices that are interesting. They are different, offering ranges of pottery, garden ornaments, decorative items and such that are not found in the standard high street or shopping centre.
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