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Published: March 15th 2012
Today we turned our little Peugot south and headed for Millau. Most of the big autoroutes in France are toll roads - and the tolls aren't cheap. The toll for the drive to Millau from Bourges would be €54, and that really only covers the first third of the journey because the rest is toll free. Needless to say, we looked for an alternative route! We found another highway that virtually paralleled the autoroute most of the way, but it meandered a bit through many small towns. It actually turned into a very nice drive and we spotted many chateaus along the way... Some in ruins and some that appeared to be still occupied. The road was quite a bit slower (90 in the fast sections and 30 or 50 through towns; the autoroute is a jaw dropping 130 in most sections!), it probably took an extra couple hours but was worth it. When we finally did get back on the autoroute we ended up paying a toll of less than €3 - not bad!
Our savings were not long lived though. France uses speed cameras, religiously. For some reason they almost always mark them with a sign. We found
one that they didn't mark though! Like I mentioned before the autoroute is normally 130. There was one sections with a couple of corners and they lowered the speed to 90. Mike didn't slow down quite quick enough and we saw the camera flash. 103ish in a 90 zone - that's good for €68. So much for saving on the tolls!
Eventually we made it to Millau which is a gorgeous town in a valley at one end of the gorge of the river Tarn. Millau is most famous though for a bridge that was built about seven years ago for the autoroute. The Millau Viaduc is a 2.5ish km long cable suspended bridge that towers into the air. Seeing and driving over this monster was by far the highlight of the day. We ended up doing quite a bit of driving through the valley, and it was clearly visible from virtually everywhere. The viewpoint right near the north end of the bridge gives a great view of the bridge itself and of Millau. Millau is a beautiful town! The white buildings and red rooftops dot the valley and look great with a blue sky and puffy white clouds
After checking out the bridge we went down into Millau to see if we could find a campsite. There are about 20 different sites along the river Tarn, but they were all closed. We ended up stopping in at the visitor info centre to find a site. In itself this was tricky! There was nowhere to park so while Elysia ran in, Mike kept driving around and around the square in the middle of town until a parking spot opened up. This only took about 200 laps. Finally when a spot did open up Elysia came back so Mike had only parked for about 1 minute!
The visitor centre worker was extremely nice and really liked Elysia's French. She told Elysia about a campsite a couple of towns over that was open and gave her directions and some maps. So, off we went to find this site.
The route was a bit odd and the maps were marked with the wrong highway numbers. One road was super narrow - definitely not wide enough for two little pugeuots to navigate at the same time so were happy not to meet another! Eventually though, we found the site.
It was a nice little place and the rate was cheap so we were sold. Just before running in and plopping our money on the counter we decided to read the rules. Rule 1 - No campfires of any kind! Oh no! How would we cook? We didn't have a stove with us (in the cofusion of packing our apartment, the stove Jay and Alex gave us apparently got put in the wrong box and moved into storage!).
No camping tonight for us. No fire = no food = two very unhappy campers! We decided to go back to Millau and find a cheap hotel. On the way back we decided to just follow the signs pointing us to Millau, instead of the odd route the info centre lady gave us. It was a completely different route than we had taken to the campsite and was way way faster!
On the drive back we came across a large hill that had an old chateau ruin on top. There were highway signs saying that there was a viewpoint up there and another sign actually said there was a hotel at the top. So, we decided to check it out.
Up the switchbacks we go. Again the road was super narrow. This time though, there was a shear drop on one side of the car. Again we were lucky we didn't meet another car. When we got to the top we realized why. No one else was crazy enough to go up there! We parked at the top and our spidy-sense was instantly on high alert. Something was just off about the place. Everywhere you went you had to creep around an abandoned building and it definitely felt like private property. According to the dogs, who were not happy to see us, it was private property... Very private property! That is what happened when we followed the signs from the parking lot giving directions to the hotel, so we thought we would follow the signs to the viewpoint. This apparently just took us to the other side of wherever the guard dogs lived and we felt like it was a perfect place for a murderer to hang out. So, we high tailed it back to the car, checked the back seat and took off!
Back in Millau we found a super cheap hotel (€38) and ventured out to find
some dinner. It was almost 8 by this time so naturally, everything was closed. Luckily we stumbled across Pizza Phil's. Phil put together a nice pizza for us but forgot to cut it. We asked him to cut it but couldnt remember the word for cut so just gestured in a pizza cutting fashion. He knew what Elysia meant instantly but kinda poked fun at her and reminded us that the word we were looking for was couper! Of course!
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