Our first view
The Millau Viaduct is a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France. The bridge was built to relieve the congestion caused by the flood of motorists heading south from Paris to Spain. You can now drive on the motorway from Clermont Ferrand to the Spanish border - the only toll charge you will pay is to cross the viaduct. 8.90 euros in July & Aug 7 euros the rest of the year. Pay! it is worth every penny.
“Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast's summit at 343.0 metres (1,125 ft) above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270 metres (890 ft) between the road deck and the ground below. The Millau Viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Montpellier. Construction cost was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004, and opened to traffic on 16 December. The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time.
The converted farmhouse
The bridge received the 2006 International Association for Bridge and Structural Engineering Outstanding Structural Award” (para copied from Wikipedia).
The Aire du Viaduc de Millau is the best Aire we have visited - we are great fans of Aire’s but this one has been purposely built not only for you to rest and refresh, but to experience the magnificence of this feat of engineering and its setting. The Aire is situated on the side of the Viaduct with spectacular views especially if you make the effort to climb up the path to see it in all its glory. (see pics).
There is an excellent exhibition housed in what was an old farmhouse on the site -“Ferme de Brocuéjouls”. You can have a great lunch there as well. Its a family and couple orientated museum and a ‘must see’ for all. How anyone can dream up and execute such a project is beyond my powers of understanding that is for sure!
A multicultural team of men and women made up the groups of 14 people who worked on each of the 7 piers. People had to be trained to work at high altitudes - the crane operator had
How tall and proud am I?
a dizzying job without doubt. Foster believes that his design was chosen above the other entrants because he did not visualise a bridge to cross the Tarn, rather a link between two plateaux.
This extensive website will bring you on a visit to the viaduct, its history and formation.
The effort that has gone into the road system and facilities to learn about this ‘wonder of the world’ is unsurpassed. Whatever you do, PLEASE do not drive by without stopping and giving yourself plenty of time to absorb all that is on offer. There is another exhibition underneath the Viaduct - quite a long drive and to be frank does not compare with the Aire du Viaduc at all.
“The cost of the farmhouse renovation and Aire amounted to 5.8 million euros:
4.8 million of state funds for the realization of the area (access roads, parking, rest area, toilets, etc)
1 million for the restoration of the old farm building of Brocuéjouls”. (copied from Wiki)
We were a bit disappointed when we arrived as it was quite cloudy but during the time we were there the weather chopped and changed, you will note this
Monsieur et Madame
Yes we climbed all the way up the hill to see it from the top
from the pictures. It was very windy and cold and this added to the thrill of it all. We had a really great day, and having the opportunity to see and learn about this adventurous project was a privilege we will not forget.
Back to the tent tired and cold and ready to plan our next stage of the adventures starting tomorrow.
We were up early as rain was forecast and we needed to get the camping chateau down and packed away before it did. We did it with the deftness and speed of two Decathlon technicians and were ready to head off. We climbed up the gorge for the last time, across a plain, came down again to head across a huge valley towards our destination. We stopped for a sandwich and the temperature was 10 degrees with a gale that seemed to blast through you. We carried on regardless tee hee - us two brave explorers.
We finally arrived at Moulin de Charrier, not far from Val-des-Bains. The forecast was miserable, wet and cold so we booked into the Gite planning to put the tent up in the morning. Well, the wind blew and the
rain fell for the next two days - no wonder its so green and there are so many trees!
The gite was really nice and the owners had done a great job refurbishing it. We love this type of accommodation as you have your own room and there are shared facilities e.g. kitchen and lounge, a bit like a very posh hostel. We were lucky and nobody else was there so we had the kitchen and lounge area to ourselves. Monsieur enjoyed a range of yummy goodies cooked by moi in the lovely kitchen. The only drawback was it was a cold as a tomb, we lost all sense of fashion with several layers of clothes and thick socks to keep frostbite from setting in. It was a bit concerning how Dickensian we looked - sitting at the table all huddled up warming our hands on a candle.
The resourceful Monsieur would not be beaten though and he planned some amazing rides so that we could see the area and its varied weather offerings. The Ardeche is a volcanic region but unlike the gorges it is much greener, most of the rock is covered with trees - think of
moss and how dense it is, imagine moss covering the mountains, but it is not moss just, unreachable, untouched trees - well there you have it.
We wound our way up to the town of Péreyres, a small village on one of the roads leading to the Ardèche mountains. We saw a sign for the waterfall of Ray Pic and turned off. If you follow a rough up and down trail for about 20 mins you get to the bottom of the waterfall but can only see the lower fall and not the top. If you carry on driving for a short bit you will find a panoramic view where you can take photos showing both falls - see mine. By the way when you take the first stop there is a very interesting display explaining about the volcanoes in the Ardeche in both English and French.
The waterfall is an interesting geological site because it is a natural volcanic site as is the whole area and the display gives a good account of its development and how an American (forgotten his name) dedicated his PhD studies to this area as well as taking others there to
continue developing an account of its formation.
We drove at dizzying heights and the scenery left me speechless (no really, it did - ye of little faith!) We came to the base of Gerbier du Jonc - a volcanic cone that is the source of the Loire river. The thing was we were already at 1400 metres and only at the bottom ! Further on we reached a pasture with views across the Ardeche. We tried to get out of the car to look at the view and could not open the doors because of the wind. We did eventually manage and it was like being on top of the world. I remember noticing great swathes of blue in the pastures and when out of the car I looked closer and realised it was tiny violas - I was in seventh heaven - minature violas, daffodils, primroses, orchids, salvias covering the pastures - I thought I was in “Heidi” except Grandpa was nowhere to be seen! I wanted to lie on my back in the middle of them and look at the clouds racing across the sky, but, it was too wet and windy. Ahhh, a dream for another time
I LOVE the wind, there is something so wild and free about it, and it certainly found our ‘inner children’ as we ran about pretending we were great soaring eagles. I have a little video that I will try to post. It was such great fun. The time at the top there was very special - freezing cold but exhilarating, the views, the air, the smells, the flowers - everything, and we were the only people up there.
We continued towards our booked accommodation at Ermitage Saint Vincent in Vieille-Brioude. It was a charming room in an old monastery where the monks made their own wine. A museum with artefacts du vin provided an insight to how life was back then as well as access to the beautiful church. Monsieur and Madame owners were very welcoming and showed us our room. Typically french with a delightful patio that led to their garden and the river. Also, a fabulous Boulanger was sited opposite our domain - see bread picture - and yes it tasted even better than it looked!
It is strange how things happen, on our second evening in the Gite - looking at the weather
forecast and realising there was no chance of camping for the foreseeable future, we reluctantly began to discuss booking some accommodation. That evening the computer pinged with a message from Trusted HouseSitters. There was an advert for a very special sit in Bordeaux starting on 29 May. We applied that evening, spoke to the owners, and the next morning they confirmed we were to be the chosen ones! Whoopeee. As we needed to get ourselves across country which would be about an 7 hour drive, the decision was then made to book in somewhere along the way. We settled on a nice studio apartment in the Dordogne (where we are now) - tales to follow……..
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