Béziers - The Millau Viaduct - Millau (Creissels)

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May 17th 2015
Published: May 19th 2015
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This morning Nicole served another HUGE breakfast. This morning we had strawberries and yoghurt/crème fraîche again which was yummy, but it's still like having dessert for breakfast! Then Nicole presented us with Nutella mousse in martini glasses garnished with cake which she told us is a specialty of hers. OMG we'd already eaten one dessert for breakfast, but felt obliged to eat the Nutella mousse as well. I guess there are worse things that can happen when you are travelling than being served two desserts for breakfast?!

We said our farewells to the delightful Nicole and Robert who plied us with gifts as we were paying our bill. Water for our journey, a tin of their home-made pâté (the one we were eating on Friday night) for Bernie and a tea-light candle holder for me. Thank goodness we had Australian key-rings to give them both. While we were packing our gear we ummed and ahhed over whether or not to leave money in the room as a tip or at least as payment for the food that we were fed on Friday night. In the end we decided that they are generous hosts and would be offended if we left extra money. They were thrilled with their key rings though.

From Nicole and Robert's we drove to les nine écluses de Fonseranes a staircase lock on the Canal du Midi near Béziers. It consists of eight ovoid lock chambers (characteristic of the Canal du Midi) and nine gates, which allow boats to be raised a height of 21.5 metres over a distance of 300 metres. The locks were very busy on a Sunday morning and we were able to watch a number of boats negotiating their way through them.

There was some sort of running/cycling race being conducted so we had to keep an eye out for runners and cyclists as we walked along the Canal du Midi towards the Pont Canal or Orb Aqueduct - a bridge which carries the Canal du Midi over the Orb River. On our way along the Canal du Midi Bernie pointed ... to a duck which I duly started to photograph with her ducklings. Bernie wanted to know what I was doing photographing the duck when there was an otter in the canal. WHAT!!! By coincidence, when Bernie pointed at the otter it was in the canal right in front of the duck and ducklings and I didn't hear him say 'look at the otter', I just thought he was pointing out the duck and ducklings. Although the ducklings were very cute, I was extremely disappointed to have missed the otter because otters are one of my favourite animals. Fortunately we kept our eyes peeled and we managed to see the otter, or perhaps another otter, on the other side of the canal before we reached the river. The canal was so busy we were very surprised that there were otters in residence.

As we walked along l'Orb we encountered some people having difficulty loading their boat onto their boat trailer because the trailer's wheels had slipped over the edge of the launching ramp. They managed to rustle up some extra helpers and who, together with Bernie's assistance, managed to haul the trailer back onto the ramp.

We were trying to walk along the river to the Pont Vieux to take a photo of the old bridge with the Cathédrale Saint-Nazaire behind it, but found the riverside blocked from just before the Pont Neuf. Determined to get our photos of Pont Vieux and cathedral we took a big detour, but eventually found the Jardins Emile Ain from which we had a fabulous view of the Pont Vieux with Saint-Nazaire behind.

With the day getting away from us we returned to the car and set the Sat-Nav for a destination beyond Millau. As we wanted to drive over the Millau Viaduct we didn't want to set our destination for Millau as we suspected that that would have us exiting the motorway prior to the bridge. From the outskirts of Béziers we picked up the A75 which is an autoroute opened in December 2010 with the aim of speeding up and reducing the cost of car travel from Paris southwards. Apart from the Millau Viaduct, for which there is a toll, it is entirely free for the 340 km between Clermont-Ferrand and Béziers.

Driving at 130km/hour we found ourselves crossing the Millau Viaduct in no time at all. We were very excited to be driving across a bridge that is consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, the cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast's summit reaching 343 metres above the base of the structure. It is the 12th highest bridge deck in the world, being 270 metres between the road deck and the ground below. The Millau Viaduct is part of the A75-A71 autoroute axis from Paris to Béziers and Montpellier. The cost of construction was approximately €400 million. It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004 and opened to traffic on 16 December.

Yes, the bridge is AY-MAY-ZING, but you would think that if they could spend €400 million, including €80 million for the toll barrier, that they could stretch the budget to instal toilet bowls in the ladies toilets at the viewing point/services area. For a project that was completed this century I was ASTOUNDED to be confronted with squat toilets in the rest area!!!!!! I don't do squat toilets so I was prepared to hold on, but then Bernie suggested that I check the disabled toilet. Hallelujah, they installed a toilet bowl in the disabled toilet. Seriously, if they could put one in the disabled toilet why not all of the ladies toilets????? For goodness sake, France is not a third world country!

Aside from the toilet 'thing' we were treated to an absolutely beautiful day with blue sky and sunshine so we took heaps of photos of the bridge. It was about lunchtime so we went to the cafeteria at the viewpoint where they only served capucins which were buckwheat (?) cones with sandwich like fillings. Bernie had his filled with roquefort cheese and I had a boef retortilla (beef and potato) filled version. I can't find anything on Google about them, but we think they must be a regional specialty??

After seeing the Pont du Gard a couple of days ago, a bridge that was built 2,000 years ago, we were somewhat surprised to learn in the Millau Viaduct exhibition that the bridge is only planned to be in operation for 75 years. Seriously 75 years, that works out to be more than €5 million/year. At €7.30 per car (more in the summer months of July and August) about 730,000 vehicles/year is the break even point for the Compagnie Eiffage du Viaduc that operates and maintains the bridge.

From the bridge we made our way down into Millau and then into the tiny village of Creissels where we were booked into the Hôtel Château de Creissels for the night. What a beautiful old building and glorious gardens ... and a view of (some of) the bridge from the terrace outside our room. We had been in the car for most of the day so went for a walk looking for a view of the bridge from the river. Unfortunately we were a turn or two of the river too far down the valley for a view of the bridge so we returned to the hotel without any photos of the bridge from the Tarn Valley!!

We had drinks brought to us on the terrace and sat in the late afternoon sun talking with the Aussies (Perth) in the next room. Later on we ate dinner at the hotel's restaurant. I think it was a good idea that Bernie had booked us in for dinner as it seemed that pretty much everything else in Creissels was closed on a Sunday.

Steps for the day 17,438 (11.88 km)

Additional photos below
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20th May 2015

A-MAY-ZING photos/places/food/accommodation. What an A-MAY-ZING holiday! It sure pays to spend the time to properly research places before you go o/s. Lucky Traberns. BUT where's Steven???

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