To Lyon via The Millau Viaduct

So, fed and watered we left Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon having programmed the satnag for Lyon. Now the one thing I knew about Lyon is that it was north and slightly east of our current location. So I knew there was something not quite right when I spotted that the satnag wanted us to head towards Montpellier. That is south, down on the Mediterranean. So before we joined the autoroute, we pulled off onto a small side road and dragged out our book of maps.

I could see immediately what it wanted us to do but I wasn’t buying into its logic. So, once again it was necessary to try and outfox TomTom. I reset its route with Clermont-Ferrand as a via. It did an about-face with it route plan. Not only that but it was a shorter distance and time than he original plan. Go figure.

Of we set again, back down the roads we had just travelled before eventually heading towards the A75. Now at least it felt right. Also the good news was that this route would take us over the Millau Viaduct. And here some photos to show the bridge from the deck along with the bug splats on the windshield…..

It’s quite a strange feeling passing over the bridge. I personally have never been that high off the ground and not either had my feet on a mountainside or been sat in an aircraft. When you look down on the town of Millau it is just like being on an aircraft as it make its last descent before touch down. Next time we will have to get down under this super structure.

Crossing over we pressed on toward Lyon. Passing through lovely countryside, superb views but we couldn’t afford to stop apart for the necessary pee breaks and a leg stretch.

And then we were approaching Lyon. For several kilometers we were on new roads and tunnels. The satnag knew they were there and, for several kilometeres, could  tell us the speed we were going, but couldn’t tell us if we were breaking the law. Then, due to road works, we had to follow a deviation. Stop, start, stop again. Nose to tail traffic. As we got further into the Lyon suburbs the traffic situation got worse. Amazing since this was a Sunday evening. All we kept saying was “Imagine this at rush hour”. Three and four lanes of slow crawling traffic. Eventually we made it to the city centre and the satnag did a perfect job of delivering us to the front door of the hotel.

Of course there was nowhere to park up, so I double parked and went inside to check in and ge access to the hotel parking. The guy in front of me was having a debate about parking and I heard the receptionist say that there was no parking available. The guy in front voiced what I was already thinking….”The only reason I booked this hotel was because you state that you have parking”. They managed to provide the guy in front of me with access to a parking space behind some bollards. Of course when it was my turn to speak they had no such space for me. I pointed out that my requirement for secure parking space was so that I didn’t have to fully unload the car which had our luggage for a month.

His response to me was I had booked via They had a problem with them not informing clients that if you wanted parking you had to book in advance. At the time I was ready to give a hard time. However, since checking the hotels web site they don’t mention advanced booking so he was tossing me a line.

So, the best I could do was dump Gerry and our overnight luggage in the hotel foyer while I took the car to the Gare Perrache, railway station and its car park, which he ensured me was secure with CCTV. Things got decidedly iffy as I drove off to the station. Immediately on leaving the hotel you have to turn right. I’m driving in France so I keep right. As I pulled out the guy behind me pulled over to the left and joined a single lane. Then I noticed the railway lines, not railway, tram lines. Nobody told me there were trams in Lyon. Just as I got to a right turn, a tram appeared in front of me. I just made the turn before the tram occupied the space I had just vacated. I had to make a circuit of the streets again to get back to the station.

Entering the car park the first thing is you have to take a ticket. The ticket machine is on the wrong side. So I jumped out, ran round the car, pushed the button, grabbed the ticket, dashed back to the driver’s seat and drove through the now open barrier. I parked the car, grabbed a few bits and then moved on to my next challenge.

How to get out of the car park as a pedestrian. I found my way into the railway station, which is also the bus station and the tram station. I eventually found an exit but on the opposite side of the station from where the hotel is.

By the time I reached the hotel nearly forty-five minutes had passed and Gerry was beginning to worry. So, time to check out the room, we grabbed our suitcase, camera and laptop bags and headed for the lift. Challenge number one was to get two people, one large suitcase and three small bags into the tiny lift enclosure. Challenge number two was to find and push the button for the third floor, the control panel hidden by a melange of limbs and baggage straps. Next up was the challenge of keeping my butt and laptop bag clear of the concertina doors which also needed interior space to be able to close before the lift would move.confucious1

After reversing out of the lift enclosure we followed the wall mounted signs to our room. The walls of the hotel are painted either black or a very dark grey. There were no lights on and no “visible” wall switches. All was well as the lights came on, automatically, as we advanced into the darkness. A bit like those movies where the lighting either activates or deactivates with the sound of large solenoid switches clacking at each transition. We didn’t have the sounds.

And so we entered our room. Very clean and tidy. The decor was fresh and modern. Not much space though. With our suitcase on the floor at the foot of the bed there was hardly room to squeeze through. Although there was wardrobe space most of the lower half was filled with a fridge and the upper shelf was all but filled by a safe. So no where really to stow our luggage. Good job we were only staying overnight.

By now my temper was not good. I was pissed of at regarding the parking, I was pissed off at the hotel for their misleading pictures. Gerry calmed me down and we left to go and find somewhere to eat.

View From Hotel Window – Lyon, France

By now my temper was not good. I was pissed of at regarding the parking, I was pissed off at the hotel for their misleading pictures. Gerry calmed me down and we left to go and find somewhere to eat.

According to the hotel staff, with it being Sunday, many city centre restaurants open during the day but not in the evening. Which is exactly what we found. Several, were still open in the evening, but only for drinks. Sunday was the day Ireland were beaten by France, I think.  Of the open establishments serving food, most of the outside tables were occupied with footie fans drinking. Judging by the number of green shirts in evidence, these were consolation drinks. To be honest they were very good-natured and not too rowdy. We eventually found ourselves a bar serving food, mainly burgers, and took a table inside.

Refreshments - Lyon, France
Refreshments – Lyon, France

We both had burgers, not something Gerry normally has, on the basis that this establishment didn’t look like they were up to cordon bleu cooking. And that they couldn’t really screw up a burger and fries. The food was surprisingly, OK. The beer was good.

During our previous three weeks in France, I have been surprised by the variety of beers on offer. Often, when I have asked for a “bière pression” the waiter will ask if I want blonde, amber, rouge, white or on at least one occasion noir. And that is before asking what brand I would prefer. For some reason they always seemed please when I declined Heineken or Carling, especially when I followed my response with a mime of spitting.

We completed our meal and sat watching some of the Hungary / Belgium match while I finished my beer. There was a guy, sat at a nearby table, built like the proverbial brick outhouse. I think he was a Hungary supporter, judging by his reactions to the near misses near the Belgium goal. We left before we became witness to his disappointment at the 4-0 defeat.

River view - Lyon, France
River view – Lyon, France

The following morning, after a fairly meagre buffet breakfast, it became time for me to retrieve my car from the Gare Perrache. Having delivered Gerry and the bags to the hotel foyer. The walk to the garage was executed in short order and I was soon at the floor where I had left the car. Unfortunately, the ticket machine was being worked on. Eventually the engineer closed the cabinet and I submitted my ticket. The display requested that I deposit 20 euro but steadfastly refused to accept my 20 euro note. It was then that the engineer stepped forward and informed me that the cash section was not working, that I could only pay by credit card. The machine had not such indications displayed. So, having settled up, I arrived at my car.

Thankfully, untouched and intact. Navigating my way to the exit I then had to repeat the previous evenings athletics. Arrive at ticket machine, jump out of the car, run round to the opposite side, insert ticket into machine. Dash back to the driver’s seat and wait for the barrier to rise.

It didn’t rise. Now what ?

Looking across the car I spotted that it wanted to give me my ticket back. So it was out of the car, go grab the ticket, back to the drivers seat. Up goes the barrier, I moved forward only to be presented with a second barrier ,which only went up when the first barrier was down. I assume this is to prevent tailgating.

Eventually I was allowed to exit the garage but on the opposite side of the railway / bus / tram station. I didn’t recognise the roads so I had to program the satnag and wait for it to calculate the many thousands of possible routes. Meanwhile I was having to drive away from the garage, so as not to cause a roadblock, for those who knew where they wanted to go.

Thirty minutes, or so, later I arrived back at the hotel and we loaded our luggage into the back. And then, satnag reprogrammed for Troyes, we were off to play with the Monday morning traffic. Amazingly, the traffic was a lot lighter leaving Lyon than the previous evenings traffic had been

I have probably done Lyon a huge injustice by not spending more time as a tourist. Also, it was probably a dumb decision booking a hotel in the town centre when it was just an overnight stop.

I guess I learnt another lesson.



So on Saturday we packed our bags and left the gite in Serandon. As, per my previous post, we had experienced a super storm during Friday night, the weather was calm but misty / drizzly.

Dordogne – Morning after the storm.

We wound our way down into the gorge and the first thing we noticed was all the debris, from the trees, strewn across the roads. And, as we climbed up the other side there were several areas where rock shale and mud had been washed down of the sides of the gorge, onto the road. Also, a number of trees were down but still being supported by electric cables. We eyed these with great suspicion as we maneuvered past them. Concerned that they would choose the moment of our passing as the time to drop completely.

As we wended our way towards Millau, the weather turned decidedly worse, until we were driving in torrential rain. Especially as we climbed up and down the various hills and gorges. As we travelled on the weather improved until, as we approached Millau, we were being treated to blue skies and sunshine.

The scenery in this region is fantastic and the more we saw the more we vowed that perhaps this would be the next region in France that we would target for our next long holiday.

Soon the reason for our trek to Millau popped into view.

The following is taken from the Aveyron Official Tourist Website

Millau viaduct holds the world record for the tallest bridge, culminating at 343 metres (higher than the Eiffel tower), 2460 metres long and touching the bottom of the Tarn valley in only 9 places.

Conceived by the French engineer Michel Virlogeux and designed by the English architect Lord Norman Foster, it fits perfectly into the naturally intact and grandiose landscape: a very thin slightly curved steel roadway supported by stays gives it the appearance of a huge yacht and the ensemble rests on 7 very slender pillars.

The bridge is spectacular and can be seen from many miles out. We took a few pictures, then headed for our hotel in Millau.

We were staying at the Hotel Mercure and were soon installed in our room. ow lucky were we with the room allocated to us. Take a look at the view from our hotel room ….

After a little freshen up we headed out to explore and grab a bite to eat. All the eateries near the hotel were only serving drinks. Once again our pursuit of lunch had commenced after the proscribed hours.  Pushing out, further afield and we discovered a brasserie, Le Mandarous, who were more than willing to take my Euros in exchange for food and drink. The brasserie was situated adjacent to a roundabout so we were able watch both human and automotive antics while we ate a rather tasty meal.

Millau, France

I’m afraid I’m getting rather boring with regard to my choices. If it is on offer, I will almost always go for the “assiette de charcuterie”, an assortment of cooked meats which can including ham, garlic sausage, salami and, depending on the region, perhaps some cheese. Back in the Correze it was common to have Chèvres, Cantal or Salers. In Tulle there was Bleu d’Auvergne but on this occasion, in Millau, I was treated to a couple of pieces of a rather nice Roquefort. This was a real melt in the mouth treat.

After our meal we continued wandering the streets, sorry I mean exploring….

We both decided we liked Millau and felt that it would be a place we should visit again. With its quaint cobbled streets and narrow alleyways it has a really nice feel.

As we meandered into another square, Place Marechel Foch, we decided to take advantage of the shade provided by the trees and sat down for a cold beer from the nearby brasserie. We became aware of a wedding group gathering outside a nearby church.

Apart from the bride, page boys and bridesmaids there were numerous cars that had been decorated in perhaps, by UK standards, an unusual way. We liked it. Something else the French do is have the entire wedding group clamber into their cars and drive around the town honking their horns. Making everyone aware of the wedding and, I guess, involving everyone in their celebrations. There were several weddings on this Saturday afternoon in Millau and we had observed this tradition a couple of times around Serandon and Neuvic.Of course the Simca Rally Car did not need to sound his horn to make people aware as the engine noise was fairly noticeable.

Suitably refreshed we meandered our way back to the hotel for a brief nap before getting changed and heading out for our evening meal.

On the whole a good day.




Last night there was a humongous storm. Possibly the wildest storm I have experienced. Very strong winds, continuous lightning and torrential rain.

This morning was calm but dull and damp. The picture shows the view from the gite towards the gorges. This was our last view of the Dordogne, at least for this vacation.

At the time of writing we have arrived in Millau, in the Aveyron department of the French Midi-Pyrenees region in southern France.

We are here, for just one night, to see le Viaduc de Millau, the tallest bridge in the world. Tomorrow, we head to Lyon as we meander our way back north and, ultimately, home.