Millau


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.

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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.

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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.

 

Tulle


Yesterday we ventured away from Serandon, took ourselves over to Tulle. Tulle is the capital of the Corrèze département in the Limousin region in central France.

For the drive across to Tulle the satnag offered us the choice of going via toll roads, or not. We chose not. The route was very pretty but, as expected, followed mainly minor roads as it cut across the gorges. We soon felt as if we were on an alpine rally as we negotiated hair-pin after hairpin, and as we climbed up to a peak before dropping down the other side to cross a busy stream.

En-route we passed the ruined fortress of Ventadour, sitting on a rocky promontory that we were negotiating our way round.

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Chateau de Ventadour

We will have to make a separate trip to visit this site.

 

 

We arrived in Tulle whereupon the satnag, having been programmed for the town centre, had another hissy fit and guided us through the centre, up and out the other side before claiming we had reached our destination. Assuming that we needed to be at the lowest point I ignored the satnag and we eventually parked, for free, right across from the cathedral.

For the uninitiated, Tulle is sometimes known as “the town on the seven hills”.  And those hillsides are very steep and every spare space is crammed with houses and businesses. It must make for some very desirable real estate but it also makes for many steep and winding roads.

 

Tulle was, historically, an important centre for lace production. It is the town where tulle, the finely woven material, often used for wedding veils, was invented.

Having parked up, and knowing the French penchant for towing vehicles, I enquired in the local pharmacy about parking fees. She informed me that for two, or maybe three, hours around lunchtime the parking was free. Certainly the parking ticket machines seemed to be in agreement. Both of the nearby machines were displaying “hors service” which translates to out-of-order.

Since it was lunchtime, we decided to eat at L’Abbaye. Still unsure about the parking I asked the waiter. He pointed to the ticket machines and when I explained that they were both out-of-order, he shrugged his shoulders and said “then it is free”.

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L’Abbaye – Where we had lunch

We had a very nice lunch, both choosing burgers which is an unusual choice for Gerry. She chose the “Classique” which boasted a hache steak made from Limousin beef with tomatoes and onions. I had the “Auvergne” which also comprised the afore-mentioned hache steak, but with Bleu d’Auvergne, one of my favourite cheeses. All washed down with a glass of biere pression (draft beer). Very nice.

While eating we had noticed two guys working on the ticket machines and, still nervous about the parking, we wandered over to check the machines again. Still out-of-order, so we set out to explore Tulle.

One of the items, on our list, to visit was the Cloister Museum at the base of the museum. Unfortunately, it was shut.

According to the sign it was to open at 14:00, however at 14:15 there was no sign of it opening so I took a couple of shots through the bars of the iron gate and we moved on.

We opted not to venture inside the cathedral,

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Tulle Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Tulle)

preferring to stay outside in the sunshine. Literally, just around the corner from the cathedral entrance is Maison Loyac.

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Maison Loyac – Tulle

Dating from the 16th century it is decorated with sculpted motifs of plants, animals and occasionally figures in compromising positions. So says our guide anyway. See if you can spot them.

While in Tulle we raided the local tourist information office, lifted a few leaflets to  give us some ideas for future days out.

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Municipal Theatre – Called th Theatre des Sept Collines, Built 1899

Another item on the list is the Municipal Theatre, also known as Theatre des Sept Collines (The Theatre of  Seven Hills). It was built in 1899 and, although built of reinforced concrete, it  has a beautiful facade decorated with enameled sandstone, busts and medallions in glazed plaster.

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Medallion, Municipal Theatre – Tulle

Mooching around on a warm summers day can develop a thirst, so we felt the need to stop for refreshments. Our chosen establishment, La Taverne du Sommelier. One beer and a coke later we were on our way meandering around Tulle.

A few more photo’s taken ….

…. and it was time to head back to the gite. A short detour into a boulangerie for a fresh loaf and we were on the road again.

Since we arrived in Serandon the local forecast has been threatening us with thunder storms and rain. Well it finally delivered the rain part of that deal, and made the first fifteen minutes of our journey unpleasant. As we travelled further east the rain disappeared and the skies brightened.

The evening back at the gite was very pleasant and I found myself watching the mists develop down in the gorges. Of course I had to go and take some, well quite a lot of, photographs. I’ve included a couple below ….

The shape and volume of the mist changes by the second and I could have stood there for ages. Well, actually, I did. I had to force myself to stop taking pictures, of the mist anyway.

Here are a couple of other shots taken while I was being mesmerised ….

Later this same evening the mists thickened until we were totally fog bound. The only reason I could see my car was that there was a street light right by it.

A suitable close to a great day.