Three days into our holiday, following overnight stops with some sightseeing at Tours in the Loire Valley (visited the cathedral and city centre) and Riom on the edge of the Massif Central (overlooked by volcanoes) and largely built from the black volcanic stone of the region) we turned off the motorway to explore the Causses (limestone plateau), a rocky arid area and in particular the Gorges of the River Tarn. The Tarn Gorge here is up to 1300ft deep, flanked by rocky bluffs and is scaled by roads with spectacular bends, panoramic views and rocks eroded into unusual shapes. One rock structure we found, not named on the map, was precariously balanced and had a large hole through which we could view the valley ahead. Our destination was Point Sublime (picture), a well known and breathtaking viewpoint, which overlooked the River Tarn (map) as it snaked far below.
(View from Point Sublime using two photos to give an idea of the panorama)
We finally found our way to the Campanile hotel at Millau and after dinner we drove out to get a twilight view of the spectacular Viaduc de Millau (picture), currently the tallest vehicular bridge in the world, which carries the A75 autoroute for 2460 metres at a height of 270 metres above the River Tarn. It was opened in December 2004 and built by British architect Norman Foster and French engineer Michel Virlogeux. Our viewpoint was from the Aire du Millau, a specially built viewpoint on the northern approach to the bridge. The next morning, after wandering around the town of Millau, where there is a lovely riverside walk leading to the old mill, we drove to the other viewpoint directly under the viaduct and looked up at this amazing structure across which we would be driving on our return from holiday.
(Millau viaduct looking north)
We then headed back to the A75 – another wonderful feat of engineering as the motorway runs through the Pas de l’Escalette cutting and tunnels through the Cevennes scenery – heading towards Camping Castellas on the coastal strip between Sète and Marseillan/Agde.