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Southern France: Two magnificent bridges built 2000 years apart


Pont Du Gard    Built in 1 AD

 

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Le Viaduct de Millau

"The Pont Du Gard of the 21st Century", completed 2004 

 

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Donald had a speaking engagement in Toulouse France so we decided to extend it with a few vacation days and visit Millau and Uzes (more on the bridges later).  In Toulouse, we stayed at the elegant B&B, Le Loges de Saint-Sernin in the city of Toulouse.  It was a restored 19th century bourgeois townhouse with four rooms.
 

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From our balcony, we could see the famous Basilica St. Sernin, the largest Romanesque church in Europe built between 1080 and 1120.  I always double check the dates because I find it so hard to believe things are really that old.

 

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I shopped and ate ice cream while D worked.  It was a Monday so all museums were closed.  But I was as happy as I could be because Toulouse has one of my VERY favorite ice cream shops in Europe.  Thank goodness we were there this week, as the following week they were closing for the season.


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In order to help them clear their inventory before closing for the season....... I took D back that night and had two more scoops.  THAT'S RIGHT - I ate 4 {FOUR} scoops of ice cream that day; chocolate espelette, panna cotta with fig, violet and berry.  D had panna cotta with fig and pear with brandy.  

The next morning we headed to Millau to view Le Viaduct de Millau.  One of the best views of the Viaduct/Bridge was from the picturesque hillside town of Peyre.

 

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The bridge was awe-inspiring.  Many of you have probably seen photos of this bridge floating around the internet in an email showing unbelievable sites around the world.  
 

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It spans across the river Tarn and was designed by British Architect Norman Foster.  It cost 394 million euros to build.  One quote said it had the delicacy of a butterfly.  That was a good description of it. 


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It is the tallest vehicular bridge in the world with one of it's masts height at 1,125 feet - slightly taller than the eiffel tower and slightly smaller (125 feet) than the Empire State Building.  This photo is a little fuzzy from the sun, but we wanted to show all seven masts. 

 

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We spent most of the day driving around it and over it, seeing it from every perspective possible.  The articles we read before we left said it is an engineer's dream.  D agreed.
 
 

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The total length of the bridge is 8,100 feet long and it cost 5 euros (approx $7.50) to cross.  Crossing the bridge also gave a beautiful perspective.

 

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As we crossed it I took continuous photos and D created this very cool video from my photos.  There is music, so make sure your volume is on. 



A very pleasant surprise we were not expecting were the autumn leaves - they were at peak.  It was also exceptionally warm and sunny while we were there.  Red - Orange - Yellow.  Gorgeous.

 

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Doesn't this leaf look like it could be stained glass?

 

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All so intense and bursting with color.

 

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A self-serve pumpkin patch.

 

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The old stone houses were dripping with vines of color.  
  

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The camera did not capture the true intensity of the colors we were seeing.

 

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I love this photo of the cow.  It looks like we placed her in front of a fake background.

 

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Our drive from Millau to Uzes, bursting with color and winding roads, was one of the most beautiful drives we have ever taken.  I took this photo while the car was moving.  I was trying to capture the colors as a blur.Millau and uzes c2 (20)

Our second B&B was as lovely as the first but with an artsy flair.  It was an old stone house which Natasa and Michiel transformed into a B&B with tons of character.  There were beautiful oil paintings hung everywhere in the house (inside and out).

 

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This was taken in their outdoor courtyard.  Look closely on the back wall, you can see where Natasa  hung original paintings outside.

 

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The view from our bedroom window.

 

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Meet the guard of the front entrance to the neighborhood.

 

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We loved this B&B and really enjoyed talking to Natasa over our morning coffee.  She was born in Yugoslavia, moved to Amsterdam where she met Michiel (who is Dutch) and they both ran away to France to open the B&B of their dreams.  This would be pretty close to the B&B of our dreams too!

 

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The next morning we went to the famous market of Uzes.  It was a very pretty market with typical French produce and regional specialties.   We purchased olive oil.  We did see one unusual item...

 

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Ostrich eggs!  They were huge.  I had to research this one and found that the ostrich lays the largest eggs of any living bird.  It weighs around 3 lbs and is equivalent to 18 to 24 chicken eggs.  The female lays 15 to 60 eggs but they have a very low survival rate, usually only one per nest.

 

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We visited several small towns and had a very nice traditional french lunch.  When I woke up the next morning, the day we had to go home, I declared we were having too good a time and I did not want to leave!

 

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We did get in one last sight before our 1:00 train, the Pont Du Gard, a World Heritage Site.  It is hard to comprehend that this was built 2000 years ago.  And still today it is considered one of the great engineering feats in the world.

 

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Unlike the Millau Viaduct which was built for cars, the Pont Du Gard was built to carry water hundreds of miles from the mountains to populated towns.  What you see here is just one segment.  An interesting fact; the water flows all the way from one end to the other solely based on gravity.  The architect is unknown.

 

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Built from blocks of local yellow lime stone, it is the highest aqueduct ever built by the Romans and is remarkably well preserved.  We were there many years ago and were able to walk along the middle tier, now you are only allowed to walk along the bottom tier.  You can really get the feel for how immense this structure is ....look how small I look. 

 

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We really enjoyed this part of France and look forward to going back soon!

 

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