Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Millau, Med & Mediaeval

The weather being what it has down here in South West France (awful), we have decided to take every opportunity to get out. My favourite month of the year is almost over and most of it has been wet and cold.   Weekends are always full of Vide Greniers and Brocantes at this time of year and Sunday was down for good weather, so there was no stopping us.  We even took the precaution of going to bed early on Saturday night so that we could get off early the next morning.

We went across to the east to Millau to a vide grenier that is held in the town.  We both love Millau and the Tarn Gorges and had not been over in that direction for a while. 

We arrived at 8.00am, just as the town was coming alive. 

It was a lovely fresh bright morning and the first thing we did was fill up on caffeine.

You can see the beginnings of the leaves forming on the beautiful plane trees.

After that we wandered the streets,  that were surprisingly quiet.  We didn’t find too much to buy but I bought another handbag – I really must stop it is becoming an obsessive habit.  After all how many handbags can I really use?

Millau is a super little town and beautifully located, at the confluence of the Tarn and Dourbie rivers, with the Tarn and Dourbie Gorges to the east.  They are both spectacular and take your breath away, well worth a visit if you are in the area.  You have St. Affrique and the Roquefort caves to the west.  That too is spectacular scenery and another area that is so worth investigating.  Head south on the A75 and you are on the med in around 1 hour.

We left Millau before 10.00am and as the day was young, we decided to go south to the Med and another Vide Grenier/Brocante at Agde. We climbed out of Millau, which gave us a stupendous view of the town and the Millau viaduct, designed by the British architect, Sir Norman Foster & the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux.  It is the tallest bridge in the world with one mast’s summit being 343 metres.  For such a huge structure, it has a fine and delicate look to it, allowing the landscape to dominate.

The journey on the A75 is spectacular and we stopped at a viewpoint called Belvedere to take these photographs.  My camera can’t hope to capture the majesty of the view but it gives an idea of how beautiful it is.

The area is awash with beautiful wild valerian, in all its hues.

We arrived at the Brocante at Adge fairly quickly but were a little disappointed.  It made us feel like an anagram of Adge!  It was packed and prices were very expensive and so we took a quick look and left with nothing.  We decide to look for somewhere to eat and unfortunately made a duff decision but nevertheless, we ate outside which is always a pleasure.  We also noticed the huge difference in the plane trees on the Med, which were much further on in their growth than those in the Aveyron.

After lunch, we decided to leave the Med and head north again, with the intention of visiting one of France’s most beautiful villages, La Courvertoirade on the way home.  However, we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in a super little place called La Tamarissière.  It is located on the west side of the mouth of the Herault River.

It was fabulous to walk along the beach with the fresh wind in your hair.

After our walk we sat and had a drink, taking in the traffic on the river.

After a pleasant hour in La Tamarissière, we headed back up the A75 and stopped at La Courvertoirade.

It has the honour of being listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.  We can proudly say that the Aveyron tops the charts with 10 of the most beautiful villages.  We have visited 6 of them so far and wanted to visit La Courvertoirade for a while.  It is a stunning place located on the equally stunning Larzac plateau. It dates back to beyond the Knights Templars in the 12th century and can be described as a complete miniature mediaeval city.  It is a great thing that you are not allowed to drive up in your car.  Your car must be parked in the car park and you enter La Courvertoirade on foot, through the Portal d'Amoun which was part of the fortifications erected  in the 15th century to protect the inhabitants from the disasters of the 100 years war.  It was erected by the Knights Hospitallers who took over from the Knights Templars.
We happily wandered around this magical place and chose one of the wonderful little cafes to have another drink. 

The day was hot and its shady little garden provided a relaxing refuge from the heat.

You only had to close your eyes to be transported back in time.  The only sounds were insects, birds and peoples voices, much the same, no doubt as in the Knights Templars days.  After our little interlude, we continued to walk around the village, visiting the church.

The feeling of history within the church was intense.  I believe that the altar was a recent addition as it looked to have been made from newly carved stone.  Outside of the church was the grave yard with its fabulous grave stones.

The beautiful stained glass window over looks the grave yard.

We continued on,  taking a very precarious route down to the street below.  There were no barriers and the steps were roughly hewn from stone, all at different angles. I could not help thinking that in the UK there would be all kinds of barriers and warnings!

We wandered happily taking in all the charming sites of this special place.  A little cat that did not let visitors disturb its comfortable afternoon doze,
plus these little fellas, that I am glad to say were also not disturbed by the visitors!

Nowadays, the village is mainly inhabited by artisans and you can see the influence of their touch in this amazing place.  Where else would a peony in all its over blown glory, contrast so deliciously with the background of the ancient stone.

So we finally dragged ourselves away, full of the intention of going back and with the hope of staying overnight, which I think would be captivating.  This time we headed back home over the Millau Viaduct.

So ancient and modern in one brief spell but both of them incredible in their own right.  It was a wonderful day and one that was not really planned and became all the more special for it.  It is one that will stay in our memory and one that we are grateful for.

À Bientôt


  1. Hello Janette:
    What spectacular countryside you treat us to here. Your day really did have it all. So much to see and do and, of course, plenty of café stops en route which, in our book, is always a very good thing.

    The Millau Viaduct looks to be a stunning piece of modern engineering and it looks so graceful as it spans the river. It must have been quite an experience to drive along it.

    And, so many fairs to visit. You really are spoiled with treasure hunts in your area. Each weekend can be a new adventure in itself.

  2. Hi Jane & Lance, yes it is quite an experience to drive along it and one that always makes me go a bit wobbly! I have seen it from every angle and I am always aware of the huge drop. It is graceful and I am awed by how something so huge can look so delicate. Totally agree about the cafe stops!

  3. Your wonderful photos truly capture the charm of all the towns you visit. What spectacular views as well. You have so many quaint and charming towns to explore. What fun!
    Mary Alice

  4. Thank you Mary Alice, it is one of the things we love doing in Spring and Summer. It is a shame it is such atrocious weather this year.

  5. Hi Janette,
    Just catching up. I seem to have missed your last two posts. This one has made my mind up, we are buying in France. We have toyed with the idea for years but that's it. We have a 2 year plan and will be looking in the Aude area, near Carcasonne.

    We plan to keep the boat here as a base, but will have a cottage there that we can escape to for about 4 months of the year. Fingers crossed it happens, putting aside "the best laid plans".

    What a wonderful day you had. I can see why you love it!