France Trip part 3

Wednesday 5th July 2006

Day 3 is the day where I am supposed to get to look around, but I’m a little worried about the overheating yesterday. I had done a route plan before I left wiih lots of detail including cost of tolls on the motorways – but I’ve already ditched most of that… the only thing I’ve really stuck to have been the overnight hotel stops, which are pre-booked.

So I leave Montlucon about 8:30 and head off towards Clermont Ferrand on the N144 – saving more money by avoiding the payage, and seeing a little more of the country. Somewhere along the way near Menat, I spot a chateau sitting on the hillside across the valley, so I pull in at a convenient viewing point at a layby and take the camera out. 2006france/DSC_1215.jpg
It turns out to be 2006france/DSC_1210.jpg Chateau Rocher.

I arrive in Clemont Ferrand, and make my way onto the A75 – it has been built with European Objective One funding to open up the Massif Central, and has really made it more accessible, but as such cannot be a toll road, so it’s now clear driving down to the Viaduct de Millau. There is a good service area at Severac-le-Chateau shortly before the viaduct, and I stop off there for lunch – I buy what turns out to be a cheese dog – it looked like a cheese salad baguette to me, but when the girl put it in the microwave my suspicions started to be raised. It tasted ok, but I knew that I’d pay for it in the next day or two.
I also managed to pick up a DVD documentary about the building of the viaduct, and as I looked out of the back of the resturant I saw another walled town on top of a hill, it appears that they’re all over the place here 2006france/DSC_1219.jpg

A few miles down the road and the toll plaza comes into view – the viaduct itself has a toll – so I pay that and then turn off immediately into the viaduct viewing area. There is still a lot of construction here, but I get a good view of what I’ve ridden a thousand miles to see 2006france/DSC_1242.jpg It’s two and a half kilometers long, and high enough that the Eiffel tower could almost fit beneath the road deck. The design of the viewing area is interesting, as both the Northbound and Southbound traffic are able to get off here, but the two roadways are separated by an area of earth (no grass has grown yet) so that if you enter Northbound then you cannot turn round and leave Southbound.
I take several photos, but the camera is really starting to play up now, a lot are badly exposed, and I make sure to switch to a different memory card, just in case it’s a problem with one of the cards. With any luck, I think, one of the cards will turn out OK. It turns out later to be a fatal problem with the camera, so I manage to get all of the photos, but the badly exposed ones are of course still badly exposed.

I cross the viaduct about 15:30, and coninue along the A75 towards Montepellier, stopping to have a drink, as the weather is starting to warm up again as I approach the edge of the Massif, the service area is newly built by a church on a hill 2006france/DSC_1253.jpg.

I start down off the plateau, and the road gets a little steep 2006france/DSC_1255.jpg having just come through one of the tunnels on the picture, the road continues down the 7.5% slope that it has had for the last kilometer or so for another two and a half, with some quite tight turns along the way. The Aire Belvedere de l’Escalette is one of the most basic that I have seen, only having parking and a telephone, but it has one of the most stunning views. 2006france/DSC_1259.jpg

Getting down onto the coastal strip the temperature soars again, and I follow the N113 along to Beziers and then to Carcassonne for the overnight stop. I have checked the directions to tonight’s stop a number of times, and manage to find tonight’s hotel without any outside help – it also helps that it’s on the road that I am taking into Carcassonne, and right next to a vineyard 2006france/DSC_1266.jpg

I’ve now done a thousand miles since leaving Aberystwyth, and have started heading back North, and it feels different to be heading home now – I’ve settled into a routine with the bike, and am now getting used to some of it’s regular noises – there appear to be some noises that I don’t recognise – were they there before, or am I just noticing them now as I’m ignoring some of the other regular ones. I’m as far from home as I’m going to be, and know that I’ve got another thousand miles to do, and boy does my bum know that I’ve done so many miles so far. If I ever do this again, I will have to break the journey after this sort of time and distance and have a couple of days. I can’t though – I have to be on the road again early in the morning, to make it to Orleans tomorrow – I’ll have an hour or two to take some photos around Carcassonne in the morning though…

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