Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday 31 January 2008

Day 3 - Orléans to Millau

Today was a lengthy drive, so far as I am concerned (520km or about 323miles) and I was pretty tired when I got here - and rather 'ratty' with it, I'm afraid. It was an excellent drive though - overnight in Orléans it had been bitterly cold (several degrees below zero) with thick ice on the car in the early morning. However, by the time I came to leave (about 10am) the ice on my front and rear windscreens, not to mention the headlights, was pretty soft and could be brushed off easily.It was still overcast though, and there was a pronounced freezing mist (luckily not fog) for the first couple of hours. However soon after passing Clermont-Ferrand the sun started to make tentative efforts at piercing the gloom and it grew steadily brighter until it was a bright sunny afternoon, although it never got very far above freezing - briefly about 7degC, but as most of the final couple of hours was well above 700 metres altitude, wirth lengthy periods well above 900 metres (and a maximum signposted alitude of 1,110 metres (3,642 feet) it was considerably cooler, hovering just above zero for the last 2 or so hours.

The highlight of the day for me was near the end when I approached Millau - instead of going down into the town (literally, as it's at the foot of the Tarn valley) I decided to cross the Viaduc de Millau in both directions, inquiring of the young woman at the toll booth before the first crossing if I could get back down into Millau from the northern side (approached from the south) after coming back across the Viaduct; she explained which junction I should turn around at; the toll to cross the bridge is €5.40 each way - I considered the €10.80 money well spent to experience crossing it twice! There's quite a good view of the Viaduct from the motorway when approached from the north, but not much from the south, but crossing it was both a great and an anodyne experience - it's really just a 2-lane motorway and the Viaduct is just a well-integrated part of it, although it's not flat - it slopes upward quite a lot from north to south. The engineering achievement is best from from the side, however and the image below was taken from the balcony of my hotel bedroom at sunset:

Viaduc de Millau, Millau (Aveyron), France
31 January 2008

Click here to see a larger image.

The hotel I'm in tonight is quite comfortable, the bedrooms particularly. I had an excellent dinner, mainly fish and seafood based, but the décor in the dining room was decidedly dated and the service was small-town well-meaning and friendly, rather than big-town slick and professional. The 'rattiness' I referred to earlier was nothing to do with the restaurant, just the lead up to arrival at the hotel and a few things that happened soon after. The hotel is located in the centre of this very old town with the narrow streets you find in such places. Without SatNav I'd still be looking for it! First one must block the very narrow street outside the hotel to announce one's arrival to get authorisation to get into the private garage, then negotiate the very narrow lane to get into it, all the while traffic is piling up behind! Then when I get into the room a couple of the table lamps need their bulbs changing (something house-keeping should have done earlier in the day!!) so I am moved to the room next door. All this takes time. Then when I try out the codes for the wi-fi internet access, it doesn't work. Frankly if companies are going to give complicated codes using 'O' and '0' (the letter O and the number 'zero') they should do so in a typeface that allows one to distinguish easily which is which!!!! After I've tried it a couple of times the ISP (Orange in this hotel chain) tells me this code is blocked!!!! A little later the young lady from reception brings up another 'gratis' password sheet and I get online with that. All well and good, but instead of having an hour and a half to get everything done before going down to dinner I have barely 20 minutes because of the room change and the problems with the wi-fi code. Hence my 'rattiness'.

Now enough of this - after copious quantities of wine with dinner (I decided after my irritating arrival at the hotel to have wine with the meal, despite my diet not premitting this) I am more or less back to an even emotional keel.

Tomorrow's drive will take me, at long last, into Spain and I will be spending tomorrow night in Castelldefels, just south of Barcelona.

¡Hasta Luego!

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