After a relatively quiet week last week in Switzerland, this has been a positively whirlwind run through France this week. We departed Les Rousses and headed south towards Lyon.

Cows Climbing poles? Why?

After a few hours stopped at a small vineyard (we were in France, after all!), our first night was at a  Park4Night, but there was no one home when we arrived so we sort of just parked up on a pitch. It turns out it was a ‘France Passion’ site and as we are not members of this group, we had to pay €7 for our night. But it had everything you could require: electricity, water and waste disposal, a place to wash your dishes and even a free wine tasting!

Yoga in the vines

We bought a few bottles and settled in for a relaxing night. We had decided to visit the Millau Viaduct (for David) and Roquefort (for Karen), but the distance was simply too much for a single day’s drive, so we jointly agreed that we would go Le Puy-en-Velay. This kept our food theme going, as this is the home of two famous local products, the Puy lentils of course, and Verveine Velay, a green liqueur that’s very minty.

One of the delicacies of Puy: the lentils

And the other, very nice too.

The place was a revelation, so we stopped there for three nights, as there was a lot going for the town.

Firstly, they run a light show every year where they project all sorts of stories onto the major buildings in the town for all to see for free, and they also commission a light show. This year’s being ‘a journey to the centre of the earth’, and an exhibition of the impressionist artists which cost €9 each and was worth every penny.

The poster for this year’s Lumiere festival

The light show on the church.

One of the buildings lit up for the Lumiere festival

The cathedral lit up for the Lumiere festival

Another shot of the cathedral lit up for the Lumiere festival

Another building lit up for the Lumiere festival.

Impressionism comes to life

Puy has some amazing buildings, a church built on top of the remains of a volcano and a massive steel statue of ‘Notre Dame’ which is also on top of the remains of another volcano. You can climb up the 22 metre high statue for some amazing views of the area around.

View of Puy from the front of the campsite

The church in daylight perched on top of the hill.

 

Notre Dame De France

The town of Puy with the cathedral centre stage.

Puy is on the Camino de Santiago and as we arrived my phone pinged with an email from the Confraternity of St James in the UK saying my membership is about to expire. I notice all around me the symbols of the Camino. I really hope to do this next year!

The Camino symbolism is everywhere.

 

Lastly there are lots of great cycle runs around the area. We decided to use the Voies Verts (old railways turned into cycle tracks) near us and had a great 40 km round trip, plus our first ever free food with a drink in France.

The countryside on our ride on the Green Route

Being our last night, we had booked what seemed to be an exceedingly popular restaurant with both the locals and Lonely Planet. Well, it did not work out too well, perhaps as we were not locals. We ended up with a lovely starter, but then waited over an hour for the main while all were served around us. The disappointment mounted as Karen was served two lumps of rock-hard cheese and an eye-watering bill and we headed home bickering!

The next day was lovely and we set off to Millau, needing to get there early enough to see the bridge before the weather closed in.

The road to Millau 

The road was very narrow in spots.

First sighting of Millau from the van.

We made great progress and arrived at around 3.00pm, giving us time to find the access to the viewing point and exhibition without having to cross the bridge and paying the toll. The exhibition is very good and shows the history of the bridge’s building from inception to final opening. I took the tour that allows you to get up close to the structure and where they show you how they moved the roadway into place, plus some great views. I also brought my drone along just in case - and as long as you don’t fly over the bridge it is ok to get some drone pictures. Happy days! I was in my element.


 

We had picked out a campsite in the town of Millau, a town worth a visit with lots to see and do. For the first time since we left the UK (excluding Turkish lockdown) we met up two British couples. One in a motorhome and the other French-based but in a Consett-made caravan like our ‘Buster’. It was lovely to spend time with both Linda and Paul and John and Eileen.

Shopping area in Millau town

As forecast, the weather the next day changed dramatically and we got a different angle on the bridge and headed off to Roquefort.

 

 

For such a popular cheese, Roquefort is a remarkably small town. We took the tour with the largest producer and it was fun, but the guide came across as bored with the whole thing and even though fluent in English, would not take any questions in English at all. Anyway, at the very end we had a tasting of their three types of Roquefort and the lady explained in detail how we should eat it and in what order.

 

It was lovely and we enjoyed the experience, after our big spend the night before it was an ‘eat-in night’ and we had a real homely dinner in our van: lamb chops, leeks, peas and potatoes, complete with Bisto gravy! We felt quite anarchic!

We moved on to an aire near the lovely old village of Sainte Eulalie de Cernon, which had super facilities.

Sainte Eulalie de Cernon

The centre of Sainte Eulalie de Cernon was dead quiet - all opening again Monday

Interesting reason for closing!

The next day the weather was bit better, but sometimes I don’t get the French, as every bar and restaurant was closed for August. You would think one would stick around to make some money! Regardless, we headed out for a walk and visited a Velo Rail, where you sit on this bicycle powered railway machine and trundle along an old railway line. I liked it, but Karen was underwhelmed. I don’t think the fact we had to have jackets on for the first time in months helped!

We moved on again to visit a part of France I visited back in 1989, starting with the medieval fortress town of Aigues-Mortes. With the summer season now over in France we can use our ACSI card for some campsites, for example the one a Millau only charged €12 for a fully-serviced pitch. Unfortunately, we chose our site badly. This one was a bit tired and dull, yet the one a mile up the road looks lovely for the same money!

Aigues-Mortes walls from the seaside.

Main street Aigues-Mortes

A view of the salt pans from the ramparts of Aigues-Mortes

The Canal du Rhone from the ramparts

The whole town of Aigues-Mortes

But what about Aigues-Mortes? Did it live up to the memories of my previous visit? It is extremely touristy and I can’t help but think how busy it might have been if Covid was not around. Mask wearing in the town is now obligatory at all times, but it was lovely and we enjoyed walking along the ramparts which wrap around the town. Doing some research, we found the 18th out of the top 83 restaurants in the town was an Indian, so off we went, curry in mind. We enjoyed friendly service and great food at a fair price - a fantastic way to end our busy week.

Oh, an ‘Indian’ Menu for me!

So, so good! How I have missed Indian food!