Did I say we were having an early night last night as we’d been stuck indoors all day? Ah well, the best laid plans and all that. I may have had a beer or two whilst trying to watch the Monaco F1 Grand Prix on the world’s slowest wifi connection.
I may also have had a glass or two of red wine with the evening meal. In fact we were so merry by nine o’clock we decided to have a disco! The fairy lights came out, the iPad was hooked up to Vince’s speakers and we got our boogie shoes on! Goodness only knows what our neighbours thought as we bopped the night away – we had some British caravanners on one side and some German fitness fanatics in a camper van on the other. Surprisingly they didn’t knock on the door bringing Pringles and Prossecco and ask to join in. I was quite hurt.
Despite the late-night revelry we were still up and about by 8.30am. We had a miserable half-hour in the rain filling tanks, emptying tanks and disconnecting Vince from the electric hook-up, then sorting payment for our three nights in Salle-Curan. They overcharged us by a Euro for each night but we didn’t say anything as they’d forgotten to include the two jetons we’d needed for the washing machine at €6 each so I think that leaves us up on the deal.
We headed off in the rain for Millau, site of the world-famous Millau Viaduc – the bridge above the clouds. Designed by British Architect Norman Foster and French Structural Engineer Michel Virlogeux, the bridge opened to traffic in December 2004. It is the tallest bridge in the world, with one of its columns reaching a height of 343m or 1,125ft from ground level. We managed to negotiate the winding roads up to the viewpoint and visitor centre on the north side of the bridge, rather than just drive across it. Having crossed the bridge once before some years ago, there are no great views from it as the wind deflectors are too high to see over, from a moving vehicle. We were treated to a short, and actually rather good film about the bridge’s construction then trekked up the steep hill to take the photographs you see below. Well, not all of them – one was taken as we were about to pass under the bridge a little later on. Not by the driver I hasten to add.
We enjoyed a brief break in the clouds and a spot of sunshine over lunch – jambon et fromage on what had to be the crustiest fresh baguette I’ve ever eaten. Each bite resulted in an explosion of crumbs and a Jaws-like sawing of the teeth to remove a chunk small enough to ingest. We had to sweep the van out afterwards. It was delicious though!
Next stop fifty minutes down the road was Roquefort, home of the smelly cheese. Everything in Roquefort revolves around cheese which is useful as Roquefort is a round cheese. It was like something out of a children’s show; cheese lorries running up the high street past cheese shops loaded up with cheese, waving to the factory workers leaving the cheese factories. On a slightly more serious note, we entered one of the factory shops to be shown another film (two in one day!) about how Roquefort is made from sheep’s milk. During the production process, a penicillin fungus found only in this area is introduced, resulting in Roquefort’s blue veins and distinctive flavour (and smell!)
Originally the cheeses were salted and left to mature in the local limestone caves but in this factory at least, modern production techniques need more accurate temperature and humidity controls. We enjoyed sampling this year’s cheeses and comparing them to last year’s and the year before. As they mature, the flavour becomes stronger and stronger. It’s not to everyone’s taste but we certainly enjoyed the flavour. Unfortunately we’ve learned that strong cheese and camper-van fridges are not a good combination. Vince’s fridge is powered by electricity when we’re on hook-up, gas when we’re not, and 12V battery power when we’re driving. On a hot day of driving you really don’t want to be in the fall-out zone of a Roquefort-laden fridge when it’s opened – so we didn’t buy any.
As the rain was still falling when we left the town of the cheeses, we consulted our book of aires to find somewhere to stay on the way south towards Carcassonne and the Pyrenees. A couple of hours on the road finds us parked on the shore of Lac Du Laouzas, a long-established reservoir with a dam generating hydroelectric power. To us it’s a tranquil stopover for a night with a walk or cycle-ride in the morning if the rain ever stops. See you tomorrow 🙂