France Road Trip Two travel blog

City wall/gate Avignon

Millau valley--bridge just visible in background

Bridge from below

More of the bridge

Cathedral in Albi

Old bridge and town view

Peaceful cloister

Home and gardens in Puycelsi

Panoramic view from the hilltop

village on the hill

September 5-6

Heading to Languedoc and the Dordogne

Monday was a driving day, as I left Provence and headed west (after a visit to a pharmacy to get some nasal spray for a little head cold). I entrusted my way to the GPS, with a mid-course map confirmation. I think I could have turned west sooner, but I followed my guide, and got to drive by the old city walls of Avignon, which was unexpected. I visited Avignon on a previous trip about 15 years ago to see the Palace of the Popes (from when they were here instead of Rome), and the old bridge from the song we learned in grade school.

I spent a lot of the day on freeways before reaching Millau where I finally got to see the soaring bridge over the valley that has fascinated me since I saw a documentary on the construction. The bridge is 1115 feet tall at its highest point, and spans 1.5 miles on seven pillars. It was completed in three years between 2001 and 2004.

Leaving Millau there was a nice country drive over the hills to Albi. Lots of farmland and nice small towns before coming down into a valley to the city of Albi and checked in to the equivalent of Motel 6 for the night. This is my only one night stay until the airport in Paris.

Tuesday I headed out from the hotel to explore a little of Albi. This part of France was involved in the religious wars between the Catholic church and the Cathar ‘heretics’. After the Cathars were defeated in the 13th century, this church was built, and it resembles a fortress rather than a more tratitional cathedral. I had both a map from the hotel, and the one from a guidebook. Those, along with my pinball method enabled me to find the cathedral walking from the hotel. None of these old cities has anything resembling a grid plan, streets change names along the way, and tourist maps don’t show all the streets. It was a victory to get there! After checking out the cathedral, and the view of the old bridge, I visited a cloister of another church. It had a lovely garden with both flowers and vegetables (the watermelon looked tempting!). By this time I was well oriented, and found my way back to the hotel in good time, and headed north.

This area of France has a large number of ‘bastides’ or fortified hill towns from the middle ages. I chose one to visit Puycelsi. I managed to snag a parking place in town on top of the hill, and wandered around the village streets. Most of the houses had window boxes, adding color to the stone structures. There were panoramic views from every point around the town, and I enjoyed a nice lunch overlooking the hills and valleys.

The drive north covered this beautiful countryside, until I reached the exit for my B&B. The latter part of the drive was along the river, with some truly beautiful villages I look forward to exploring. The B&B is out in the country to the extent that I had to use the map coordinates rather than an address. I had to look around a little, but found it, and got settled in for the next four nights. This place has a kitchen, so I can shop for some food items in the market. It also has a pool, which was great for cooling off.

Tomorrow is market day in Sarlat, so I will need to head out fairly early and hope for a good parking place.

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