Adventures in the marvellous Mini of doom!

Dave Smart

Millau Viaduct and Clermant-Ferrand

I was up and about bright and breezy as I didn’t know how long it would take to find a pair of tyres and, after the Formule 1 all you can eat breakfast, I headed for the local McDonalds just round the corner to find a tyre fitting specialist. The Formule 1 hotels are very often in industrial areas just out of the city, this one was no exception, it turned out there was an independent tyre fitter just round the corner.

Sadly they didn’t have any tyres in the size I needed, however they recommended Croco Pneus only 500m away, so off I went. Crocos seemed to be a fairly busy place, and after a quick chat the main guy climbed a tyre rack like a monkey and started throwing down tyres off a fairly large pile.

After a short while he pulled out a rather dusty looking pair of Firestones in the correct size and blew the dust off as if they were old books, in a jiffy the tyres were fitted and balanced after beating the large Bulgarian ding out of one of the wheels. After handing over €70 and the usual signing and photographing session, I headed off for Millau.

As I’d looked on the map for an interesting route to Millau the night before I’d spotted a place called St Andre de Vezines, and as I was born in St Andrews in Scotland I thought I’d pop along for a look. The road the GPS took me was across another range of mountain roads where the roads were badly affected by tree roots, this was great, but again very hard work.

As I rose up out of one of the valleys I bagan to notice badly charred bushes around the area, there must have been a fairly big wild fire here recently.
I then pressed on to Millau, I was hoping the viaduct would appear across the valley and kept my eyes peeled for the first signs of it. My first sight of it was on entering the town of Millau itself.

This viaduct, to me, is a fantastic piece of engineering and ingenuity mixed with the most spectacular natural scenery. I’ve travelled over it before, a few years back, on a buggy trip to the IMM in Spain, but I’d never seen it close up. The size of it was just staggering. I drove around the road between a couple of the pillars for some photographs and just to get an impression of the scale of the thing, it was huge.

You really don’t get an impression of the size whilst driving over it. I took a trip to the Viaduct Visitor centre, where the staff helpfully played the promotional video for me in English and then one of the staff took me for a quick tour round the replica of one of the pillar bases, the largest one. The area inside the base is bigger than a tennis court and he explained that there is a ‘floor’ every 10m inside the pillar, so all you will really see inside is a series of very large rooms.

I decided not to drive over the Viaduct this time and headed North to Clermant-Ferrand using a non paying section of Peage to cover ground quickly.

Once in Clermant I found a cheap hotel and headed out into town for dinner. The town centre seemed really pleasant and I had dinner in a restaurant on a square where there seemed to be a lot of kids drinking supermarket party packs of bottles and, whilst a little noisy, they didn’t seem to be causing any trouble. If only things were like this back home.

Keith Adams

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