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Lost in France : Sails of the Massif

by Helen Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:10:29 AM EST

In my recent perambulations around France, one sight I felt I had to treat myself to was that of the new Millau bridge. So after I left Entraygues sur Troyere I worked my way over to the N9 heading south.

It was a lovely day on the Massif, it had started cool and cloudy as I climbed out of the Lot valley, but it was clearing and becoming decidedly warm as I crested the highest point on the motorway at about 890 metres and almost immediately there is was, perhaps 20 km away. At that point I was high enough to be looking down on it, even above the very tops of the towers and it was like flying towards a many-masted yacht, sailing though the sea of dark forested hills behind it. These contrasted the dazzling whiteness of the stays to dazzling effect.

From the diaries with an edit - afew

Then indeed, just as ship on a storm-tossed sea, the bridge sank behind the rolling hills and I lost sight of it for a few miles. Suddenly around a corner it rose before me again, above me now, and the change of perspective gave it a futuristic look, as if it were a series of steel-strung pyramids floating gently among the remaining clouds and then I was there.

Stopping at the observation platform I was struck by what a marvel it was, how inspiring a simple bridge can be if care is added to make it a thing of real beauty. Size alone doesn't account for it, the bridge is entirely proportionate to the canvas of the countryside it is painted upon and they are entirely complementary to each, each makes the other grander and filled with significance by the other being there. Driving upon it is no mundane experience either, from the steel kerrang as you come onto the bridge, the gong that announces your arrival in the Grandest Court, you feel yourself surrounded by light as the struts catch the sun and the impression is of floating on a magic carpet with the hills and clouds all around.

I rarely wax lyrical about mere things, well maybe a steam engine or two, but this bridge is a wonder that lifts the senses and for a brief period you notice more, the bridge seems to glow and you are caught in the spell.

Welcome home, Helen! (She's on fy-yahh)

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:00:31 PM EST
Did you take pictures?

I know Jérôme posted some a while ago.

by Fran on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:07:38 PM EST
Sorry, duty camera-person InWales was in Wales. I myself have no eye for photos and have given up carrying a camera as I junk everything I take.

There are plenty of wonderful photos on the net.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:28:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thats okay, I usually take a camera with me but then forget to take pictures and if I take them they can not compare with In Wales et al.
by Fran on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:39:38 PM EST
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by Fran on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:42:34 PM EST
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yea, ain't it somethin'

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:52:34 PM EST
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Well Helen, you had a very good eye for the Montmartre rainbow photo - thanks.

We came up from the south via Millau bridge, and I like to take my own photos:





Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:18:52 AM EST
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By the way, there's a great Top Gear programme about the three presenters driving supercars from London to the Millau bridge (and delighting in causing traffic chaos in Paris). As they point out at the end, when Chirac opened the bridge, he forgot to mention that the architect is British: Norman Foster.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:40:33 AM EST
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Causing traffic chaos in Paris? How could they tell?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 07:04:56 AM EST
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Try London for real traffic chaos andhigh levels of  aggression.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 01:39:51 PM EST
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The Top Gear piece includes some fantastic images of the bridge from the air.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 01:43:56 PM EST
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There are NO ugly bridges.  But this one is truly beautiful!!!

"Remember the I35W bridge--who needs terrorists when there are Republicans"
by techno (reply@elegant-technology.com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:10:11 AM EST
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Oh, if I'd known...
What a gorgeous bridge, thanks for the diary!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:45:26 AM EST
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Helen, your description is so good I imagined the bridge almost exactly, before I saw the picture.  Travel inspires great writing.

Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
by metavision on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:51:23 PM EST
And then when you make it onto the front page you read it again and come across the double each & dazzlings and wonder how you can write so appallingly.

No, I won't change it, but sighhhhh !!!

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:42:56 AM EST
Just repeating for emphasis ...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 10:57:08 AM EST
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Sorry to react as an awful killjoy, but all these praises are annoying me a little.
So beautiful it may seem in architectural terms, the bridge of Millau is nothing else than one more element to encourage road transport, while it is urgently needed to restrain it ! How the hell can we imagine to curb the development of unsustainable individual mobility when billions of euros are spent in this kind of infrastructure ? Pure schizophrenia ...
I don't deny the fact it is a technical wizardry, but it's not in tune with its time. Mankind would better use its ingenuity (and its money) in a more relevant way.

------------- If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear (Orwell)
by Baikal (baikal@no-log.org) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:00:07 AM EST
Fully agreed. I'd be happier with a TGV line atop...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:09:16 AM EST
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I agree and disagree - you might know that we have a long tradition of looking at bridges on this site (ehem) - so this diary is in a very good tradition reflecting our fascination with the built environment.

But while your criticism that a bridge has hugh environmental impact and be terribly expensive as well, is very well made. It might be that it has infact been a environmental relief to the area. But I have to admit, that I don't know enough about the traffic situation in that area, before the road was opened.

so if my assumption is right, and a bridge had to be built. Given a choice between an 0815 bridge and one designed by Foster - i would always take the Foster bridge.

by PeWi on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:16:32 AM EST
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I think the bridge is beautiful, but I think the need for it was overstated (and was hotly disputed). This is a fairly wild and little inhabited area. By improving roads south towards it, a summer traffic backup was artificially created, heightening public demand for a highway straight through towards the Mediterranean. The regional excuse was the usual "economic development of a backward area". In fact this was giving in to the automobile/public works lobby once again: another major highway from the North to the Med. Meanwhile, TGV projects are on hold...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 12:58:05 PM EST
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